drinks · food + drink · posts

Hot Turkish Wintertime Drink – Salep

Exploring and wandering the wonderful streets of Istanbul, tea and coffee stops are inevitable. Recharging the batteries and soaking up the atmosphere of a bustling city steeped in history and culture. Istanbul is a busy  city all year round… literally heaving with people!  On entering one of the many cafes, and scribbled on a chalk board,  I noticed hot Salep on the menu and was told… “we make the best!” Ditched the usual Turkish Tea and ordered Salep. Who was I to argue whether it was the best, this was my first taste of this very popular Turkish wintertime drink.

A nice change from drinking a hot chocolate or a winter spiced latte, this hot thickened milky drink (the taste of semolina was the first thing that came to mind) was served with a dusting of cinnamon on top.  Although a little overly sweet I did enjoy this warming drink and found Salep quite filling.

Salep (Sahlab, Saloop,) is a nutritious starchy flour derived from the tuberous root of a certain species of Orchids. In Turkey export of pure Salep flour is apparently illegal, as over harvesting of their Orchids (Turkey known for the best Salep flour) has led to its decline. Salep is also used in the famous Turkish Dondurma ice cream.

Throughout the Middle East, Mediterranean, Europe and Asia drinks made using Salep were enjoyed for centuries and touted as an aphrodisiac (a botanical Viagra) and a restorative for the young and old. London’s industrial era served many a labourer Saloop (flour derived from British Isle Orchids ) in the early morning hours, a hearty drink flavoured with orange blossom and rose-water to kick-start a long and hard-working day.

Pure Salep flour is expensive and many use cornflour as a substitute or use a mix of both (both have thickening qualities) and say it tastes like the real thing! Some say Salep flour has little or no taste and others say it has a slightly floral taste. Can’t say I noted a floral taste when drinking Salep as the cinnamon was the dominant flavor. Maybe some Salep drinking experts can enlighten me on the subject.

Purchased a box of flavoured salep/sahlab at a local supermarket which contained the ingredients; sahlab, sugar, mastic, rose and orange blossom flavour to try… it turned out way too sweet and overly perfumed for my liking.

This is my way of making a faux style Salep (which tastes just as good) using glutinous rice flour as a thickener, preferring the creamy results it gave over the cornflour.  However, cornflour may be used and here is another recipe and other information on Salep. Camping season has begun in Bahrain and the desert can turn very cold… so why not treat family and friends to this warming winter time drink.


Winter Warming Hot Salep


  • 8 level teaspoons of glutinous rice flour (sweet rice) (found at asian supermarkets)
  • 1 litre of full-fat or low-fat milk
  • sugar or honey, to taste

Flavour Salep with:

1/4 teaspoon orange blossom water OR rose-water, per cup


a light dusting of cinnamon powder

garnish with some finely chopped pistachio, if desired.

How to make: Add the glutinous rice flour into a medium saucepan, using a whisk, slowly mix in the milk until smooth. Bring the milk mixture to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon. Reduce heat and simmer gently for about 3 minutes to thicken and cook through, stirring often. Sweeten with sugar to taste, add desired flavouring and pour into cups, serve hot. Alternatively, pour the unflavoured Salep into cups and let each person flavour their own. Serves 4

Have you tried Salep before? Do you have a favourite wintertime drink?

desserts · food + drink · posts

turkish rice pudding – sütlac

Cooked on a stove top or baked in an oven, eaten hot or cold, rice pudding is enjoyed all over the globe. The basic ingredients for this simple but wholesome dessert are similar… rice, milk/water and sugar, but it is the variations, flavourings and additions by different cultures that give each rice pudding its own characteristic taste. The rice pudding I knew and loved when growing up was made using milk, sugar and raisins, sometimes enriched with cream and egg yolks and then baked in the oven… comfort food at its best!

Last month Suzanne Husseini visited Bahrain at Words Bookstore Café promoting her cookbook… Modern Flavours of Arabia “when suzanne cooks” and her delicious version of rice pudding is flavoured with rosewater, orange blossom water and the seeds of a vanilla pod, served with a Date Compote.

Inspired by Suzanne’s cookbook I decided to make Sütlac,  a Turkish rice pudding that is sometimes flavoured with rosewater and mastic, and wanting to include an orange flavour in the rice pudding, decided to add some pieces of my home-dried orange peel.  What I love about a basic rice pudding is… it’s like a blank canvas and you can experiment with a myriad of different culinary flavors.

Chios mastic is an aromatic resin harvested from the Pistacia Lentiscus var. Chia (of the Anacardiaceae family) tree which grows on the Aegean Island of Chios, Greece. Chios mastic has both culinary (pastry, puddings, liqueurs, sweets, ice-cream, marinades, rice,soups and meats ) and commercial uses. If you look at some of the commercial ways in which mastic is used… plasters, cosmetics, varnish, toothpaste, stabilizers, perfumes and chewing gum…  you do wonder how it ever ended up in anything sweet or savoury!  Suzanne uses mastic in some of her sweet and savoury recipes in her cookbook which she grinds together with sugar or salt before incorporating into other ingredients.

Bahrain is known for its herbalist stores ( hawaj ) across the island, which make many natural herbal preparations for all sorts of aliments, some of which contain mastic… also known for its medicinal properties. Ghazi from Al Makhlook stores  in Jid Ali was able to supply me with mastic that came from the Greek Island of Chios… and was also able to tell me that my other supply of mastic which I had bought some time ago was definitely not from (photograph above) Chios! 

