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Archive for the ‘Duke Of Puddingshire’ Category

Foodie that I am nothing says Christmas to me like Gingerbread men. At least I can’t remember the last time I didn’t make gingerbread at Christmas, and this year is no different.

This isn’t really a blog about how to make gingerbread as there are a thousand simple recipes out there but it’s more a journal of my happy seasonal routine. The recipe differs each year with the general trend towards more ginger (I love ginger!) but the only essential ingredients are fun and silliness! Oh, and a couple of special tips…

Ingredients
400g plain flour
4 tbsp golden syrup
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g butter
200g soft brown sugar
1 egg
1 apple
Optional food colouring
Icing sugar (some)
Lemon juice (some)
Fun (lots)
Silliness (lots)

Syrup maketh the man

Syrup maketh the man

Instructions

Made to a soundtrack of whatever music gets you in the mood…

1) Pour the flour, butter, bicarb, cinnamon and ginger into a mixer.

Trusty old Kenwood

Trusty old Kenwood

2) Whiz until you get a breadcrumby texture

Vaguely festive

Vaguely festive

3) Add the sugar and then, with the mixer turned on, drip the egg and syrup into the mixer

Getting distinctly Christmassy

Getting distinctly Christmassy

4) You’re going to end up with a firmish dough that needs to be wrapped up in clingfilm and refrigerated for a while.

A rare gingerbread flower

A rare gingerbread flower

5) Roll the chilled dough out on a floured board or work surface until it’s around half a centimetre thick

You gotta roll with it

You gotta roll with it

6) Now get to work with your cutters! This is a whole load of fun. Of course there’s no reason why you have to stick to gingerbread men. I have accumulated a great range of cutters including Christmassy ones, animals and gingerdead men.

Im gonna make you a star

Im gonna make you a star

7) Place your shapes onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper.

Baker street

Baker street

8) Throw in the oven until golden brown – around 10+ minutes. If in doubt remove earlier than later and bear in mind that your gingerbread will firm up after it’s removed from the oven. You’ll probably have to bake 2 or 3 rounds of these.

Golden brown

Golden brown

9) Once the gingerbread has cooled on a wire rack it’s best to store it for a while in a sealed container. OK, here’s special tip number 1: Add some sliced apple to the container with the cut face not touching any of the goodies. This Tyrolean grandmother inspired step will ensure the biscuits stay soft and take on a festive apple flavour.

Rhinestone cowboy

Rhinestone cowboy

10) If you are icing your creations then I would leave this until nearer the time of consumption. Here’s special tip number 2: Drip a little lemon juice into a bowl and mix in your icing sugar. This tastes infinitely better than water based icing. Now get creative…

Bear faced

Bear faced

11) I used icing modestly because I didn’t want to overpower the gingerbread but you can do what you want. Food colouring presents more possibilities and I was miffed to discover I was out of red, so no nose for Rudolph.

Pigs are for Christmas too

Pigs are for Christmas too

There’s no end to the fun you can have with gingerbread. It’s a seasonal affair in terms of ingredients but also in folklore and makes a great Christmas gift. Perhaps you can compose a festive scene?

Into the woods

Into the woods

Big kid? Me?!

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Autumn. Bright golden leaves tumbling from the trees to form a wondrously thick carpet that crackles under foot as November’s low golden sun beats warmly upon your exposed face.

…roll on 24 hours…

Soggy masses of rotten leaves blocking my gutters that I messily scoop into a bucket while perched precariously atop a ladder in the freezing damp greyness that will block out all light, warmth and joy until some time next year.

Autumn at its best

Autumn at its best

The earlier part of Autumn may be with us all too fleetingly but as the alchemy outdoors dilutes into memory we can at least retire to the kitchen to enjoy the comforting fruits of the season. On Sunday, after cleaning out the gutters and in need of a seasonal pick-me-up, I made a thick moreish spicy parsnip soup with colombo powder – so good! This day was made for cooking and eating so needless to say my pudding whiskers were aroused, but how do you follow this without straying from the season?

