Persian Saffron Ice Cream (Bastani)

 
 
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Persian cuisine is one of the world’s great gastronomies, flourishing for centuries across an area that, at the height of the ancient Persian Empire (circa 550 to 330 B.C.), included modern-day Iran, along with parts of Iraq, Macedonia, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.

The repertoire of dishes is fragrant, diverse and highly refined, based on complex culinary techniques. They are imbued with fresh flowers and herbs like rose petals, fenugreek and mint; spices like saffron, sumac and cardamom; fruits like pomegranate and barberry; all kinds of citrus; and nuts, including pistachios and almonds.

If this roster of ingredients sounds familiar, it’s because Persian cooking influenced Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Northern Indian and Turkish cuisines yet itself remains somewhat below the radar.

 

It should be noted that Persia (Iran) has made many lasting contributions to the world of frozen desserts.

The Arabs, who had already conquered the Persian Empire, took the age-old Persian summertime refreshment known as sharbat (sherbet) where a mix of fruit syrup, saffron,  and honey was incorporated with snow and chilled in a  yakhchal, an ancient type of ice house. Alexander the Great, who battled the Persians for ten years, was known to  enjoyed “fruit ices” sweetened with honey and chilled with snow.

 

And had the brilliant addition of  milk and sugar gave rise to the invention of ice cream around 500 B.C. in the Achaemenid Empire of Persia and more than likely gave rise to  Bastani.

Bastani sonnati, or simply bastani  is made from milk, eggs, sugar, rose water, saffron, vanilla, and pistachios.  Modern day bastani often contains flakes of frozen clotted cream. Sometimes, salep or salaab is included as an ingredient.  Salaab is an extract from a wild orchid that thickens like cornstarch. Salaab gives bastani it’s texture and gives the ice cream bend and pull, almost like gluten, and it has a faint floral taste. Persian ice cream gets an extra dose of richness and texture from frozen chunks of heavy cream that are swirled into the base.

In 400 B.C., the Persians also invented an ice cream-like dessert made with rose water and vermicelli called faloodeh. Persians introduced ice cream and faloodeh to Arabs after the Arab invasion of Iran and the fall of Persian Sasanian. 

By the time of the Arab Conquest took place in across Sicily and Southern Italy in the 8th Century,  there was the development of  granita and gelato, two frozen treats that are now synonymous with modern day Italian desserts. 

Comparatively, the Persian ice cream sandwich made with faloodeh or faludeh, which  is a far more modern treat that was invented around the 13th Century. And shortly there after, Bastani-e nooni was created where the yellow hue of the saffron ice cream and the aroma of rose water are married to make a cool,  smooth textured creamy treat countering the crispy wafers and crunchy sprinkling of pistachios. 

And did you know that a  Syrian immigrant named Ernest Hamwi is credited with crafting the cone on the fly at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, when he rolled his Middle Eastern zalabia pastries into cones to hold that year’s wildly popular confection, ice cream. And even in these modern times, on a warm evening, everyone from grandparents to young couples can be seen strolling and sitting in parks enjoying their cones and cups. Ice cream parlors abound, from the hole-in-the-wall take-out joint to the elegant café.

Over millennia, Iranians have made frozen treats into an art form, the upside of necessity in a country where summer brings extreme heat. In Bandar Abbas, the tropical Persian Gulf, where the temperature was in the nineties before it reached noon, the  still enjoy the ever refreshing faloodeh , the rice noodle and rosewater sorbet that Iranians like to brighten with a spritz of lemon juice. In the shomal, the wet, green, and fertile north that cradles the Caspian Sea, you will find the juicy, red popsicles made of whole fruits with their pits still inside.

And so, America’s favorite frozen treats had it origins in the  Middle East. But, it turns out, that ice cream came to Europe, and then America,  by way of the Arab invasion of Sicily , and thus, modern-day granita and gelato icy sharbat (sherbet) and velvety ice cream are still universally loved in Iran, in the U.S. and the rest of the world for that matter.

You can find Persian ice cream in the U.S, especially in Los Angeles, home to the world’s largest Iranian expat community. The two best known places are Mashti Malone’s, and at the Saffron and Rose

Mashti Malone’s is  an iconic ice cream parlor that makes the best Persian ice cream where you can get either faloodeh or bastani  served as an ice cream sandwich, pressed against two thin wafer cookies, and it is positively incredible. At the Saffron and Rose, you will find  delectable, handmade flavors range from orange blossom to white rose to pomegranate. 

Another Los Angeles Iranian establishment is the  Café Glacé, where you can slurp down a majoon, an ice cream shake blended with dates and bananas and topped with nuts. You’ll also find bastani-e nooni, the Persian ice cream sandwich: two thin, crisp wafers sandwiched around bastani. These can also be found in the freezer section of Iranian markets in different flavors, and if you’re lucky enough to go to an Iranian home for a meal, at dessert you may see a quart of ice cream and a box of wafers so you can make your own.

