Zaatar Ice Cream – Bouza 3a Zaatar


Zaatar Ice Cream (melting in the Sydney heat)

While in France last year, Lainy and I made our way down from Paris, through Orleans and to Provence and then ended up in the enchanting Cote d’Azur, better known in English as the French Riviera. We settled for a week in the seaside city of Nice, taking indulgent day trips to Italy to have a bowl of pasta, and then heading back for a stroll and a glass of wine in the city. It was here where I met my childhood friend Grandizer, strolling on the pebble beach, and it was also where I saw the different flavours of ice cream on display. The French seemed adventurous with the flavours on offer and they seemed to look at local flavours for inspiration. Lavender ice cream was an obvious one, but coquelicots (corn poppy) ice cream, though relevant, was a bit more abstract.

This got me thinking, and I decided that a zaatar (thyme) ice cream is in order. At first this might not seem like a match made in heaven, right? Zaatar for the Lebanese is a savoury herb, and we eat it every day mixed with sumac, toasted sesame seeds and olive oil, and it forms our very basic breakfast. We also use it to marinate meats and sprinkle it in salads. Zaatar is not exactly a herb that you would say, put in a cake. You would probably not find Coca Cola rushing to make a special edition Zaatar Coke for that ultimate manakish experience. Zaatar chewing gum? Refreshing…


Grandizer, making a stand in Nice and a selection of French ice creams

But hold on. The French are making coquelicots ice cream for God’s sake! Have you ever nibbled into a coquelicot, and tasted that red bitterness. Or have you ever smelled the grassy green aroma it gives out? If you have, you might agree with me that with all things being equal, zaatar ice cream might not be such a bad idea. And indeed, if you taste my ice cream, you might even agree that it’s actually a great idea. The lingering aroma of thyme infuses beautifully in the custard, and marries with its luxurious creaminess like, well, a match made in heaven!

To make this ice cream, I followed a basic vanilla ice cream recipe, and instead of infusing vanilla beans in the milk and cream, I infused the zaatar. I used dry, Lebanese zaatar, because it has a completely different flavour to fresh thyme. And to complete the flavour profile and the play on the zaatar theme, I threw in some toasted sesame seeds. It is worth mentioning that this ice cream usually comes out milky white. The color you see in the photos is purely because I used raw cane sugar (because it is low GI). I actually prefer white sugar in this recipe because I find the treacly sweetness of raw cane sugar slightly overpowers the aroma of the zaatar. You must try this recipe because you will love it, but please, don’t eat it wrapped in Lebanese bread with cucumbers and olive oil!


A bowl of Lebanese zaatar with sumac and toasted sesame seeds

Zaatar Ice Cream Recipe

Ingredients

  • 300ml thick cream
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp dried zaatar (thyme)
  • 3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Method

  1. Place the cream and milk in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then turn off the heat, mix in the zaatar and set aside for 10 minutes to infuse.
  2. Place the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until pale.
  3. Strain the milk to remove the zaatar
  4. Carefully pour the milk over the eggs, then return to a clean saucepan.
  5. Cook over low heat, continuously stirring, for about five minutes until it is slightly thickened and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  6. Set aside to cool, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. Place custard in a plastic container in the freezer until frozen at the edges. Remove from freezer. Beat with an electric beater. Re-freeze. Repeat this process two more times. Add the sesame seeds in the last time you beat the ice cream(Alternatively, churn in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions and add the sesame seeds as the ice cream is beginning to freeze)

10 Responses to “Zaatar Ice Cream – Bouza 3a Zaatar”

  1. ivorypomegranate says:

    No way! I'm all about trying new ice cream flavors, now I'll just need to track down some lebanese zaatar. I'm so excited to try this!

  2. Viviane, Taste-Buds says:

    Oh my! I dunno what I think of Zaatar Ice-cream. I Sure can see the sesame fitting. Zaatar IS used in Kaak but this is more salty than sweet. Might be interesting!
    Although you brought childhood memories with this recipe. My aunt used to make us "heated" Ice cream. Used to be too hard to wait for it to freeze.

  3. xbox 360 microphone says:

    Thanks a lot for the wonderful recipe. Every New Year , I try something new in my kitchen. I wanted to try something new for this time too to treat my family and friends with. This will be a real treat!

  4. SydneyCider says:

    Ivypoomegranate – good stuff, make sure you don't use the zaatar mixed with sumac

    Viviane – Trust me on this one :) The zaatar just lends its aroma, but not its flavour

    xbox – thanks for reading! let me know how you go :)

  5. tasteofbeirut says:

    Wow! You are daring! a maverick! Come on down to Lebanon and try your idea on the locals!
    No kidding, it might be a great hit!

  6. SydneyCider says:

    Hi Joumana – you should see the other tricks up my sleeve hehe. Bouza 3a koussa is being designed as we speak :)

    The thing with these recipes is that once they are online, anyone can make them. My mission is not to capitalise, but to share :)

  7. M. A. Salha says:

    Ha, this is awesome. I have thought about this before as well. A little olive oil might not be such a bad thing!

  8. Paty M says:

    heheh bouza w 3a za3tar!i looove!let’s hope ill make this one soon :p

  9. [...] ice cream – Fouad’s contribution to the dessert was the Zaatar (thyme) ice cream. Using Fouad’s recipe, I churned out 8L of ice cream which we found out later that night was way more than is necessary, [...]

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