The strangest thing. I had this craving for pumpkin pie – something I have never previously consumed let alone made. Where did this flash of inspiration come from?

I cobbled together three different recipes to come up with my take on pumpkin and pecan pie. Only later did I deduce the origins of this craving. All will be explained after the recipe…

Ingredients
1 butternut squash
3 eggs
Pecans – let’s say 100g
100ml double cream
Sugar
250g plain flour
100g butter at room temperature
Ground ginger
Ground allspice
Vanilla essence
Nutmeg

Unlikely bedfellows

Unlikely bedfellows

Instructions

Make the pastry – or buy it if you are a cheat
1) Cream the butter and around 70g of sugar with a hand blender. As usual I had forgotten to remove the butter from the fridge so the microwave came to the rescue.

Thats a meal right there

Thats a meal right there

2) Add an egg and blend that into the mix.

Just in case you need to see what this looks like

Just in case you need to see what this looks like

3) Pastry recipes always talk about sieving in the flour at this point. I’ve never seen the point in creating the extra washing up so DUMP the flour into the bowl and then mix it with a spatula. Once a dough is formed work it with your hands adding a little water if it’s too firm. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Doh!

Doh!

Prepare the squash

4) Halve the squash, remove the seeds and score the flesh with a knife and microwave for around 8 minutes.

Microwave? What kind of recipe is this?

Microwave? What kind of recipe is this?

5) The texture should be soft. Pour off any liquid and leave to cool. My squash tasted so rich and sweet at this point – it bodes well.

Sweet

Sweet

Caramelise the nuts

6) Pour a couple of tablespoons of sugar into a pan and gently heat until melted. I added a few drops of water to accelerate the process.

Caramel goodness

Caramel goodness

7) Chops the pecans roughly in half

Ready for the chop

Ready for the chop

8) Add half a teaspoon of ground ginger to the melted sugar and then scatter the pecans into the pan. Stir until coated and then leave to cool.

Dark temptation

Dark temptation

Blind bake the pastry case

9) Remove the pastry dough from the fridge and roll out to a circle wide enough to comfortably line your dish. My dish was 24cm in diameter so I rolled the pastry to around 30cm diameter.

Rolling along nicely

Rolling along nicely

10) Tuck the pastry into the dish and press it against the sides before prodding the base with a fork. Now overlay some baking paper and weight down. You can buy baking beads but I always use dried beans which work perfectly.

Blind baking

Blind baking

11) Bake for around 25 minutes at 180 degrees

In need of a filling

In need of a filling

Bring it all together

12) We have done all the hard work so now it’s just a case of assembly and cooking. Scrape the squash away from the skin and mash it in a bowl.

Squash the squash

Squash the squash

13) Add one whisked egg plus the yolk of another. I added 30g of grated jaggery instead of refined sugar because I felt the flavour would be well suited to this recipe. Finally I added a little vanilla essence, half a teaspoon of ground allspice and half a teaspoon of ground ginger. Mix

All the good things

All the good things

14) Scatter the caramelised pecans over the pastry base.

Good foundations

Good foundations

15) Pour the filling into the base and grate over some nutmeg

Ready, stead, bake!

Ready, stead, bake!

16) Bake for around 40 minutes at 180 degrees until firmish. Admire the results.

Good night Jim Bob

Good night Jim Bob

Enjoy with some maple syrup and Greek yoghurt. This looks and tastes of autumn!

They say that smell and taste are strong memory triggers. Shortly after demolishing the first slice of pie my subconscious decided to let me into its secret. This is how pumpkin pie had flashed into my mind…

Having made spicy parsnip soup with colombo curry powder it reminded me that I had recently flicked through the TV channels and settled upon an episode of Columbo called “A stitch in crime”. The only reason I watched awhile was because there was Will Geer sat up in a hospital bed and I it couldn’t remember where I knew him from – until I recognised him as Grandpa Walton. The Waltons epitomised wholesome country living and I recall watching an episode (it must have been years ago) in which pumpkins were being prepared. I’ve now googled it and sure enough a giant pumpkin features in a thanksgiving episode.