But if you’re feeling ambitious, you can make your own Persian ice cream from scratch. But rest assured, there’s an easy way to whip up Persian-style ice cream without using any gadgets or dirtying up the kitchen and ending up with a sink full of dishes. In taking a short cut to making bastani, it is recommended that you buy a  good quality vanilla ice cream, letting it get a little soft at room temperature, and then folding in pistachios and a teaspoon of ground saffron steeped in a tablespoon of hot water or cream. You can add a dash of rosewater and frozen chunks of cream if you want. Refreeze and voila, “authentic” Persian ice cream.

 

Makes About 1 quart

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (* See Cook’s Notes)
7 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon saffron, finely ground
1/4 cup Sadaf pure rosewater (** See Cook’s Notes)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Organic dried roses, for garnish

 

 

Directions:

To a small finger bowl, combine saffron threads and hot water and allow to seep until a vibrant orange red colour blooms.

Set a medium bowl in a large bowl of ice water. In another medium bowl, beat the egg yolks until pale, 1 to 2 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, whisk the cream with the milk, sugar, salt and saffron. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, whisking, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Very gradually whisk half of the hot cream mixture into the beaten egg yolks in a thin stream, then whisk this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to lightly coat the back of the spoon, about 12 minutes; don’t let it boil.

Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl set in the ice water. Let the custard cool completely, stirring occasionally. Stir in the rosewater and vanilla extract. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours.

Pour the custard base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a chilled 9-by-4-inch metaloaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least hours.

Serve the ice cream in bowls, garnished with dried roses and pistaschio nuts, if desired.

 

 

Cook’s Notes:

Some people think that turmeric is a fine substitute for saffron, IT IS NOT. Definitely DO NOT use turmeric in ice cream because you will end up producing a very bitter tasting product.

*Saffron
Bastani is traditionally a custard like ice cream, rich in flavor mixed with saffron, rose saffron_jar_680water and pistachios. It is quite recognizable with it’s glorious golden yellow color and aromatic from both the saffron and rose water.

The other key ingredient is saffron. You want a high quality saffron, which gives your bastani its golden color and intoxicating aroma. Crush your saffron using a mortar and pestle and dissolve in a bit of warm water. This should steep for about 30 minutes, so do this while your ice cream is softening.

Once your saffron water is redish orange, add it to your softened ice cream with the rose water and pistachio bits. You can also add a teaspoon or two of crushed dried rose petals. It adds a bit of color as well as fragrance.

How to choose the best saffron
The amount of saffron you use is dependent on the quality of the saffron used. This affects the final color of your ice cream as well as the fragrance and flavor.
Always buy saffron threads and not powder. High grade saffron threads are dark red, not orange and no trace of yellow. When you open your container of saffron you should be able to recognize it’s beautiful scent.

Yes, saffron can be expensive, but don’t be duped and purchase cheap saffron. The color and aroma produced will not be the same. The best high quality saffron comes from Iran and can be purchased at FamilySpice.com.

 

**Rose waterdownload (13)
Using a high-quality, pure rose water is essential for this recipe. Look for Sadaf brand, which is available at kalustyans.com.

If you cannot find rose water in your specialty markets, you can find it locally at Asian Markets, like HMart or online at Amazon.com.

 

Storing the Ice Cream
The ice cream can be frozen for up to 1 week in an airtight plastic container.

 

 

 

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Jerk Chicken with Coconut Saffron Rice and Black Beans

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The best jerk recipe I have ever tasted, delighted the senses, as it was fragrant, fiery hot and smoky all at once.The original recipe was developed by Paul Chung, an adventurous self-taught cook who grew up in Jamaica and has sampled jerk from just about every corner of the island. Making a few adjustments, I added  fresh ginger, dark brown sugar and apple cider vinegar to the marinade. For best results and maximum flavor, let the chicken marinate overnight, covered, in the refrigerator.

As side dishes goes, this saffron rice recipe cooks up pretty quickly, making it a great dish if you are in a hurry. Another added bonus is that is one of those rare dishes that gluten free and vegan. However, if you are allergic to coconut milk, soy milk is a suitable substitute.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the Chicken:
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 medium scallions, chopped
2-3 Scotch bonnet chili peppers, stems removed, chopped (or Habaneros)
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
1 tablespoon allspice berries, coarsely ground
1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Two 3 1/2- to 4-pound chickens, quartered

For the Saffron Coconut Rice and Beans:
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 tablespoon plain water,at room temperature
2 cups uncooked white basmati rice (or any long grain rice)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 3/4 cup coconut milk
2 cups water
1 teaspoon agave nectar, (or 1/2 teaspoon of sugar)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
a pinch of ground nutmeg
One 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
Lime wedges, for garnish

Special Equipment:
Latex gloves for handling the chilis and massaging the marinade under the chicken skin.

