Is it too early to be talking about what I want for Christmas? Meh, I don’t think it matters anyway as I don’t think even Santa would spring for these cookbooks for me. Check out the price tag before you say you’ll buy them for me 😉
5 large eggs
600g fresh ripe strawberries
Juice of half a freshly squeezed lemon (about a tablespoon)
200ml double cream
The restaurant that inspired me to start making my own pizzas (Da Michele, Stezzano, Italy) also makes their own ice cream and while I’m a sucker for their vanilla (it really is divine) Elly and Anto were completely taken with the strawberry when we visited last September. I waited until strawberry season began this year to start perfecting my own strawberry recipe and I’m really happy with this one.
The most important thing with this recipe is to use the freshest strawberries you can get your hands on, it really makes a difference to the overall flavour. They should be sweet but still have that tart bite.
So once you have strawberries, give them a rinse under running water and remove the cores. Next, purée them in a blender, until smooth and pass it through a sieve to remove the seeds, you may need to do that last step twice to remove all the seeds.
Place the strawberry purée in a pan along with the lemon juice and heat the mixture gently, as the purée warms up it will begin to give off a strong strawberry smell, just before the mixture comes to the boil remove it from the heat and put it to one side to cool.
Next separate the egg yolks. The egg whites are not needed for this recipe so you can put them to one side to be used later for and egg white omelettes or meringues. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until they turn a pale yellow and have a smooth consistency.
Next bring the milk to a gentle simmer and remove from the heat. While whisking the egg mixture add the warmed milk in a slow trickle – if you add it too fast there is a chance you could scramble the eggs, which is no good for making ice cream.
Now place the egg yolk mixture over a low heat and while stirring continuously, allow this to thicken into a custard. You’ll know when it’s ready when it coats the back of a spoon easily and does not just flow off. Be careful to keep the egg mixture below 76C as the eggs will scramble at that temperature. Once you are happy that the custard has thickened, remove it from the heat, mix in the strawberry purée and place in a sealed container in your fridge and allow it to cool down as much as possible (5C or less).
While you’re waiting for the custard to cool down whip the cream to soft peaks. Once the custard has cooled completely, gently fold the cream into the custard and either follow your ice cream machines instructions to freeze it or place in a sealed container in your freezer until frozen, remembering to stir it every ten to fifteen minutes to break up the ice crystals.
Once the ice cream has frozen you’re ready to serve, be aware that this is a strongly flavoured ice cream, while sweet it also has that fantastic tart bite that just makes a strawberry, it goes great with most sweet pies and if you’re a real strawberry lover is fantastic on it’s own.
Some of the top restaurants and chefs in the world keep a seperate “Experimental Kitchen” where they try out and develop new recipes and dishes until they are happy and ready to add them to the Menu and transfer them to their main kitchen.
This was something I never really thought that much about until I watched Heston Bluemental’s cookery shows and it became clear that he wasn’t cooking in a studio or The Fat Duck’s Main Kitchen. It makes some sense, why distract the rest of the Kitchen with edible insects and the like, when they should be getting on with preparing the dishes for people in the restaurant.
My Experimental Kitchen is the same kitchen I use every day, well it’s not like I have dozens of diners and a staff of chefs is it? Some days, I try to create something from an idea I had while eating, the memory of a dish I ate in a restaurant, a recipe I’ve been using for ages but have decided to try and make better or like my most recent experiment, something I’ve never tasted and only ever heard about.
That latest experiment was rather adventurous, I tried to make a meat based ice cream (bacon to be precise), I mentioned it on our Facebook page much to the horror of one of our vegetarian readers. Unfortunately this became the first batch of ice cream I’ve ever made that even I could not eat, it was horrendous, salty and sweet all at the same time, just too many things going on for the tastebuds to cope with so I’m back to the drawing board with that one.
A few months back I was trying to re-invent my Ragu (aka Spag Bol) recipe as it was essentially my “Italian tomato sauce” with some vegetables and mince thrown in, great to have this recipe as I always have the sauce in the freezer and I can rattle the rest together in a few minutes but it’s not something I would dare serve to a lover of Italian food as Ragu, if you get where I’m coming from.
So a few attempts have been made to refine it and I’m almost ready to invite Gino D’Acampo round to see if he approves I am going to try one last little tweek to the recipe in the next week and if that works well you can expect to see the recipe arriving shortly afterwords.
I’ve wandered a bit on this post but what I’m trying to get across is that anyone can be an “Experimental Cook” you don’t need a special kitchen or rare, expensive ingredients, I find myself being less adventurous in this situation for fear of wasting them. All you need is an idea of what you want the end result to be, a little imagination and a willingness to not reject an idea without at least trying it once.