Nothing says autumn (or Fall) like pumpkin pie on Walton Mountain. And that my friends is a fleeting glimpse into the workings of my mind.

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A little over four years ago I wrote my first blog article. In a victory for quantity over quality I concluded my 149th publication last month with a review of my Cleveland Way experience and thoughts have since turned to an appropriate subject for my 150th blog. Since my return from Yorkshire there have been no adventures. I seem to have spent a lot of time pre-occupied with domestic affairs and I’m not inspired to write about the re-felting of my shed roof despite the fact that two of my heroes – John Shuttleworth and Arnold Rimmer – would approve of this.

The slide-show you could have had...

The slide-show you could have had…

Instead I’m going to bow to the seasons and write about one of the ways in which I have tried to put to good use the glut of fine fruit harvested this autumn. My own plum tree may have remained fallow this year but thanks to several donations I have made plum slice, plum and port jam, baked plums with star anise and latterly the Viennese Plum Cake described below. You can never have too many plums…

Ingredients
Instant yeast sachet
100g granulated sugar
175ml full fat milk
350g strong white flour
1 large egg, separated into yolk and white
1 lemon
60g salted butter
300g plums
Icing sugar
Plum jam (optional)

Sugar and icing and all things nicing

Sugar and icing and all things nicing

Instructions

1) Wash and quarter the plums, removing the stones. Then get the yeast started by dissolving a teaspoon of sugar in warm water, adding the yeast.
And leaving awhile to froth up.

All rise

All rise

2) Zest the lemon. I use a zester which is another of those kitchen gadgets rarely used but priceless when you need it. There are few smells more evocative than that of freshly zested lemon.

The simple joys of zesting

The simple joys of zesting

3) Warm the milk slightly and add to the yeast. Put the flour, sugar, lemon zest, egg yolk into a bowl.

Even my new camera can't make this bit exciting

Even my new camera can’t make this bit exciting

4) Gradually pour the yeast liquid into the flour bowl and mix well will with a wooden spoon. Keep working the mix with the spoon – it should develop into a doughy consistency that doesn’t stick too much to the bowl sides. Add a little more flour if the mix is too wet. Cover the dough with a tea-towel and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or so.

You could just stop here and eat the dough

You could just stop here and eat the dough

5) Line a baking tray (approx 35 x 25cm) with baking paper. For some geeky reason I always enjoy this bit. I flip the tray upside down, place the paper over the base, fold over the edges and then use scissors to snip each corner. Now work approx three quarters of the risen dough into the tin.

Every cake has a paper lining

Every cake has a paper lining

6) Now – optionally – heat up some plum jam and brush it generously over the doughy base. I think it’s better this way but then I do have plenty of plum jam kicking around. Next arrange the plum segments on top of the base. At this point it should all start to make sense!

Plumtastic!

Plumtastic!

7) Next another fun step – create a dough lattice. Roll the remaining dough into a long string around 1.5cm in thickness. Lay it over the plums into a lattice. You could be more creative if you wish and lay it into spirals or perhaps reproduce a Matisse pencil portrait, but nobody loves a smart arse. Brush the exposed dough with the egg white and leave the tray somewhere warm for another 20 or so minutes of rising again.

My interpretation of Gauguins Clôture de jardin

My interpretation of Gauguins Clôture de jardin

8) Heat the oven to 190 degrees and bake for around 35 minutes. As with all baking keep an eye on proceedings and be prepared to alter the temperature or cooking time depending on progress. My cake was perfectly cooked albeit a little darker than I would have liked on top. Once cooked shake some icing sugar over and leave to cool.

