8 eggs separated
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
65 g of milk chocolate (Easter Chocolate Bunny medium size)
1/3 cup unsweetened coco powder
1 Tbsp Vanilla
1 tsp crushed gum Arabica (mastic) (absolutely optional and only if you like the taste of mastic do you use this, and use it sparingly so it does not overpower your tastebuds, without it the ice-cream has a creamy chocolate taste)
The original recipe came from Betty Crocker, German Chocolate Ice-cream (www.bettycrocker.com). Changes were made through trial and error. We called it Peter Rabbit ice-cream because we were watching Peter Rabbit when we made it and we used an Easter chocolate bunny since we were out of milk chocolate chips.
My family loves a good bowl of ice-cream. It is hard not to, when you grow up eating Rukab and Baladna ice-creams. In Ramallah, everything begins with Rukab Street (officially named Main Street) which connects the city center (Al Manara Square) and the old town. A busy and often crowded artery, this is where life happens. A street that bore witness to an evolving city, a brutal occupation, and a never-ending beat of hope.
Separate the egg yolks from the eggs whites. My daughter loved this part, we cracked the eggs, and poured them into her palm. The egg whites slid off seamlessly, and the yolks where placed into a separate bowl.
If you ask someone for directions, they will immediately re-orient you to Main street by asking “Btiiraf wain’ Rukab?(Do you know Rukab?)” And then directions are skillfully given from there.
In a heavy sauce pan, add three cups of heavy cream (or heavy cream substitute, both work) and one cup of whole milk (you can substitute with low–fat milk)
At the heart of this artery is Rukab’s ice-cream shop. A family business passed on from one generation to the next, serving delicious, gooey ice-cream in all kinds of flavors.
Add 1/3 cup coco powder, and 1 crushed Easter chocolate bunny (medium size, 65 g in weight). The bunny can be substituted for 65 g of any kind of chocolate. Bring to a simmer then add 1 teaspoon of gum Arabica (Mastic). ّI must here emphasize that you should only use arabic gum if you like the taste and if you do choose to use it, use it sparingly since it can overpower the chocolate taste. Trust me I know from the disappointed looks on my children’s faces and my sister’s face when we tried adding it the first time. They said it tasted like wood! Without it the recipe works beautifully and tastes creamy and chocolaty!
Rukab has been serving ice-cream since the 30’s. It began in the family’s kitchen, where their mother made ice-cream to be sold by her children after school. In 1941, the father opened a coffee shop, in what is now the iconic Rukab Ice-cream Shop. The delicious gooey scoops are unmatched. The gooeyness is due to the use of Arabic Gum and Sahlab (Salep). Chemically when those two are added to the simmering cream mixture, they form a gel, giving the ice-cream the stretchy texture. It is thought that this might be one of the oldest ways of making ice-cream. Some attribute it to Syria, others believe its beginnings were in Turkey.
In the meantime, beat the egg yolks until light yellow, adding the sugar and 1 Tbsp of vanilla.
Today the business is run by Jimmy Rukab, the grandson of the founder and his father. Just passing by the place in the morning makes you crave the stretchy ice-cream even on a cold winter morning. Rukab’s shop survived and persevered through the painful history of Ramallah and Palestine, and it stands witness to the utter destruction and loss the city experienced throughout time, but also to the rebirth. Rukab’s history is as rich as its taste.
Temper the egg yolks by gradually adding the cream mixture using a ladle. Do not add quickly, your eggs will cook too fast and you wont have a custard.
Down the street from Rukab, is Baladna ice-cream. Both shops have an intertwined history. Baladna also serves gooey ice-cream to die for. In 1999, when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, I remember carrying containers of Baladna Pistachio ice-cream across the Jiser(Bridge) to bring it to her in Jordan where she was receiving chemotherapy. At the time chemo was unavailable in the West Bank, and it was easier for her to go to Jordan than get treatment in Jerusalem. During one of her sessions, she admitted craving the ice-cream. I will never forget the owner’s kindness and warmth as he wrapped those containers, and heartily wished my mother gets better.
Once done mixing, put back and cook on low heat until mixture thickens. (Don’t rush, cook slowly so that it doesn’t curdle).
It was a miracle that the containers survived the Jordan Valley heat, the endless lines, and the humiliation of crossing the border. It is hard to believe that human survive it, let alone ice-cream.
Pour into a glass container and cover with plastic wrap making sure it touches the surface. Place in refrigerator for at least six hours, or overnight.
Every time I came home during my studies in the United States; first on the endless culinary requests I made was Rukab and Baladna ice-cream. I took turns visiting both shops, and with every bite a piece of my childhood came alive. The stretchy ice-cream offers respite from the summer heat and the grind of living in a country still under occupation. Visitors to both shops come from all over Palestine. They stop by on their way to a doctor’s appointment, or on their way home, or they bring their families just to eat the ice-cream. For a few minutes, they indulge in a simple pleasure that perhaps relieves them ever so slightly of the checkpoints they have to cross to get home…
Pour mixture into your ice-cream maker and use according to manufacturer instruction. Freeze until it is time to serve.
The recipe I share with you here is a first step in my journey to discover ice-cream making. I hope that this gives my children memories they can re-visit time and time again as they grow up and come to grips with the realities of life and life in Palestine in particular.