Thursday, December 29, 2005

Foodie Gifts: Mastiha and Halva

I was fortunate enough to meet some of my blog readers a while ago! Tülin and Sakos from Greece were in Stockholm for a tabletennis tournament, and we managed to meet up and had some lovely coffee (or tea, actually) at Vetekatten. Being the incredibly sweet and generous people that they are, they had brought gifts! What to bring for a foodie - well, obviously, food.

Do you know what Mastiha is? No? Me either. But I was about to find out!

Mastiha starts as a semi-transparent sap from lentisk trees (actually evergreen bushes) found only in certain areas of the Greek island of Chios. As resinous granules, it was the original chewing gum, and the name "mastiha" is the root word of "masticate," meaning "to chew."

Mastiha is used in sweets, cooking, as a flavoring for liqueurs, and in soap-making, cosmetics, and toothpaste, among others. Recent evidence of its positive effect on ulcers has resulted in a boom in purchases by large pharmaceutical companies.

So, lots of good-for-you properties! I got Mastiha alcohol, and a Mastiha cake (that I haven't tried yet, I'm saving it for a special moment!) - fun!

Read more about Mastiha here.

And, for christmas, I got a package of Halva from Tülin! A traditional turkish dessert, very very sweet and very very good. I believe this is what's also called Turkish Delight - and just what naugthy Edward asks the White Witch for.. yes, I recently watched Narnia...


Kyna said...

Could you describe your halva? I know halva as a solid made with sesame seeds and honey (although different types have additional ingredients and a variety of cooking methods - the most popular bought halva is impossible to make at home, but others can be successfully produced)while what I call Turkish delight is a jelly-like, fruit flavoured solid. As an addict of all forms of halva, I am keen to hear of a new type!

Anne said...

Kyna, as soon as I open it, I will try to describe it! Tülin did say that this was not something you'd make at home, though.

Nic said...

I'm going to have to agree with kyna here. Halva and turkish delight aren't the same thing. Turkish delight is rosewater flavored jelly and, in my opinion, Edward could have done much better to ask the White Witch for something else!

Anonymous said...

Hello, first I want to thank Anne for her kind words and then I want to give some more information: Kyna is right;halva (or helva as we say) is mainly made from sesame solids(tahini),sesame oil and sugar. Nuts,cocoa,raisins and even coconuts could be added in varieties. But there are three more kinds of sweets that we call helva and one of them is what Anne has blogged about, which is made of only syrup,butter and flour,cooked until thick syrup consistency and streched out hundreds of times in circular shape to give it the fluffy texture. Then the dough pressed down and cut in diamond shapes. As for the Turkish delight; it is made from mainly sugar,starch and lemon juice and the flavour options are almost endless: rose,mastic,nut,coconut,mint and almost all fruits. Tülin

Anne said...

Tülin, Nic - thanks for clearing that up! :) Obviously I've never tried Turkish Delight - although it sounds not-that-great, either. Halva is a lot tastier - I've tried some kind before, I think it had pistachios in it - and I look forward to enjoying my box of it :)

Pille said...

I bought mastic - and machlepi - last Spring, when making Greek Easter bread tsoureki. I have quite a few bread (and other) recipes using these unusual spices, let me know if you're interested.
Re: Turkish delight - I'm not too keen on those big chunks, but the mini versions they give you instead of chocolate mints in Turkish restaurants with your tea or coffee are really yummy!

nazan said...

Hej Anne! Jag upptäckte din blogg för ett tag sen och gillar den väldigt mycket.

Troligtvis har du redan öppnat och smakat men ville försöka tillägga lite om helva och lokum:

Precis som Tülin förklarat så är den helva som görs på sesam och den du fått i present (hårt packad sockervadd ungefär) helt olika sötsaker. Jag gillar den som är gjord på sesam (ibland med kakao eller pistascher) bättre än Saray Helvasi, men det är väl en smaksak.

Om Turkish Delight aka Lokum: Där finns stora kvalitetsskillnader mellan allt ifrån de som kan fastna i gommen (ick!) till de förföriska, små, nötsmakande grejerna. Haci Bekir Lokumu ( och Gulluoglu är två välkända 'märken' som rekommenderas om du kan få tag på dem någonstans ifrån. Ha det gott!

Anne said...

Tack snälla Nazan, jätteintressant!! Jag ska absolut försöka få tag på någon bra Lokum också - för att jämföra om inte annat :)