When I was reading the literature about clotted cream, I came across the making of Cornish clotted cream. What struck me is the similarity of the technique with the Lebanese one: Ashtah. I copied the following observation from the website of Roddas of Cornwall:
“It is said that clotted cream is made nowhere in the world save Cornwall, Devon and Lebanon – the art of cream-making being exchanged with the Phoenicians seeking Cornish tin as long ago as 500BC”
Like the Cornish clotted cream, Ashtah is used as a dessert filling or as an accompaniment to some desserts. Sometimes, it is eaten on its own topped with honey and nuts, such as almonds and pine nuts. In addition, the consistency or texture of Ashtah makes it suitable for the cooking process in some desserts such as Znood al Sitt (Lady’s Arms – small rolls filled with Ashtah and deep fried, then dipped in sugar syrup).
Like most clotted creams, Ashtah does not keep for long. Here is my home-made substitute version.
Makes about 450g / 1 lb
- 600 ml / 1 pint whole milk
- 2 thick slices of white bread (weighing about 120 g/ 4½ oz), crust removed and preferably one day old
- 300 ml / 10 fl oz (½ pint) extra thick double cream or the same amount of crème fraiche
- 1 tbsp of each orange flower and rose water
- Tear the white bread and whizz in the food processor to make fine bread crumbs.
- Pour the milk into a medium sized pan with thick bottom, tip the bread crumbs into the milk and mix. Using medium heat, bring the mixture to boil, then let it simmer gently, stirring occasionally (to prevent any sticking), until the mixture becomes thick, this should take about 15-20 minutes. At this final stage, you can add the flavourings, give the mixture a good stir then switch off the heat.
- Transfer the mixture into a non-metallic bowl, let it cool completely, cover and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours
- When you want to use it, simply add the extra thick cream or crème fraiche to the mixture and mix well with a spoon.
- This Ashtah keeps well for up to 3 days in the fridge.