The last part has been the longest lesson for me to learn, but since I’ve made that leap of faith, I’ve found that my enjoyment of cooking, my ability to surprise myself (and others) with my results and the diversity and difficulty of the dishes that I’m attempting and succeeding with has multiplied exponentially.
So what about you? Do you consider yourself to be an “Experimental Cook”? Let us know your best successes and worst failures in the comments below.
On Friday evening last, Elly and myself hopped on a bus and headed into Dublin city centre to catch the Taste of Dublin Festival in the Iveagh Gardens. I have to say it was a gorgeous venue which added to the tasting experience no end.
It was our first visit to Taste and we were both pretty excited, which of course meant that we were early and ended up standing around with a lot of other people queueing to enter and trying to spot any celebs passing down the VIP lane, there were none (at least that we recognised).
Bang on time the gates opened and people started to flood in past the jazz band inside the entrance and on to see what the first stand had on offer. No freebies that we saw but a couple of glasses of prosecco with added strawberry were purchased to help get us in the mood. I was a little disappointed at being asked for more cash so soon after entering the festival (hey, I’m a tight fisted Irishman after all;)) but I needn’t have worried because for the next 20 minutes we were plied with more free samples than it was possible to consume even at the slow pace we were able to move past each of the stands.
Both Elly and myself had done a bit of forward planning with a list of “must sees” some that we both wanted to see/try and some “solo” events. First on both our lists was Gino D’Acampo‘s Cookery demonstration, albeit for different reasons
I have to hand it to Gino, his showmanship and stage craft were second only to his cooking and he’s obviously done a few of these demonstration things before. With the assistance of some audience members he started into preparing a courgette pasta dish, which looked and smelled fantastic. I was a little surprised to see him using dried pasta, however the rest of the dish was prepared entirely while the spaghetti was cooking so this firmly falls into the realm of a “quick and easy” dinner.
Gino (again with audience participation) also prepared a tiramisu, but more on that tomorrow 😉
At this point Elly and I began operation “divide and conquer”. To be fair Elly wanted to do a wine tasting demonstration that I was less than enthusiastic about, so I left her to sample the wines and I toddled off for a look around some of the other stalls to pass the time until the Ballymaloe Cookery School “class” that we had booked into was due to kick off.
Elly’s wine tasting Session:
The Edward Dillon Wine Experience was one of my must-sees at the festival and I was lucky enough to roll up just as a class started. They had different sessions on throughout the weekend, and on Friday evening it was “The Modern White Wine Styles of Rosemount“. A fast talking Australian shipped over specially from the vineyard was our host for the session and he rapidly walked us through 4 wines from their diamond label, starting with a peppery little pinot grigio. This was definitely an easy-drinking summer wine and he went on to explain that they had designed the wine to be so easy and light that you’d finish a bottle in one session!
Moving on through the wines we then tasted a Semillion Sauvignon, which was not to my liking as it was just too acidic for my palate. I started sipping ahead at this point and correctly guessed that the next two on offer were Chardonnays, easy to tell from their buttery texture. Wine 4 seemed to be a lot richer and more complex when wine 3, and this was confirmed when we were told that wine 4 was their Show Reserve Hunter Valley Chardonnay, which is oak-aged. Overall it was a fun little tasting session and really showed off the different characteristics of their white wines.
The Ballymaloe cookery class was an excellent introductory lesson in food preparation, that I thoroughly enjoyed. It began with a full demonstration of how to prepare “Portabella Mushrooms with Basil Pesto and Balsamic Vinegar” and we were then divided into groups, each group member was given their own task to perform and then all were brought together to “plate up”. All good fun and great to get another perspective on pesto, which seems to be very “of the moment” considering every food event I’ve been to this year has had at least one demo of someone making pesto or a pesto variation.
Once the meals were plated, we were directed to nearby tables and chairs to eat. I have to admit I had “sampled” most of the ingredients while in the class and was a little dubious as to how it was all going to come together, but it did and was absolutely delicious. I now have a first hand understanding of why Ballymaloe has the reputation it has.
After this we wandered through the various stalls tasting the samples and purchased a number of the sample signature dishes. The stand outs for me were the “Panang Gai” from Diep le Shaker, ely‘s “Organic Burren Beef Burger” and Eatery 120‘s “Chocolate Soup with Tahitian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream”
The last of these three stood out for all the wrong reasons. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this dish but the positively ordinary tasting chocolate sauce with a melon ball sized scoop of bland vanilla ice cream left me regretting the purchase and with a very much less than favourable impression of Eatery 120. Maybe I just picked the wrong dish but if you’re going to pitch yourself as a fine dining experience then you should make sure that all your dishes are spectacular in each of their areas and this simply was not.
