Exotic Sumac Sorbet

Confessions of a Foodie: Review of Al’fez Moroccan Cuisine Sumac for Real Foods, Edinburgh

Recipe:  Exotic Sumac Sorbet – No Ice Cream Maker Required!! (vegan, gluten free)

Confession number 1:  Foodies LOVE shopping for ingredients; on-line doesn’t do it for us – we need to touch, see, smell, compare.  Luckily in Edinburgh we have an array of specialty shops, markets and independent retailers to choose from.  One of my regular haunts is Real Foods.  A trip to Real Foods is like a rite of passage for foodies – or actually anyone trying to eat more healthily, has special dietary needs or wants to try more adventurous recipes.  It’s an Aladdin’s cave of whole foods – and of foods prepared in a more holistic manner.  I love being able to find just about anything that I’m looking for – but I also like to go and let my eyes wander and find something new to try.  Cooking with strange, unheard of ingredients doesn’t put me off – instead it’s a exciting challenge because…..

Confession number 2:  Foodies LOVE experimenting in our laboratory (what some non-foodies call a ‘kitchen’).  Some results of these ‘experiments’ have made it on to this blog and no doubt there are more to come.  Although some experiments can be totally random, foodies often need inspiration…

Confession number 3:  Foodies seem to share a passion – cookbooks!  A few years ago I stumbled upon cookbooks by Yotam Ottolenghi.  His books are full of beautiful, healthy Middle Eastern and Mediterranean inspired recipes.  On one hand I was excited and inspired by the unusual ingredients – but on the other – I was challenged by the hard to find key ingredients and I had no idea what the final product should taste like.  So, when Real Foods gave this ‘Foodie’ a new product to experiment with, a product I had read about in my Ottolenghi Cookbooks but never yet tried, I jumped at this challenge that would see me drag out my cookbooks, raid my pantry, search for additional ingredients to complement, enhance or by enhanced by my key ingredient….. Al’fez Moroccan Cuisine Sumac.

Al'Fez Sumac

Al’Fez Sumac

So what exactly is ‘Sumac’?
Al’fez Sumac is 100% Sumac berries that have been dried and crushed into tiny, dark magenta granules that have an intense sweet/sour, citrus aroma and flavour.  The bushes that the berries are harvested from can be found all around the Mediterranean and therefore feature in Middle Eastern and Arabic cuisine.  The crushed berries are often used to add a tangy ‘zing’, subtle ‘fruitiness’ and vibrant colour to salads and marinades for meat, seafood or vegetables. Sumac is also a key ingredient for a common Middle Eastern spice blend called Za’atar.   Like many other berries, sumac has a high antioxidant rating (ORAC) of over 1500 μmol TE/g.   Sumac has also been historically used as an aid for digestion and to reduce fevers.  (see useful links below for more information)

The experimental phase……
All of the recipes in my cookbooks used Sumac in savoury (usually meat based) recipes but the smell, colour and fruity tanginess of the crushed berries made me think that the sumac would balance well with sweet – perfect for a refreshing, exotic dessert.  Lately I have been going through a banana ‘ice cream’ phase (one drawer of my freezer is dedicated to bananas!).  Frozen bananas can be ‘blitzed’ in a food processor or mini-chopper and after a few minutes, turn into a creamy delicious frozen treat – no ice cream maker required!!  I recently read that you can do the same with frozen pineapple but hadn’t yet tried it.  The exotic, tangy, sour flavour of sumac might just enhance the sweet tangy flavour of pineapple!!  Worth a try, but I really wanted to create a dessert that would pay tribute to the Middle East origins of sumac and maybe add some sweetness – so I racked my brain for other essential middle eastern ingredients…. nuts? Dates? Pomegranate? Bingo!!!  My other adventures into middle eastern cooking resulted in a bottle of Pomegranate Molasses waiting in the back of my pantry for its culinary adventure.  The result?  A simple, 3 ingredient dessert that takes minutes to make but is packed with TONNES of exotic flavour and the tiny magenta flecks of sumac granules looked beautiful dotted through the creamy yellow pineapple.  Sweet, tangy, sharp, fruity, fresh; the perfect late night treat – or a clean refreshing end to any meal.  My 2 taste testers were licking the bowls clean and I’ve already made it again – twice.  Move over bananas – the pineapple is coming in!!  (recipe at the end of the blog)

Overall Impressions of Sumac…
Swapping seasonings can completely change the taste and ‘feel’ of a dish.  Noodles with tomato, garlic and basil scream ‘Italy’, the noodles with sesame, ginger and garlic have a distinct Asian flavour.  In the same way, sumac is an ingredient that is quintessentially middle eastern.  Now that I’ve experimented with and tasted sumac, it’s an ingredient I plan to always keep on hand to add instant middle eastern flavour – allowing me to instantly transform a ‘tired’ recipe into something new.  Already I’ve transported my Mediterranean roasted veggies into the middle east by tossing cubes of raw beetroot and sweet potato in olive oil, salt, pepper and a teaspoon of sumac before roasting for 30 minutes.  They were fantastic hot, but even better cold the next day mixed with some cooked quinoa, fresh herbs and a lemon and olive oil dressing.  Sumac is also excellent value, the flavour is intense so a little goes a long way – a jar lasts a long time and keeps well in a cool dark cupboard.  Although I don’t think my little jar will last much longer because I have plans to add Sumac to dips (like hummus or tapenade), sprinkle on salads and over kale chips and in the autumn I think it will find its way into my soups as well.

Here’s the recipe:

Exotic Sumac Sorbet

Exotic Sumac Sorbet

Exotic Sumac Sorbet

Equipment:  Food processor or ‘mini-chopper’ (mine is one that attaches to a stick blender)

Preparation time: Freeze Pineapple overnight; 20 minutes to prepare

Serves: 4 scoops of Sorbet (2 large or 4 small servings)


  • 300g fresh pineapple
  • 1 teaspoon Sumac
  • 1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses


  1. (6 hours or night before) Cut ripe pineapple into 1 inch cubes; Spread out on a baking tray that is lined with greaseproof or parchment paper (make sure tray fits in freezer).  Freeze pineapple; when frozen store the pineapple cubes in a freezer bag.  Depending on size, one pineapple will make 2 batches – just keep the extra in the freezer for the next time – or for use in smoothies.
  2. Place 300g of frozen pineapple cubes into your food processor/chopper.  Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes!!!
  3. Once the pineapple has slightly thawed, add the sumac and the pomegranate molasses.
  4. Start blending the pineapple in the processor.  It will first turn to frozen granules and after a few minutes will turn into a beautiful soft sorbet.  You will need to stop every minute or so and scrape down the sides and give a quick stir.  If you have a very small chopper – you may need to make it in 2 batches.
  5. Serve immediately.  Extra can be frozen but will turn ‘icy’ and lose the soft consistency so best to eat it right away.  (I’ve never actually had any leftover to freeze………………)

    Simple ingredients, simple preparation, stunning dessert!

    Simple ingredients, simple preparation, stunning dessert!

3 minutes later…………

Quick to make and even quicker to disappear

Quick to make and even quicker to disappear

Useful Links:

Evaluation of antioxidant activities and chemical characterisation of staghorn sumac fruit (Rhus hirta L.)

Sumac Spice – Uses in Middle Eastern Cuisine and Health Benefits


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