The icing on the cake

The icing on the cake

9) Slice the cake, make a cup of tea and invite the vicar or for authenticity serve to an Austrian pfarrer with a cup of fresh coffee and a glass of tap water on the side. Close your eyes, bite into the zwetschkengermfleck and dream of Café Drechsler. A suitable way to mark my 150th blog I think!

Happy 150th blogday

Happy 150th blogday

This recipe was originally billed as a cake and while I may have modestly tweaked it the outcome was more bread-like in my opinion. This is not a criticism – the proof of the pudding is in the eating after all and the sight and taste of this simple cake/bread takes me back to Vienna. I have vowed to return one day but until then there’s always Viennese cookery from the comfort of my kitchen.

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A modern dilemma: How to indulge in fruit and vegetables while ensuring you still consume 5 portions of cake each day. I have an answer. Actually Nigel Slater has an answer – I’m just a scoffing minion.

Wanting to bake a goodbye cake for work (I’m leaving) while using up surplus veg I turned to the internet for creative solutions and up popped Nigel Slater’s Courgette Cake. Of all the celebrity chefs NS is probably the one whose fridge I would raid given the choice in some supermarket sweep style free-for-all. That I just imagined. He’s one of my food heroes because he is a simple and unpretentious foodie, grounded in the seasons and passionate about ingredients. His recipes strike me as inspirational and yet accessible. So courgette cake it is, rather than Jamie’s turnip pudding or Nigella’s sprout cup cakes

I tweaked the recipe slightly. Here are the ingredients I used

Ingredients

275g butter
275g caster sugar
2 large free range eggs
250g courgette
1 apple
275g plain flour
½ tsp Salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
100g pecans
120g sultanas
4tbsp greek yoghurt

What's in the mix

What’s in the mix

Instructions

1) Cream the sugar and butter until smooth. The butter needs to be room temperature for this – I cheated and blasted it in a microwave for 10 seconds.

The unhealthy bit

The unhealthy bit

2) Add the eggs and blend them into the mixture. NS says to do this one by one, which I did, but I’m not sure why you can’t do them at the same time. Chefs say these sorts of things. Delia would find a contrived way to take twice as long and create three times as much washing up, while Heston would doubtless involve dry ice at this point.

Free range cake

Free range cake

3) Coarsely grate the courgette and the apple.

If it feels wrong keep the faith...

If it feels wrong keep the faith…

You will need to squeeze as much liquid as possible from the grated mass in order not to waterlog the cake.

That's 2 of your 5

That’s 2 of your 5

Now work the courgette & apple into the mix

Yes, you have just added courgette to your cake mix

Yes, you have just added courgette to your cake mix

4) Add the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Blend together using an electric whisk. I added some Greek yoghurt at this point because I felt that the mixture was a little too dry but whenever you are working with flour you have to make a hand-on decision about the addition of liquids.

Add the dry to the wet

Add the dry to the wet

5) Now stir in the pecans and sultanas, being not quite careful enough to ensure that ALL of the pecans go into the mix and not your face.

I had forgotten how nice Pecans are!

I had forgotten how nice Pecans are!

6) Spoon and level the mixture into a greased, lined baking tin OR just use a flexible baking mould.
I was wondering recently why baking paper seems to have vanished from the supermarket shelves – at least from Aldi, Lidl, Sainsburies (begrudgingly) and the local stores that I use. Somebody suggested that the rising popularity of silicone moulds may have reduced demand for baking parchment. It’s a good theory, although I still find this a pain. Turns out that Wilko’s still stock it.

It never looks good at this point

It never looks good at this point

7) Bake for until golden and firmish. For me this was around 55 minutes. Allow to cool before you get busy with a knife. Otherwise it’s all going to fall apart (I have been impatient far too many times at this point)

What a difference an hour makes

What a difference an hour makes

8) Sample – for quality purposes. Hey – this is really nice! Decide whether your work colleague deserve this. Then remember last week’s office medical checks which revealed a wide range of serious albeit sometimes amusing health problems amongst my office pals.