Directions:
For the chicken start preparing it a day or two ahead of actual cooking.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels.In a food processor, combine the onion, scallions, chiles, ginger, garlic, five-spice powder, allspice, black pepper, thyme, nutmeg, salt and brown sugar; process to a coarse paste. With the machine on, add the the soy sauce and oil in a steady stream. Put on latex gloves and pour the marinade into a large, shallow dish. Slather the marinade all over chicken, including under skin, and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking and lightly sprinkle with more salt and ground allspice, before proceeding.

Prepare a charcoal grill: Clean and oil grates.Light a grill and preheat to medium heat using one chimney of charcoal. The temperature can start as high as 300°F. For best results, coals should be at least 12 inches away from chicken. If necessary, push coals to one side of grill to create indirect heat. Add two large handfuls of soaked pimento (allspice) wood sticks and chips (See Cook’s Notes) or other aromatic wood chips to coals, then close grill. When thick white smoke billows from grill, place chicken on grate, skin side up, and cover. Let cook undisturbed for 35 to 45 minutes.

Uncover the grill. The chicken will be golden and mahogany in some spots. Chicken thighs may already be cooked through. For other cuts, turn chicken over and add more wood chips, and charcoal as needed. Cover and continue cooking, checking and turning every 10 minutes. Jerk chicken is done when skin is burnished brown and chicken juices are completely clear, with no pink near the bone. For large pieces, this can take up to an hour.

While chicken is cooking, begin to prepare the rice.

In a small bowl, soak saffron threads in the water, at room temperature, for 5 minutes and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat peanut oil over a medium heat until it begins to shimmer, about 2 minutes. Stir in chopped shallot and garlic, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in rice, mixing with a wooden spoon until all of the grains are coated with peanut oil. Fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly.Gently stir in the coconut milk, water, saffron mixture, agave or sugar, turmeric, cumin taking care as the oil will splatter. Season with salt, and gently stir, making sure that nothing sticks to the bottom while everything comes to a boil.

Once liquid achieves a boil, reduce heat to low. Place lid on pot, slightly askew to allow some steam to escape. Stir occasionally to make sure rice does not stick to bottom of pan and the sugar in the coconut milk does not burn. Allow to simmer *very* gently for 15-20 minutes, or until rice is tender.

Stir in the black beans and cook for a few minutes more until hot. Remove from heat and cover the saucepan. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork when you are ready to serve.

When the chicken is done, transfer to a platter.Garnish with lime wedges and serve with the rice.

Cook’s Notes:
Pimento wood sticks and chips are available at www.pimentowood.com.

Alternatively you bake the chicken in the oven if a grill is not readily available.After marinating and you are ready to cook the chicken, heat oven to 350°F and bake chicken for 45-55 minutes, until done.

Also, if time is of the essence, you can first bake the chicken at 300°F in the oven then finished off on the grill. This will result in crispy skin, with perfect texture and flavor.

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Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives

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This colorful Moroccan stew offers deep spices, but stays light and bright with tart citrus, briny green olives and fresh cilantro. For the most authentic presentation, serve it in a  tagine, atop a bed of couscous.

Serves  4

Ingredients:

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
2 Tablespoons warm water
2 large yellow onions, chopped
1/2 cup  coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus  more for garnish
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley,  plus more for garnish
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
6 Tablespoons olive oil
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 1/2 cups cracked green olives
2 preserved lemons, thinly sliced
1/2 cup  chicken broth

Directions:

In a small bowl, soak the saffron in the warm water for 10 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the onions, the 1/2 cup cilantro, 1/2 cup parsley and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Add the cumin, ginger, turmeric, the saffron and its soaking liquid and the salt. Process to a pulpy puree. Transfer to a large resealable plastic bag. Add the garlic and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the chicken thighs, seal the bag and massage to coat the chicken with the mixture. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

Put the olives in a large, heavy fry pan and add water to cover. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, then simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the olives and set aside. Thoroughly dry the pan.

In the same pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the lemon slices and sear until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off the excess and reserving the marinade. Working in batches, sear the chicken, skin side down, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to another plate.

Pour the broth into the pan, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Stir in the reserved marinade and add the chicken and any juices. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the chicken is opaque throughout, about 40 minutes.

Add the olives, the reserved lemon slices and the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice to the pan with the chicken. Cover and simmer until the chicken is falling-off-the-bone tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Garnish the stew with chopped cilantro and parsley and serve immediately.

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor