Tuesday, March 6, 2007
I don't think of myself as a kitchen gadget person. So many gadgets - popcorn maker, milkshake maker, breadmaker, sandwich press, deep fryer, juicer, waffle iron - do one specific thing only that can easily be done by a basic piece of kitchen equipment (for example, you can pop corn in a saucepan). The gadgets take up a lot of space but may be used infrequently.
I make two exceptions: my rice cooker and my ice-cream maker. (I don't count my Kitchen Aid mixmaster, my Magimix food processor or Saeco coffee machine, as they are Essential Kitchen Appliances). My rice cooker is fabulous! It frees up a hotplate when cooking and I've said goodbye to the days of cooked rice sticking to the bottom of my saucepan (I don't care how many "How to cook perfect rice" instructions I read - it always boils dry). But my rice cooker gives me perfect rice every time with no fuss.
Adam gave me my ice-cream maker last Christmas. Strictly speaking, it does fall into the gadget list, as it does do only one thing (although the instructions promise that it can double as a wine cooler) and ice-cream can also be made without a machine (you need to put the ice-cream in a metal container and place in the freezer, removing it several times over several hours to beat with a hand mixer before re-freezing). But ice-cream made this way is never as creamy as with a machine and it also involves the extra re-beating steps.
It's been a long, hot summer with little rain and the ice-cream machine has certainly had a good workout. Although I have at least a dozen recipes, I've never bothered to make much ice-cream before. Call me lazy but the machine has made it so much easier! We've been feasting on vanilla, coffee, milk chocolate, blackberry and honey, allspice, pistacho and (my personal favourite) raspberry ice-cream, and we've also had champagne, lemon and apricot sorbet.
A sweet egg custard is the basis of ice-cream, while sorbets use a mixture of fruit juice and a sugar syrup. It really is very easy to make and you have the added benefit of knowing exactly what's going into your ice-cream (no preservatives!) Add your chosen ingredients to the custard, cool and then churn in the ice-cream machine. It's important that the custard is cold before you churn it in the machine or the ice-cream won't firm up properly.
I use Donna Hay's basic vanilla ice-cream recipe but you could use your favourite egg custard recipe if you have one - it's just egg yolks, milk, cream and sugar and only the proportions change. You make the custard and then add your chosen ingredients.
Now the only question is what to do with the leftover egg whites? Stay tuned because there will be some recipes to use up egg whites coming later this week.
BASIC VANILLA ICE-CREAM
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
Mix milk, cream and vanilla together and heat until hot (but not boiling). Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick. Add the hot milk mixture bit by bit, whisking all the time. Pour back into the saucepan and put back on heat. Cook, stirring, until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon (4 to 6 minutes). Take off heat and either put saucepan into a basin of iced water or pour into another container (you want to stop the custard cooking). Cool, then churn in ice-cream machine, following the manufacturer's instructions.
(From Donna Hay magazine, issue 7)
RASPBERRY: puree 300g raspberries and 50g caster sugar in a food processor. Strain through a sieve and add to vanilla custard base before churning.
BLACKBERRY AND HONEY: add 50g honey to custard when you take it off heat and then strain into a bowl and cool. Stir through 300g blackberries and churn (you could also puree the blackberries as per the raspberry recipe).
ALLSPICE: Add one tablespoon of allspice berries to the milk and cream (omit the vanilla). Heat and then sit for 20 minutes to infuse. Strain through sieve, reheat gently and whisk into egg yolk and sugar mixture. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Cool and churn in machine.
COFFEE: Put 1/2 cup strong espresso into a saucepan and simmer over medium heat until it is reduced to 1/4 cup. Cool. Replace the vanilla bean with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add espresso to milk and cream before heating, then follow basic vanilla ice-cream recipe. (From Donna Hay magazine, issue 7)
CHOCOLATE: Add 150g chopped dark or milk chocolate to the milk and cream before heating. Replace the vanilla bean with extract and follow the basic vanilla ice-cream recipe. (From Donna Hay magazine, issue 7)
PISTACHIO: Lightly roast 200g chopped pistachios. Make basic vanilla ice-cream and churn, adding the pistachios when the ice-cream is just firm. Churn to evenly disperse.
LEMON SORBET: Place 1 cup caster sugar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over low heat and stir till the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil for one minute. Set aside to cool. Combine 1 cup lemon juice, 1 cup extra water and the cooled syrup in a bowl and stir. Pour into ice-cream and churn until just firm. I've also made this without a machine - pour the mix into a metal tin, freeze and re-beat a couple of times.
(From Donna Hay magazine, issue 7)