Turns out you can have your cake and eat it

Turns out you can have your cake and eat it

This cake isn’t going to solve anybodies dietary issues. But I hope it might just divert a few troubled minds away from the burdensome worries of physical health. Cake – at least good cake – is health food for the soul.

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2012 was a great year for extending my travel horizons. It was the year I discovered that Wales can be wonderful without being wet. It was the year I finally made it to beautiful Durham. It was the year I fell for the medieval charms of Maastricht and broke my previous record for putting up with Brussels (4 hours) – and even that dirty old city had some pleasant surprises. Several trips to gothic Edinburgh only left me wanting more while the grand imperial charms of Vienna elicited three blog entries from me and would have provided the highlight in any other year. Except that my encounter with South Tyrol scaled new heights literally and metaphorically.

This way to the Alps...

This way to the Alps…

I had planned to write 4 or 5 pieces on this action packed visit to my partner Carmen’s homeland but I just don’t seem to have much time nowadays and there’s so much to tell. I left a piece of my heart in South Tyrol (which is a worry because I’m off to San Francisco this year and I’m going to end up heartless at this rate) and that’s not just due to the mind blowing scenery…

View from Carmen's back garden!

View from Carmen’s back garden!

…the region is a foodie’s heaven, bringing together hearty Austrian style mountain food with exquisite fresh Italian cuisine. There is no reactionary food movement taking off here because people never stopped buying fresh local produce. Eating remains a family affair for the most part where meals are prepared from raw ingredients and there’s not a ready meal in sight. Which is why my Christmas present was such a joy to unwrap!

Südtirol hamper of joy

Südtirol hamper of joy

One seasonally damp and dark Derby evening was usurped by fresh Alpine snow tipped mountains and green pastures echoing to the sound of cowbells across the valley as I opened a hamper from the entirely wonderful H&H Südtirol online food shop! Stocked with the finest ingredients we set about preparing a Tyrolean festive feast. That’s to say she came up with a dozen recipes from the top of her head, and I followed instructions while appreciating some of the pure beers from the Forst brewery. It’s a partnership after all.

In the continental tradition we celebrated Christmas on December 24th with smoked trout, Russian salad and the opening of presents but with my parents visiting on the 25th we pulled together something a little different from Turkey and Christmas pud. Here’s what we cooked, to a streaming radio soundtrack provided by AlpenMelodie

Starter: Poached Salmon Roulade

We created a “pastry” mix by layering a mixture of eggs, spinach, a little semolina (1) and, baking until set (2), smoothing on a paste of poached salmon and ricotta (3) and rolling it up (4).

(1) Pastry Mix (1) Pastry Mix (2) Baked base (2) Baked base
(3) Apply paste (3) Apply paste (4) Roll it up (4) Roll it up

Slice, garnish and serve. This starter was – stunning.

A great starter

A great starter

Main Course: Sauerbraten with Serviettenknödel

With a traditional Xmas walk scheduled for the morning we wanted a main course that could be prepared partially in advance. I started it 10 days in advance by marinating 2kg of topside beef in red wine with herbs (Sauerbraten = “sour roast”). This was in fact upstaged by a decidedly Viennese Serviettenknödel which is a dumpling steamed within a napkin.

Serviettenknödel

Serviettenknödel

The primary constituent is diced dry bread but eggs, milk, crispy lardons, parsley and chives make this a proper moreish winter accompaniment to the beef. It all came together nicely.

More than just beef & dumplings

More than just beef & dumplings

Dessert: Apfelstrudel

Obviously in my household the savoury courses are merely a pre-amble to the main event – dessert. We have a shared love of puddings – Carmen’s family have a tradition of Alibi Starters (eg: soup) followed by “Sweet Mains” (such as gorgeous fluffy rice pudding). For the special day we made Apfelstrudel by mixing sliced apples with pine nuts, ground hazelnuts, cloves, cinnamon and a splash of rum, wrapping it all in filo pastry and then baking.

