Bring on the booza

A sibling team embraces the sweet treats of the souk.

As he travelled through the Middle East last year, Jilbert El-Zmetr, 30, spent much of his time eating delicacies such as nougats, pistachio treats and sesame-based biscuits.

But it was the region’s traditional ice-cream, known as booza, that caught his eye and taste buds and left him wanting more.

Laced with pistachios, it’s been eaten since the 1800s and has a distinct taste and elastic texture.

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Booza icecream ballsThe Booza range. Photo: Steven Siewert

When the IT director returned to Hong Kong, his home for the past six years, he couldn’t stop thinking about the confection.

So the former Sydneysider enlisted the help of his sister Tedy Altree-Williams, 37, a pharmaceuticals representative in Alexandria, to create a modern version of the dessert.

The siblings taught themselves how to make ice-cream with some help from their pastry-chef father.

While market, or souk, vendors, following tradition, would pound the ice-cream with large wooden sticks and serve it with pistachios, they took a different approach.

El-Zmetr bought a commercial-sized ice-cream machine in Hong Kong and Altree-Williams a smaller, household version in Sydney. During the week they practiced their recipes, making batch after batch, discussing flavour options over the phone on weekends.

It took about a year to trial, test and perfect a recipe, before they launched a prototype last year. They called it Booza, which means ice-cream in Arabic.

The ice-cream gets its stringy-elastic texture from sahlab, a ground root of the the early purple orchid (Orchis macula) and mastica, the gum from the mastic tree.

Instead of serving the ice-cream in tubs, the siblings decided to package their creation as petit fours.

Silicone moulds are used to achieve the required shape before each petit four is hand rolled and coated with pistachio, sesame halva or crunchy-pistachio praline.

”Our variation leans more towards the Syrian and Lebanese version because of the amount of sahlab we use,” Altree-Williams says. ”We chose three coatings so people could mix the sweetness on their palate. Booza is a perfect dessert for a dinner party and it’s best to eat after letting it sit for five minutes.”

With El-Zmetr in Hong Kong, Altree-Williams oversees production at the Pepe Saya factory in Tempe, making and packaging the bite-sized treats.

Booza, $11/six-pack or $18/12-pack, Thomas Dux Grocer stores and About Life’s outlets in Rozelle and Bondi Junction.

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