17 March 2011
Ingredient Spotlight: Shirsh el-Halaweh
The first few weeks of spring always seem to be busy ones. Everyone at work has finally realized it's no longer holiday break nor summer vacation and my calendar is suddenly packed. It's a good time to visit family and see the first blue bonnets spring in Texas. It's warm enough to clean up the yard and my seedlings (beets, mache, parsley, penstamon, nastrutium, spinach) are growing rapidly.
We also have a few new additions to the Desert Candy kitchen. Today we're talking about shirsh el-halaweh, also known as soapwort root or bois de panama. The guy in the spice shop held the root up and asked, with a puzzled expression, "is for cooking, no?"
Yes, indeed it is. The root is used to make a marshmallowy white foam called natef. It's very thick and creamy and almost like marshmallows. Natef can be used for all kinds of desserts but its most common usage is for a cookie called karabeej, which is dipped in natef cream. To make the cream the root is washed and boiled in water, then the root is discarded and the water is whipped into a thick foam sweetened with sugar. Stay tuned for a recipe.