It looks more enticing when cooked - honest!

It looks more enticing when cooked – honest!

I had made a rather lovely Advocaat ice cream in advance, and it went well with the strudel. In fact so well that we scoffed it without taking any photos. But all in all our Tyrolean themed Christmas meal was a success and it made a refreshing change from the traditional English meal.

Dinner is served

Dinner is served

The only major departure from the Tyrolean theme was Christmas Crackers. Can you believe that the rest of Europe doesn’t do this?! Odd people…

Of course, Christmas isn’t just about eating. It’s also a time for giving. We extended our festive theme by making a selection of Austro/Tyrolean food goodies as family gifts. Hmmm, that’s more food isn’t it…

In previous years I made Cantuccini, Florentines and Lebkuchen for my family. This year we made a superior Lebkuchen inspired by the remarkable culinary skills of Carmen’s grandmother. These may look run of the mill but there’s some magic going on.

...magic ingredients...

…magic ingredients…

We made them a couple of weeks in advance and stored them in airtight containers with apple quarters. The magic in this process is that the lebkuchen absorb the apple essence and stay moist. Then we brushed on icing made using lemon juice rather than water. This is transformational – try it and you will never use water again.

Next we made traditional Vanillekipferl (Almond Crescents). These are simple enough for the most part. We made a sweet dough consisting of more almonds than flour…

Puffin crushed nuts

Puffin crushed nuts

…but there are a couple of surprisingly tricky techniques to master. First you need to persuade your puffin to crush the almonds to the right size (not too large but not a powder) and then you need to roll out the dough into 10cm lengths and twist them into horseshoes without any breakage. Once baked you apply a dusting of icing sugar.

Done...Done… ...and dusted…and dusted

Spitzbuben (translation: Cheeky Boys) are a firm festive family favourite according to Carmen and they are eagerly consumed beyond the Tyrol region in Bavaria, Switzerland and (curiously) Derby. They may loosely resemble Jammy Dodgers but biscuit architecture aside there is no comparison. JDs are cheap mass-produced nonsense while Cheeky Boys are hand made with quality ingredients and no small degree of love.

A sweet biscuit dough is rolled flat and then cut into an equal number of solid circular bases and decorative perforated covers using a special tool.

Not cheeky yetNot cheeky yet Getting a bit cheekyGetting a bit cheeky
Once baked a thin layer of high quality warm jam (ie: with a high fruit content) is applied to the base and the cover is placed on top. Ooh, cheeky!Ooh, cheeky!
We are the cheeky boys!We are the cheeky boys! The Cheeky Boys and Almond Crescents will happily keep for weeks. Except of course, they won’t.

I could quite happily live off these wonderful treats. Yes, I’m sure. That would be fine right? Actually it wouldn’t. Controversial new research suggests that a daily consumption of biscuits alone does not provide all of the nutrients required in a balanced diet. The good news is that the final treat that we made would suitably address this nutritional imbalance.

C'est une pan au chocolateC’est une pan au chocolate

An almond in every biteAn almond in every bite

Rhumkugeln sounds better than Chocolate Truffles but they are the same thing. The occasional use of a bain marie in my house is always a welcome sign that something indulgent is in the making. In this instance a mix of melted dark and light chocolate is augmented with toasted hazelnuts and icing sugar. Once cooled we used teaspoons to create little balls of chocolaty goodness and rolled half in icing sugar and half in cocoa powder.

The hills are alive with the sound of grunting

The hills are alive with the sound of grunting

For that final touch of regional authenticity we asked an alpine pig to individually wrap them in foil, crêpe paper and mini bun-cases. If you are doing this at home just remember to ensure that your pig doesn’t eat too many truffles.

