|Harem Scene by Quintana Blas Olleras (1851-1919)|
The word sherbet brings two images to my mind. The first, as a child of the Midlands in the 1960s, is of a yellow tube filled with fizzing powder that could be sucked up a liquorice straw. If you lived in the Midlands in the 60s you'll know that this was about as exciting as life got, especially when the dust went up the nose and made us sneeze and wheeze.
The second image is of well-padded Ottoman ladies lounging on plump cushions sipping pastel liquids from engraved glasses. I have yet to find a recipe for Sherbet Fountains so it is the latter I'm writing about today.
After tasty lunch of green beans and kale in Gambilya restaurant on Monday, our Turkish coffee was accompanied by a small glass of an opaque, slightly pink liquid. In its gold etched glass, it looked just the accoutrement for a silk-draped lady of a bygone era. I usually pride myself on recognising ingredients but I had no idea what I was drinking. At the risk of sounding like the worst wine bore, its subtle taste had a whiff of vanilla and an essence of reclining under a honeysuckle vine on a sunny day. It was quite impossible to pinpoint the flavour. We had to ask Lale what it was and the answer was a surprise - melon seed drink.
I've mentioned Lale's drinks before in Mulberry and Purple basil cordial at Gambilya and she is very good at sourcing traditional recipes. This one was brought to Turkey by Jews fleeing Spain and is still a popular drink in Spanish speaking countries. It's simple to make and, with the growing popularity of seed and nut milks, I'm surprised that I haven't come across it before.
Wash the seeds of a cantaloup or yellow melon.
Dry the seeds in the sun for 24 hours
Grind or liquidize the seeds with two glasses of unchlorinated water
Leave for 24 hours until the liquid thickens and goes milky in colour
Strain and squeeze through muslin, sweeten if desired and drink chilled.
Some recipes suggest boiling the seeds in the water for 5 minutes, but I'm sure the drink is more nutritious unheated. In some of the Spanish or Mexican recipes, melon juice or lime juice is added, but I think this would mask the delicate flavour. I haven't made it myself yet but will definitely be coming back from Sunday's market with two large melons.