Just Fast Food For the FOB
When I first got off the boat in the US in the mid 90’s, one of the things that surprised me was the lack of healthy food options around. In fact, virtually all stores and restaurants in that small Midwest college town served what seemed like chain-grade processed food. As for fresh fruit juice? Fuggedaboutit… Good luck! The craze about organic/local/in-season foods/juicing looks like it picked momentum only in the past few years.
Lebanese Fruit Cocktail
But taking a step back, I didn’t realize how much I was spoiled with food (in addition to mom’s cooking) growing up in Lebanon. Pick any city you want, and you can’t go a mile or two without running into what we call “cocktail store”.
This would be a small restaurant specializing in desserts made from fresh fruits. My favorite local store in Tripoli was “Famous Cocktail” in the Balha street. The menu typically included many freshly made fruit juices, in addition to cocktails/mixed fruits. My favorite option was “Cocktail Shi-af” which means “Fruit Chunks Cocktail” and you watch them make it. They pull several fruits from the fridge such as oranges, apples, bananas, strawberries, kiwis, berries, pineapples, mangos, pears, peaches etc… peel and cut them in front of you then add them in a large serving glass. They then juice some strawberries or kiwis in a blender and pour the juice in the glass. Then they top it with “Ashta” which is home-made clotted cream (some use whipped cream but it’s not the same!!!), sprinkle some unsalted roasted nuts like almonds, walnuts or pine nuts, then garnish with some freshly ground pistachio powder and honey. And the feast begins. You really can’t beat such a healthy food option, not even with Jamba juice!
Ashta: Clotted Cream
I know this is a tease, but this post isn’t about THAT version of the fruit cocktail. To be honest, I still haven’t mastered making that Ashta cream at home. I found a few recipes that call for making it using milk and bread, which seem fine. However I grew up knowing that it’s made purely from milk in our neck of the woods. The process was to boil milk, and then add freshly squeezed lemon juice to it to make it clot. You can then add rose / orange blossom water and some sugar, and start scooping out the clotted milk from the surface and collect them in a separate container after which they are refrigerated. Anyway I will need to experiment with Ashta and report back upon success with a new and updated recipe.
For now though, this is a very simple fresh fruit cocktail you can make at home in a few minutes and enjoy with family and friends. Please please, do not use canned food while making it. Make sure to have at least 5+ types of fruits in order to make it rich and flavorful, with a mix of tangy and sweet fruits.
- 4 apples (different colors)
- 6 tangerines
- 4 medium mangos
- 8 prunes
- 20 strawberries
- 1 lemon
- If fruits are not organic, soak them in water + vinegar for a few minutes then rinse them well. Or you can use vegetable wash as well.
- Juice 2 tangerines and put aside
- Juice 1 lemon and put aside
- Cut remaining fruits in small chunks of ⅔ of an inch and add to bowl
- Add juice from tangerine and lemon on top and mix well with clean hands
- Serve with a topping of fresh cream/whipped cream and some honey, or serve plain.