Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Basil infused lemon ice cream

We have a lot of basil in our garden, somehow this year I've managed to grow more of it than I normally use (there seems to be forever a jar of pesto in the fridge!), which just means that I've become a bit more creative in how I use it, or (most of the time) just throw it into dishes more often. It added an extra dimension to a stir fry of thinly sliced kangaroo (marinated briefly in soy, sambal oelek and garlic), mushrooms, a red pepper from the garden and jasmine rice - its stronger aniseed notes went really well with the asian flavours in the wok. It was such a simple delicious dinner, I'm no longer bound by Italian cooking when thinking of how to use my basil! I have purple basil as well, but tend to use the green basil more often purely because I have more of it, it's thrived where the purple basil has been much more subdued (though its a very pretty addition to any garden!).

The creation of a new ice cream flavour follows a pattern in my house. I have full cream milk and cream in my fridge for some reason (which I dont normally have - usually hilo and NO cream!), and there will be some pantry items or fruit which need using. This time I had a lemon, and this worked nicely with the theme for this months Sweet Adventures Blog Hop being lemons! I assumed there would be many lemony cakes, curds and tarts so I didn't want to go down that road. Ice cream it would be! I then had a thought of including basil in with the lemon - I must have seen it somewhere before and subconsciously remembered it, but I thought that would be something a little different!
What I ended up with was a really interesting flavoured ice cream, totally delicious! You get hints of lemon and basil, but together they almost taste a bit like spearmint! It was not a sweet ice cream but really refreshing, definitely for use as a palate cleanser, or a light after dinner treat. I think this would be fabulous as a sorbet, you could get alot more sharpness of lemon into the mix then (I was too worried about the mixture curdling - I wasn't keen on making cheese!).

Heres how I did it... note that normally I would use more cream, but I ended up having equal quantities of both. For a creamier ice cream use more, or all cream.

350ml cream
350ml full fat milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg (or 2 really small ones)
zest of 1 lemon
Tops of 3 or 4 basil bunches

1) Put the cream, milk, basil and lemon rind into a saucepan to warm up - don't bring to the boil.

2) Beat the sugar and egg together until pale and ribbony.

3) Pour a spoonful of the warm milk/cream mixture into the eggs and incorporate well, then start pouring the rest in, beating the whole time (you don't want the eggs to scramble!).

4) With a slotted spoon, discard the basil and lemon zest, and pour into your ice cream machine and churn until its thickened. If you want soft serve style ice cream then serve this now! I found that the mixture was slightly grainy/icy and would have benefited from being whipped in the mixer, however it was about 11:30pm and I wasn't feeling like it!

5) Pour into covered containers and freeze until you're ready to use them!

Its worth noting that, upon speaking to others who make ice cream, it is harder when you get it from the freezer than store bought stuff. You just have to take it out of the freezer 10 minutes before you want to eat it, and not forget about it!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter with a full belly!

Easter sunday was spent packing up our house, and then in the evening we had a delicious roast duck dinner with Carolanne and her fella... I bought along hot cross bun bread and butter pudding, and hot cross bun ice cream... 

A mountain of potatoes, seasoned with maldon salt, parmesan, pepper and chives...

Delicious roasted (in duck fat no less!) purple carrot, parsnip and potatoes a la Carolanne.

Bread and butter pud before the custard went on.

 The fab local produce I used to make the BnB pud. Amazing milk and cream from Sunnydale (available from Subiaco Farmers Market, Farmer Jacks in Subiaco, The Herdsman in Wembley, amongst other places).

I also had a go at making honey madelines, without a madeline tin! I just used a "muffin top" tray instead. They were pretty tasty..

Hope you all had a great long weekend, a happy easter and are managing to move after all the delicious food that was eaten!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Chicken, Tomato and Basil Pasta

Operation "use up everything in the house before moving" is in action. Were trying to only buy the basics and use up whatever we already have - sauces, fridge and freezer items!

So tonight I had a scour through the cupboards. I also had to take the effort factor into account. Could I be arsed really making anything complex? No not really. We've been going through our house throwing things out, packing up a few boxes and just organising the house for the move all day, so complex cooking was not on the cards.

