“We snaked our way among the merchants and the beggars, wandered through narrow alleys cramped with rows of tiny, tightly packed stalls. Baba gave us each a weekly allowance of ten Afghanis and we spent it on warm Coca-Cola and rosewater ice cream topped with crushed pistachios.”
–The Kite Runner
This week I had my first attempt at making ice cream! I had been brainstorming some delicate, springtime flavors when I recalled that rosewater ice cream is mentioned in a great read by Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner. I discovered, that rosewater pistachio ice cream has Persian roots, one of the world’s most ancient and varied cuisines. In Farsi it is called Bastani-e Za’farāni and is typically, flavored with saffron and rosewater. I recommend serving it alongside baklava with black tea steeped with sage and sugar.
If you want to try this recipe and are thinking to yourself…when will I ever use rosewater again? You are in luck! Rosewater’s versatility ranges from flavoring baklava to cleansing the face. It is derived from fresh rose petals and possesses a high potency, so a little goes a long way. Splash it on fresh strawberries or oranges, try it in rice pudding or other desserts. Rosewater is also a natural moisturizer so you may apply it to your skin or use it as a conditioner for your hair.
Pistachio-Rosewater Ice Cream
Makes: about 1 1/2 pints
1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
2 cups evaporated milk
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not imitation)
5 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
2 ½ teaspoons rosewater
1. Crush the pistachios in a mortar and pestle or chop in a food processor.
2. Mix the milk, sugar, and vanilla in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan; add the pistachios and bring to a light boil. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, then remove from the heat.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and slowly mix in about a cup of the hot milk-pistachio liquid to temper the eggs. Add the egg yolk-milk mixture to the saucepan, whisking as you pour it in. Cook the custard over low heat, stirring constantly until the custard clings to the back of a spoon and your finger can run a path through it without it running. Meanwhile, set a bowl large enough for the custard over an ice bath.
4. Remove the custard from the heat and immediately strain into the bowl set over the ice bath. Thoroughly chill the custard, placing a piece of plastic over the custard when it’s cooled slightly so that a skin doesn’t form.
5. When the custard has chilled, mix in the heavy cream and rosewater and prepare according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.
Side note: Don’t discard the milk-cooked pistachios – they are soft and chewy, sweet and rich. Use them to top your ice cream, cupcakes, cereal, or eat them straight with a spoon. You could probably even use them to make baklava.