Chios mastic has pine-like aromas and a sweet warm perfumed flavour… some have suggested vanilla, cedar and licorice… which seemed to have escaped me! I must say it is hard to describe this unique flavour! The other mastic I had used before was harsh in flavour and had a slight bitter aftertaste, apparently there is another type of tree which produces a similar mastic resin! I guess it’s like tasting a good wine compared to an inferior wine… you taste the difference!

Use a pestle and mortar to grind the mastic and sugar into a fine powder,this helps disperse the mastic evenly into the rice pudding when incorporating.

 Turkish Rice Pudding – Sütlac

                                                          (serves 4)


  • 250ml whipping cream
  • 375ml whole milk
  • 4 dried pieces of home dried orange peel or 1 small stick of cinnamon
  • 100g sugar
  • 300ml water
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 150g short grained rice,
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch + 2 tablespoons of milk, mix together
  • 1/4 teaspoon mastic + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, ground together (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons rosewater
  • dried rose buds as a garnish, if desired

How to make: Pour the cream and milk into a medium saucepan, add the orange peel or cinnamon, heat together until almost boiling. Remove from heat, whisk in the sugar and leave the orange peel or cinnamon to infuse, cover with a lid.

In a heavy-based saucepan bring the water to a boil, throw in the salt and rice, stir so the rice does not stick together. Lower the heat and gently simmer the rice (cover with lid) until tender and the water has been absorbed, around 17 minutes.

Pour the cream and milk infusion into the cooked rice and place saucepan over medium heat, stir continuously until the rice mixture comes to a gentle boil. Whisk in the cornflour mixture and cook for a further 2 minutes until thickened. Whisk in the ground mastic and stir throughly. Remove from heat, discard the orange peel or cinnamon stick and stir in the rosewater. Spoon the rice into a serving bowl or small individual serving dishes and chill in the refrigerator before serving. Best served cold but can be eaten warm, if desired!

Note: The rice pudding will thicken further when cold, you can stir in a little cold milk if you find the consistency is not to your liking! This recipe can easily be doubled.

What flavourings and additions do you like in your rice pudding?


A Cheese making day at Corleggy

A Cheese making day at Corleggy coincided with my recent visit to Ireland. Having tried making soft cheese before (ricotta and fromage blanc), was keen to learn the process of maturing hard cheese using raw milk. Guided by a professional with a passion for cheese making was a chance not to be missed, allowing me a little insight into the art of cheese making. An enjoyable experience and a great way to spend a day outdoors.

The class was run by Silke Croppe an Artisan Cheese Maker recognized throughout Ireland for her handmade goats, cows and sheep’s cheese using raw milk. Silke is originally from Germany but moved to Ireland many years ago to live in Corleggy, Belturbet Co. Cavan where her passion for cheese making began.

The cheese making class was held outdoors on her charming farmhouse cottage nestled in the Belturbet countryside. The weather was on our side and luckily, no rain fell from the Irish skies… but it was cold! Silke and her team had a lovely log fire burning, keeping us warm throughout the day.

Breakfast was served before commencing the cheese making class and it gave us all time to introduce ourselves and have a chat.

A brief summary of the cheese making (in a bucket) process that Silke guided us through.

Fresh raw cow’s milk had already been collected early that morning from a nearby registered dairy into a large vat and mixed with a live culture (starter) to ripen the milk.

Everyone collected 10 liters of the raw cows milk into a sterilized container or bucket.

 Liquid rennet was stirred into the bucket of milk which was then left undisturbed for about 20 minutes until the milk set forming a large curd. Using a long knife the curd was carefully cut into smaller curds, this helped separate the watery whey from the curds. The curds were then gently stirred in the whey with clean hands while slowly adding some hot water until the curds reached a temperature of 39°C. During this process the curds became smaller and firmer.

Everyone busy stirring, adding hot water and emptying the excess whey until the curds reach the correct temperature.

Some of the curds were placed into a small cheese mould, this was left to drain for a couple of hours forming a soft cheese.

The rest of the drained curds and the cheesecloth were placed inside a larger cheese mould with holes at the sides which allowed further draining of the whey.

Each cheese mould was covered with a follower and pressure applied to the curds for a few hours, extracting more whey and shaping the cheese.

Time for a break…  a delicious lunch was served,  roast pork, some salads, cheese and wine were on offer. Coffee and some sweet treats were also provided!

After a few hours the cheese was removed from the press and the exterior of the cheese rubbed liberally with salt, this will help form a rind on the cheese.

The soft cheese (which is still in the white mould) only needed removing from the mould, ready to eat (or stored for about a week) and no further maturing was needed.

Our 1kilo of cheese is wrapped in cheesecloth to take home, ready for maturing into a hard cheese… over a three-month period! Maturing cheese can be a timely process and in the early stages the cheese will need to be turned daily for a couple of weeks and then every now and then until the cheese is mature. Ideal temperatures for maturing cheese are 10°C to 14°C and consistency is important… a wine cooler at home can come in handy!

Our day ended with a selection of Silkes wonderful handmade raw milk cheeses to sample before heading home.

As I was travelling back to Bahrain the following day I decided to leave my cheese with my brother, maturing alongside his cheese in his wine cooler. Up-dates have been promised (with a photo) and maybe I might just be back in Ireland to taste the cheese when it is fully matured…  in three months time.