Now that said, both Diep le Shaker and ely are on my list of must visits for exactly the opposite reason. Stunning Taste sensations both of them.
I was lucky with my restaurant taster picks at the festival, as none of them let me down, except on pricing! After paying €20 in, if you taste 4 tapas-sized portions and drink 2 glasses of wine you’re lucky to get away for an additional €35. Leaving that aside, my first taste was the delicious Steak Frite with Bearnaise Sauce from The Saddle Room. I’d seen a review earlier in the day which had whetted my appetite for this, and it was yummy.
Balzac were up next, serving a tasty Foie Gras & Chicken Liver Caramel with Raisins & Pedro Ximenez. This was served with little bread toasts to spread the dish on. I quickly ran out of bread toasts, but the restaurant won me over when they happily provided me with some more for no extra charge. My final taste of the day was the one I had really been waiting for; Roasted Scallop, Confit Duck, Summer Squash Puree & Foie Gras Lollipops from Salon des Saveurs. From the first bite I was hooked, the scallop was cooked to perfection, the duck confit was pure melt-in-your-mouth goodness and foie gras lollipop studded with crushed nuts added a wonderful creamy note. You won’t believe it though, but the simple summer squash puree served with this dish was the real scene-stealer! Overall, Salon des Saveurs was the winner for me, and hopefully I’ll get a full dinner there before long!
I’d like to be able to sum up my experience at Taste in an overwhelmingly positive way, but there are two things that really impacted negatively on the experience for me. The crowd and the cost.
To explain, the crowd was ridiculous. In places you couldn’t move without bumping into people. No big deal at a trade fair but at a food fair where people had plates of food in their hands – not so good! It seemed to be partly down to the layout, a lot of the vendor stalls were crammed into one small area while larger open spaces went un-utilised. Either that or the tickets had simply been over sold. Whatever the reason I’m not sure how you can be expected to enjoy food while you’re being jostled about, even a plastic fork hurts when it gets rammed into the roof of your mouth by accident.
As for the cost I’m inclined to agree with Consumed Foodie because apart from the cost of the ticket Elly and myself spent about €100 between us on food and wine. Now, if we went out for a meal and spent that much, I’d be confident that I wouldn’t be thinking of eating again as I left the premises.
Then of course the festival is about more than the eating and considering the price of admission, there was plenty available by way of demonstrations and information to make it worthwhile, just not as a substitute for an evening meal. Will I be going again?
Well, of course, except next time I’ll plan to have a meal either before or after the event 😉
1 400g tin of peaches, drained
6 large egg yolks
125g golden castor sugar
300ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, halved and seeds scraped out
Another Soul Food classic, peaches are plentiful in the Deep South so it’s no coincidence that they are used in so many Soul Food recipes. This is a very subtly flavoured ice-cream so can be easily over powered if you partner it with a pie, I find it at it’s best served on it’s own or with some sliced peaches.
There are 2 options regarding the fruit the first is to purée the drained peaches and the second is to purée half and chop the rest into chunks to be added when freezing. I find that adding the peaches as chunks gives a bit more texture but the fruit chunks tend to lose their flavour when they are frozen. So I tend to go with the “purée all the fruit” option, but both work well.
Next put the egg yolks and sugar into a bowl and whisk them until they are creamy and smooth. Then add the milk, cream and vanilla seeds and whisk them together.
Pour the mixture into a saucepan and stir continuously over a low heat until it thickens into custard that coats a spoon when dipped in it. You don’t want the mixture to overheat as the eggs will scramble, so if you have a suitable kitchen thermometer, use it. Ideally you want to keep the mixture between 65C to 70C this gives a margin for error as the eggs will scramble around 75C.
Once the custard has thickened remove it from the heat and pour it into a bowl to allow it to cool.
Now if you have a home ice-cream maker simply add the peaches to the cooled custard, stirring them in well and follow your ice-cream machine’s instructions to freeze the ice-cream.
If you don’t have an ice-cream machine then simply stir the peaches into the mixture and pour it all into a sealable container suitable for use in your freezer and pop it in your freezer. It can take anywhere up to eight hours for the ice-cream to set fully and during this time you will need to stir it every 20-30 minutes while it’s freezing to prevent ice crystals forming.
If you’ve ever put some melted ice-cream back into the freezer you will know exactly why you don’t want the ice crystals forming, basically it makes it frozen flavoured custard rather than ice-cream, but that said an ice-cream maker does not have to be expensive. We pickedup one in a Lidl offer a few years back for around €30 and I saw this similar one available from Amazon. So why not treat yourself, summer is almost here and this does make the process of ice-cream making far easier 😉