We’ve been living the last days of Winter in Turkey. Before it leaves us totally, it is a must for me to tell you about one of the most popular hot drinks of us: Salep! On cold days of Winter, if I’m outside, the only thing I imagine is to have a cup of salep at home. It warms both your hands (while holding the cup) and your body. I love its aromatic scent spreading inside the home while cooking it. Let me introduce this yummy drink more before its recipe.
I was definitely surprised when I first learnt that salep is produced from the bulbs of some species of orchid family. You know that beautiful and fragile flower, have you ever thought that it has also a lot of benefits besides its majestic beauty? This orchid family includes 24 species and about 90 classes of orchids. Since the lands of Anatolia are so fertile, these species and classes grow themselves in different regions of our country. However, salep is produced from some certain species.
The orchids which are suitable for salep production have a unique structure. The root of those orchids consists of two bulbs side by side. They are in shape of an egg. The bigger bulb feeds the flower while the smaller one is the spare bulb which will take the responsibility of feeding the flower the following year. Although salep can be produced from both bulbs, producers pick up just the spare one not to cause the flower to become extinct. When the spare one is taken, the bigger bulb starts to generate a new small bulb, in this way the flower goes on living.
After the bulbs are picked, they are washed and boiled in water or milk. Then they are dried in open air. To have salep flour, these bulbs are pounded when they are totally dried. Salep includes starch, sugar, and mucilage, which has a sticky characteristic. This last substance helps the drink get thicker while boiling.
There are also packaged salep that you can find in supermarkets, you just mix it with hot milk and it’s ready. However, these are not real, companies add extra starch into it. So if you want to taste real salep, you should make a little search. It is generally found in herb and spice shops. It must be a bit expensive, that way you can understand that it’s real. If a kilo of salep is cheaper than 250 Turkish Liras (140 dollars), it’s not real. But don’t worry, you don’t need to buy a kilo. 10g or 20g is enough for you because you’ll use just 3 tsp salep for 1 liter milk. You may find the time of making salep a bit long, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Besides its yummy taste and magical scent, it has also several benefits to health. The most well-known benefit of it is that it has a curative effect on cough, bronchitis and cold, that’s why it’s mostly consumed in winter. In addition, it cures constipation, strengthens heart and mental powers.
After all these, I start to crave for salep, I’ll definitely go to kitchen and prepare salep after writing this post. Do you wonder how?
• 3tsp salep (if you don’t want a heavy scent, use 1tsp or 1 ½ tsp)
• 1tsp starch
• 1tbsp sugar
• 1 liter milk
• 1 tsp vanilla
• Cinnamon for garnish
Put the milk in a pot and boil it.
Mix salep, starch and sugar in a bowl. Add some warm milk in and emulsify it. The mixture should be like paste.
After the milk boils, lower the heat and add that salep mixture in the boiling milk little by little and mix it continually. Mixing is very important here, you should keep mixing it otherwise it gets lumpy. You can check its taste and if you like, add more sugar in it. It should be sweet.
Boil this mixture on the lowest heat for half an hour, your house will get full of its wonderful scent. And towards the end of this time, add vanilla. Pour it in a cup and sprinkle some cinnamon on it.
You can put the rest in a bottle or jug and keep it in refrigerator for some days. When you crave for salep again, you can heat some of it and feel that pleasure again.