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I’m not an inspirational chef but I do take inspiration from good ingredients and recipe ideas. One of my weaknesses is recipe book dependence but that’s beginning to change. Over the last year or so I have made a conscious effort to adapt my shopping habits, largely in the face of my monumental hatred of Sainsbury’s. Let’s get something clear – they offer a paucity of choice when it comes to raw ingredients with aisles and aisles of processed food and only a very limited selection of anodyne factory produced “fresh produce”. Then there’s the relentless over-marketing whereby you are brow-beaten into buying 2 for 1 or 3 for 2 when you only wanted 1 so you buy too much overpriced food and it gets wasted. Shocking value and a wearisome shopping experience.

For Sainsbury’s read any of the major supermarkets, but there’s an alternative if you are prepared to forego a little convenience. I’ve taken to shopping at Aldi for mainstream items and then following up with specialist independent meat/fish/grocers for fresh produce. It’s more effort but a far superior shopping basket for two thirds of the cost makes it a no-brainer.

This is how shopping used to be before successive governments allowed the giant corporations to kill all the small independent retails along with our high streets. And my change in shopping habits is forcing me, in a positive way, to rethink the way I cook. No longer can I assume that my precise recipe ingredients will be available. More to the point the independent grocers always tempt me with fresh and exciting goodies that I wasn’t expecting. Much better therefore to ease off on the list and take inspiration from what’s available.

It also means that I am having to rediscover my cooking instincts. My plans to make some Indian influenced ice cream this weekend had to evolve due to a failure to obtain saffron along with arriving home with a glut of natural yoghurt. In Ready-Steady-Cook style, here’s what happened next…

Ingredients
250ml single cream
150ml milk
2tbsp Clear Honey
1tsp cinnamon
3 cardamom pods
3 large eggs
100g soft brown sugar
300ml natural yoghurt
Lemon juice
Chopped almonds

In the mix

In the mix

Instructions

1) Extract the cardamom seeds and chop them finely. I love cardamom and they are great in curries, rice, baking and green or ginger tea. They have to be great in ice cream don’t they?

2) Mix the cream, milk, honey, cinnamon and cardamom in a pan. I was toying with adding one or two cloves and even a light touch of chilli but let’s rein it in for now. Heat and keep stirring, but don’t boil.

Creamy loveliness

Creamy loveliness

3) Separate the eggs and add the yolks to the sugar in a bowl. This is orthodox ice cream making territory. Mix until smooth.

I'll make meringues with the spare egg whites

I’ll make meringues with the spare egg whites

Smoothly does it

Smoothly does it

4) Add the hot cream mixture to the bowl and stir. Return the mixture to the pan and heat until the mixture thickens, stirring all the time.

This is always the fun bit

This is always the fun bit

5) Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and then transfer to the fridge for a couple of hours

6) Watch a film while waiting. I watched Fire In Babylon but you can substitute films of a similar length depending on what you have in stock.

7) Stir in the yoghurt and a little lemon juice. Hmmm, this should be interesting. I was going to add some lemon zest but … I forgot. Ho hum.

Not too much lemon juice - the yoghurt is quite sharp

Not too much lemon juice – the yoghurt is quite sharp

8) Pour the mixture into a pre-frozen ice cream maker being careful not to devour all of the mixture before it gets transferred. You don’t need a machine for this but it’s one of those gadgets I picked up along the way and if you are going to use it enough (like I do) then it does an effective labour saving job.

A messy business. Who designed this small opening?

A messy business. Who designed this small opening?

9) Once you are fed up of the racket made by your ice cream maker spoon the ice cream like contents into a container and store in the freezer.

10) Go to bed. Sleep. Get up. Do whatever it is you do before deciding that you fancy some ice cream.

11) Serve the frozen ice cream with some almond flakes or perhaps some kind of exotic Asian fruit salad. Perfect after a weighty Indian meal. Chicken Saag with masala stuffed baby aubergines and lemon rice since you ask.

But is it any good?

But is it any good?

