Friday, 26 August 2011

The inside scoop

It's time to cut out the middle man. No more waiting in line for the perfect scoop - I am now the proud owner of an ice cream maker, able to whip up a batch of whatever eccentric frozen treat I might dare to dream of.

With my garden now brimming with luscious herbs, I will be trying thyme, basil and lavender versions as I work my way along the modern-classic route of herby ices. But first I wanted to go back to basics and try a golden oldie.

If you've never tried brown bread ice cream it might sound a little strange, but there's something about the combination of perfectly smooth, creamy vanilla ice cream rubbing up against those crisp, caramelised breadcrumbs that makes my mouth water. It's a textural thing. We've precious little summer left, so I intend to savour every last moment, one scoop at a time.


Makes about 850ml

~for the ice cream
300ml double cream
285ml whole milk
60g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg yolks

~for the breadcrumbs
90g rough breadcrumbs, preferably made with 100% brown bread flour
60g light brown sugar
60g butter

1) The day before you want to make the ice cream, pop the bowl into the freezer and have some ice cubes ready.

2) To make the vanilla ice cream: place the cream and milk into a saucepan and warm. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl with the sugar until thick enough to leave a ribbon trail. When the cream mixture is blood temperature, whisk a quarter of it into the egg yolks, and bring the rest to the boil. Bring the rest of the milk to the boil, then whisk into the cream mixture.

3) Transfer the mixture to the pan and heat, stirring continuously, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Don't let it boil or it will curdle. Now plunge the base of the pan into a large bowl of super cold iced water until it is completely cold, then stir in the vanilla. Churn in an ice cream maker until frozen, about 30-45 minutes.

4) While the ice cream is churning, make the caramelised bread crumbs by melting the brown sugar and butter in a pan until they are well combined and have a sauce-like appearance. Stir in the breadscrumbs then scatter the crumbs evenly over a large baking tray and bake at 350f/180c/gas mark 4 for about 25-35 minutes, or until very crisp all the way through. Allow to cool, then fold half of the crumbs into the ice cream. Freeze for at least a couple of hours before serving, then sprinkle over some extra crumbs before scooping out.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Ice cream for stormy weather

photos: © Dezeen Limited

Well it's certainly not ice cream weather here in London this week. I'm already regretting the decision to bare my legs today and I haven't even made the journey home yet.  Bah!

On the bright side, I think I've found the perfect place to indulge on a wet and windy day. Polka Gelato is new (and therefore bright and shiny), within handy cone-licking distance of my office in Bloomsbury, and has a slightly sombre, monochrome interior which won't upset my sun-starved eyes. All very welcome things on a dour day.

Go forth and lick! I'll race you.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Crab tart and a much needed glass of wine

I won’t lie - I love crab, so I relish it in any form. Though it's wonderful simply dressed with lemon or gobbled up with a smudge of homemade mayonnaise, I was feeling adventurous this week and so came up with this Asian inspired tart with sesame oil and chilli. It’s a quick thing to make, which leaves more time to relax in the garden with a warm slice and a glass of wine. And after the week we've had here in London, I can tell you I need that glass of wine...

I only used the sweet white crab for this dish but if you want to use the brown meat too, spread it over the base of the tart before adding the rest of the filling.


~for the pastry:
125g (1 cup, loosely packed) plain flour
A pinch of salt
55g butter
Cold water
1 egg white

~for the filling:
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk
225ml milk
150ml double cream
250g white crab meat
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
1 fresh, mild red chilli, finely chopped
1/8 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp sesame seeds

1)First make the pastry by rubbing the flour, salt and butter together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Slowly add cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until a dough forms, then chill for half an hour. Roll out to a thickness of 3mm, and use to line a greased 20cm x 3cm loose bottomed tin. Trim the excess pastry and prick the base all over with a fork.

2)Line the tin with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans, then bake at 20 minutes at 350f/180c/gas mark 4. Remove the beans, and bake for a further 5 minutes, then brush the tart case with egg white and bake for 2 further minutes before leaving to cool.

3)To make the filling, whisk the remaining eggs, cream, milk and sesame oil together with plenty of black pepper and a little salt, then stir in the crab, chives and chilli before pouring into the pastry case. Sprinkle the top with the sesame seeds and bake for 35-45 minutes, until the centre is set but still a tiny bit wobbly. Allow to cool and heat warm or cold.

Friday, 5 August 2011

A warm salad for a warm week

These sun-dried cherry tomatoes were a new Venice find. My first taste didn’t disappoint - they were lush and flavoursome. And my new snacking vice.

The first pioneering yellow cherry tomatoes blossomed to full sweetness in the garden this week, and would be a tasty addition to this salad. But I still think the first tomatoes should be eaten right there as they’re picked, still warm and fragrant from the sun. I love summer.


200g Beluga (or Puy) lentils
1 litre vegetable stock
150g mild, soft goat’s cheese
100g sun-dried cherry tomatoes
a whole fresh red chilli, finely chopped (seeds removed)
a large bunch of chives, chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
the juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper

1)Simmer the lentils in the vegetable stock for 12-15 minutes, until tender, then drain and leave to cool a little.

2)Dice the cheese into 1cm pieces and stir into the warm lentils with the cherry tomatoes, chives, and chilli. Squeeze over the lemon juice and pour over the oil, then season with lots of pepper and a little salt.

3)Serve warm, or room temperature – but definitely not cold.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Urban style

I’m loving the new season of kitschy home wares at Urban Outfitters, especially these Bird Salt & Pepper shakers and set of Regency Cake Tins. It’s almost enough to make me start my Christmas shopping a mere five months early. Almost.
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