I picked up half a bag of organic pasta, a bag of ripe organic tomatoes, and 2 massive free range chicken thighs and figured that these were the main things I needed to use today. The tomatoes weren't going to last much longer, and the chicken was a day off being dodgy, so I decided that it was chicken tomato pasta night!

Awesome organic box of veges!

For this sauce, it's important that you use GOOD tomatoes - don't bother making this if you have the floury, anaemic sorry excuses for tomatoes you see in the supermarket out of season. This is what you do with a glut of good quality, juicy, ripe, RED, delicious tomatoes, such as the heirloom varieties we found at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. These tomatoes, when you ate some from the little tasting bowl, stopped us both in our tracks. It was the best tomato I've ever had. I'm going to try and get some seeds next summer so I can try and grow some of my own - they were amazing, better than any tomatoes I've had here!

Also, make sure the handful of basil you use is a generous one, it makes a huge difference! If you can get it from someones garden then get that instead of the stuff from the supermarket, it's got SO much flavour! Its fragrance is so much stronger, it has the basil aroma that you recognise, but with a hit of aniseed. The supermarket bunches have nothing on home grown.

Chicken, tomato and basil pasta

1kg tomatoes, chopped
Small bunch of spring onions, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 chicken thighs
500g pasta
Handful of basil

NB - for this pasta sauce, you really don't need the chicken, but I wanted to use it up. It does add extra flavour, but the tomato sauce is special on its own as well! 

1) In a hot pan with oil (I use Cobram Estate Garlic Oil), fry the chicken thighs (whole) in the pan. Once they're almost done (time depends on the size of the thighs) turn the heat off and let them sit in the pan until you need them.
2) While the chicken is cooking, add the onions and garlic to a saucepan with some oil and gently fry them for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes.
3) Keep the heat med-high and you'll see the tomatoes start to break down and become much saucier. Turn the heat down to a low simmer, and cook until it becomes thicker and less watery, stirring occasionally.
4) The chicken  has cooked and rested by now, and so chop it up into pieces and return to the pan.
5) Add the sauce to the pan the chicken is in and give it a stir, making sure all the chicken juices are incorporated into the sauce! Season to taste.
6) Wash up the tomato saucepan and cook your pasta in it! Add plenty of salt to your cooking water to make sure your pasta is seasoned - it makes a big difference! In the time it takes for your pasta to cook (mine took 10mins) your chicken tomato sauce will reduced, hot and ready for the pasta.
7) Add in a generous handful of chopped basil, then pour in your drained pasta. Don't drain it too heavily, some of the starchy pasta water can go into the sauce to bring it all together. 
8) Give it a good stir and serve it up!

I served mine with a buttery homemade garlic bread which was heart attack inducing but amaaaazing!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Cookies

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who gets a craving for something baked and chocolatey sometimes... It happens to the best and worst of us! But what happens when you have no flour in the house? Ran out of butter? What can you bake when you're missing half the essentials, and you NEED chocolate and sugar? Or when you realise that tomorrow is your day on morning tea duty, its 10pm and your care factor is sub-zero?

Chocolate peanut cookies is what. 

This is a recipe that I have adapted from the very well tested Jon Mac cookies, which contain only sugar, eggs and peanut butter. I wanted a chocolate hit in my cookies, and a bit of a lighter feel.

This is also a gluten free recipe - provided you use gluten free baking powder/peanut butter/cocoa - just check the labels, some have added fillers etc that contain gluten. Mine are standard brands, and they have no gluten, but check!

Here's what you need...

1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
2 small eggs 
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder

1) Preheat the oven to 180C, then beat the sugar and eggs together until they're creamy and form ribbons.
2) Add the peanut butter, cocoa and baking powder and mix until combined. Here, you can seperate the mixture if you like and only add half the cocoa to the mix, then combine the 2 mixtures to create marbled cookies!
3) Make tablespoon sized balls and place them about 5cm apart on baking paper and pop them in the oven for about 15-20mins or until they've spread out and are soft to the touch. Don't be tempted to leave them in longer, once you take these out of the oven, and they cool, they will be super chewy and delicious! Don't also be tempted to move them when they're hot out of the oven - they're fragile until they cool down!

You will end up with delicious, chewy, peanut butter chocolate goodness!