Verdict – 8.5 out of 10. Good flavours, a fine way to finish an Indian meal and relatively healthy for an ice cream. The consistency was very slightly firm so next time I might change the cream to yoghurt ratio somewhat, or at least remove from the freezer a bit earlier. There’s plenty of scope to play with the flavourings. Some caramelised mango would go well with it.

I’m not sure if this is a recipe blog or an anti-globalisation rant but let’s worry about the taxonomy later – there’s ice cream to consume.

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I had Sunday all planned out. There were a few chores but mostly it was about relaxation. And then the tell-tale pool of liquid on my kitchen floor told me it wasn’t going to be that way.

My fridge freezer is 9 years old and I can’t begrudge its retirement but I find myself working out how to gainfully cook the defrosted contents on this day of rest. The temperate evacuees sit on my work surface begging my attention and creativity like a horribly misjudged ready-steady-cook bag. In the salvageable category there is sweet pastry, filo pastry, puff pastry, meatballs, chicken and cheese. Less fortunate (and less identifiable) comestibles are mercifully relegated to the bin.

Happy on the outside

Happy on the outside

Filo? I didn’t even realise I had filo pastry. For the uninitiated filo is the devils work to make and that’s why it’s perfectly respectable, indeed expected, to buy ready made sheets from the supermarket. A trawl through my recipe books found plenty of recipes but all requiring ingredients I didn’t have. Then, en-route to the bin, I noticed a recipe for hazelnut baklava on the side of the pastry box – and here it is…

Ingredients
200g hazlenuts
200g filo pastry
75g butter
200g caster sugar
honey
ground cinnamon
cinnamon stick
lemon juice

The pre-cursor to much washing up I suspect

The pre-cursor to much washing up I suspect

Instructions

1) Roughly chop the hazlenuts and mix in two teaspoons of ground cinnamon and four of sugar.

Nuts!

Nuts!

2) Melt the butter. I used a ramekin in the microwave.

Mmmm, melted butter…

Mmmm, melted butter…

3) Brush some butter onto the base of a baking dish. Then unroll a sheet of filo (it’s paper thin so be careful) and lay it in the bottom of the dish. Brush the sheet with butter.

A pudding construction site

A pudding construction site

4) Add another 6 or 7 sheets, placing each on top of the last and buttering each one. Then spread half of the nut mixture evenly over the top layer.

This is going to be filling

This is going to be filling

5) Place another 3 buttered sheets over the nuts, then sprinkle the rest of the nuts into a second later. Add the remaining sheets one by one buttering as you go. If you are me (stupid) now use a knife to trim the pastry over spill from the sides of the dish. Alternatively you could trim the sheets to dish size prior to placing them. Doh!

Trim it first. Doh!

Trim it first. Doh!

6) Now carefully use a sharp knife to slice this pale Greek odyssey into bite sized portions – you will find it hard once cooked. Diagonals are more traditional but square is lazier and quicker. Sprinkle the surface with water to minimise the risk of burning and place in the oven at 190 degrees for around 30 minutes.

Pale, pasty and half-cut - like an English tourist on a Corfu beach

Pale, pasty and half-cut - like an English tourist on a Corfu beach

7) While the dish is in the oven make a syrup. Put the sugar, 200ml of water, a cinnamon stick and 3 teaspoons of lemon juice in a pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Then add a three or four heaped teaspoons of honey and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Still nothing healthy in sight

Still nothing healthy in sight

8) When the baklava is baked and golden remove it from the oven and after 10 minutes of cooling pour the syrup over.

Καλημέρα!

Καλημέρα!

9) When it’s cool eat a slice, forget it’s January and dream of warmer Aegean climes.

By Zeus, it actually looks like baklava!

By Zeus, it actually looks like baklava!

The result is an authentic tasting sticky Greek treat – very scoffable without ever quite meeting the heights of the Greek Easter Cake I wrote about a while ago. I would add a little rose water next time and perhaps throw some cloves & cardamom pods into the syrup. Next time? I’ll throw some more filo into my new freezer when it arrives and hope it’s less reliable than the last one.

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