Thursday, October 25, 2012

Quick no-churn vanilla ice cream

This past week I have been consumed by a book. So consumed that I could barely tear myself away from it long enough to write this post! ‘The Empress of Ice cream’ by Anthony Capella is a gastro-romance about the unexpectedly heated history of ice cream, most of which is based on true events. It has reawakened my passion for this frozen dessert, just in time for warm weather and summery sunshiney days.

Ice cream is one of those magical treats that everyone loves – they’ve even inspired some wise words; Don Kardong insists that ‘Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos’ which, I happen to completely agree with. I’m sure many a world war has been ended over a shared bowl of chocolate ice cream. But almost everyone can identify with Jim Fiebig’s sentiment that ‘age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone’.  Wiser words have not been uttered.

If you’ve ever tried to make your own ice cream, you will know that there are almost as many recipes out there as there are flavours, and that most of them require an ice cream machine. While I may consider taking out a small home loan to invest in one of these, I don’t expect you to do the same. And so, I’m sharing my fuss-free, no-churn, super-quick ice cream recipe that can be whisked into chocolate, strawberry, mocha, pistachio, or whichever other flavour scoops your vote this summer. And remember, you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream, and that’s kind of the same thing.

600 ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped
1 x tin condensed milk

Heat the double cream gently and add the vanilla pod and seeds. Bring to the boil then set aside to cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled then remove the vanilla pod.
Whisk the cream and condensed milk together until smooth and thickened slightly.
Pour into a container and freeze for about 4 hours or until firm.

TIP To make a coconut ice cream, simply substitute half the double cream for tinned coconut cream.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Perfect Pavlova

Pavlova is one of my favourite desserts not only because it was named after a Russian ballet dancer but because it is just one of those amazingly simple desserts that will, without fail, impress anyone! Despite it’s simplicity, there are a few tips and tricks to remember that will set you on the road to perfection. Always use egg whites at room temperature as they whip higher and fluffier than cold eggs, and while you’re at it make sure they’re fresh and don’t contain any bits of yolk. It’s very important not to get any grease (or egg yolk) on your utensils or in your egg whites as this will prevent the whites from whipping. I like my pavlova marshmallowy and soft in the centre, but if you prefer yours crisp then by all means, bake it a little longer than I’ve indicated below. Play around with flavours – a sprinkle of rose water into the whipped cream, a drizzle of liqueur or a scattering of toasted nuts or chocolate curls it can be as fancy or as simple as your heart desires. Decadent with chocolate mousse and ice cream or diet-friendly with yoghurt and berries, this dessert is sure to make your taste buds dance with joy. 

(serves 8)

4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup castor sugar
3t corn flour
1t white vinegar
whipped cream and fresh berries, to serve

Preheat oven to 150C. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating well until the mixture is glossy. Sift the corn flour over, add the vinegar and fold through. Spoon the meringue onto a lined baking tray. Place in the oven and reduce the heat to 120C.
Bake for 1 hour or until the outside is crisp and the inside is marshmallowy.
To serve, top with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chicken and sprout rice paper rolls

Growing up, my mom always used to grow her own sprouts on the windowsill in our kitchen. Sprinkled into salads, stir-fries or simply eaten as a snack, sprouts were always part of our family’s diet. But I had no idea just how healthy they are; with the highest concentration of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants per calorie of any food, it’s no wonder these little shoots have gained superfood status. Easy to grow, tasty and packing a serious nutritional punch, sprouts prove that dynamite really does come in small packages.

Here’s how to grow your own:

1.     The counter next to your kitchen sink is the perfect place to grow your sprouts.
2.     Rinse about 2T seeds well until the water runs clear.
3.     Place them in a 1L glass jar and cover with about 2-4cm water.
4.     Secure a piece of muslin cloth or mesh over the opening of the jar and tie with a string or an elastic band. Allow to soak overnight.
5.     Drain the water off and rinse the seeds in fresh water by swirling gently. Place the jar in a cool place away from direct sunlight and rinse two or three times per day with cool water. Your sprouts will be ready to enjoy in about 3-7 days.
6.     To store: drain the sprouts well, pat them dry and then store in a covered container in the fridge.
Some sprout varieties will last as long as six weeks in the fridge, but additional rinsing every now and then will help to keep them fresh.

Some tips:
* Check if your sprouts are ready to harvest by tasting them. If they taste good then they’re ready!
* Just about any seed or bean can be sprouted, so experiment using alfalfa, sunflower or beetroot
seeds, mung or kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, wheat or rye.

* Be sure not to add too much seed to the jar as it will expand up to 10 times the volume during sprouting... and the sprouts need good ventilation so you don’t want them all squashed up.
* Rinsing your sprouts often and properly (along with keeping them moist, but not wet) is extremely important.

Chicken and sprout rice paper rolls
(serves 6)

2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced (or use pork, beef or prawns)
1T kecap manis or sweet soy sauce

1T soy sauce

1T teriyaki or oyster sauce
2T sweet chilli sauce

1 cup Thai basil leaves

1 cup mint leaves

1 cup coriander leaves

1 cup mixed sprouts

100g mange tout, julienned

100g carrots, julienned and steamed

16 large rice-paper wrappers

soy, hoisin or sweet chilli sauce, for dipping

Toss the chicken, kecap manis, soy, teriyaki and sweet chilli sauce together. Pan-fry until cooked. Fill a shallow bowl with warm water and dip one sheet of rice paper at a time into the water for about 30 seconds or until softened. Place the rice paper wrapper on a clean dish cloth and arrange various herbs, sprouts, vegetables and chicken in the centre of each wrapper.Fold in the sides of the wrapper and roll up. Cover with a damp dish cloth whilst folding the remaining rice paper rolls.
Serve with dipping sauce.