I love all Middle Eastern consumables I have come across so far (with the exception of some ultra-perfumed lemon sugar water that just didn't seem right). And I do enjoy Claudia Roden's writing, and read her book quite a bit, and my brother loves Turkish Delight - the real stuff of course - and I was hiking off to Coburg for music lessons and catching the tram down Sydney Road, and so it came about that we planned to make our own Turkish Delight, or as it is otherwise called, Rahat Lokum. The lokum will keep for a long time in a box, apparently. Sugar usually does.
So more than once I jumped off the no. 19 and wandered interestedly but less fruitfully around Brunswick/Albion (is Albion an actual place or just a lonely station like Dennis?) in search of mastic to flavour our lokum. Mah-stick-uh seems to be the way to say it, best as I can spell anyway. It took a few goes and I was late for class twice because of this quest! Eventually A1 produced a tiny plastic pocket (turned out to contain a small teaspoon's worth) of tiny translucent pebbles, one of many stapled to a cardboard backing, that cost me either 70c or $1.65 or something. Not much. Will have to go back to the grocery I found for that sour cherry jam...
Brother and I followed the recipe as faithfully as we could, grinding the mastic tears with sugar, mortar and pestle, taking turns to stir for - granted - 2 hours not 3, but we were only making half the whopping 3kg of sugar's quantity. We still didn't have enough cornflour and had to run down to the neighbours.. and had serious lump problems.. and with pistachios, lemon, all the pink colouring we had, mastic and a new packet of cornflour (maybe wheaten would have worked better? No amount of stirring would smooth our lumps) not poured but scooped and scraped into a heavily dusted dish. It must have been fate that the Sunday of stirring was the day the Age magazine had an entry about the tears of the mastic tree.
The next day we tried to cut with cornflour and probably too much icing sugar, but still.. our sweet fragrant lokum releases its hard-sought flavours in a slow rush of mouth-watering tang that requires a second (almost solid) piece. It's slightly tinged with colour and very soft, like we would no doubt become if we ate it all quickly - as is quite tempting.