Saturday, September 29, 2007


Caramelised Onion Tart

I am aware that today's recipe may not be the most inspiring because I am making yet another tart. Yes, another tart recipe. Well, what can I say? It is Saturday. Though not suffering from an alcohol-induced hang-over (those days are very few and far between, anyway), I am suffering one from too much reading. I just don't want to think anymore. And the best lunch time meal I can make without thinking is a tart.

Having said that, I cannot leave well alone any recipe, even if it is a simple one of onions or leeks, so I am keen to share any success from my tinkering.

Today there are a few sources of inspiration. Primarily I am motivated by the Caramelised Onion and Anchovy Tart that features in this month's Donna Hay Magazine. I am slowly developing a liking for anchovies, the salty fishes that augment a roast of lamb with savoury depth or that gives heads of garlic roasted in olive oil an edge of nuttiness (see my Bagna Cauda). I just didn't have any on hand, and, because I wanted to relax in the kitchen for a bit, I was inclined to make my own pastry - just not a puff pastry, which is what the Donna Hay recipe uses. I also thought making the caramelised onions more complex with the inclusion of a herb, as in Suzanne Goin's Saffron Onions, and with the addition of alcohol, like Tamasin Day-Lewis' sherry-sozzled adaptation of the Markwicks' Blue Cheese and Tart with Red Onion Marmalade in The Art of the Tart: Savory and Sweet.

For the pastry, remember to start off with fridge-cold flour and butter, and also keep a cup of iced water to hand. As for the marscapone cheese and heavy cream that are used to make the "cheese topping," they lend incredible richness and smoothness. A mild, melting cheese ensures that the topping remains velvety and is not overpowering, for the caramelised onions should take centre stage here.

Rich Shortcrust Pastry
(from Nigella Lawson's How To Eat: Pleasures and Principles of Good Food)

5oz/140g flour, sifted
2 1/2oz/70g unsalted butter, cut up into small cubes
1 tablespoon orange juice (or lemon juice)
1 egg
1 pinch salt
black pepper, freshly ground
iced water, might not be necessary

1) In a bowl, rub together the flour and butter with the tips of your fingers until a granular consistency is reached.
2) Separate the egg. You can choose whether to keep the whites or not, for they can optionally be used after the pastry has baked blind.
3) To the egg yolk, lightly beat in the orange juice, salt, and pepper - one or two cranks from the pepper mill should suffice.
4) Mix egg and flour mixtures together with hands (mixing in one direction) or wooden spoon. You want the mixture to cohere into a ball. If it does not seem to be coming together, add **one** tablespoon of iced water at a time. You may not need any, but if you do need it, be careful not to add too much because you'll end up with a wet mess and the damage will be done - unless, of course, you want to pour out the excess and add in a bit more flour, but that is a gamble, and I wouldn't recommend it.
5) Once a ball has been formed, create a flat disc, and cover in cling-film. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
6) Bring pastry out of the fridge and let rest for 5-10 minutes, to allow flexibility.
7) Preheat oven to 390 F/200 C.
8) Put pastry on a floured surface. Roll it out with a floured rolling pin, turning the pastry after each pass of the rolling pin to ensure it doesn't stick to your surface. Roll it out so it can fit into a prepared (that is to say, buttered and floured) 9 or 10" tart shell.
9) Allow to sit in tart shell in fridge for 15 minutes.
10) Cover pastry with parchment paper onto which put baking beans (this is to weight down the pastry, so it doesn't rise and bubble during the initial baking process).
11) Bake for 15 minutes.
12) Remove parchment paper and beans. Prick base with tines of fork and then dab egg whites over the surface to give a crispy result, if you kept the whites, that is.
13) Bake for a further 5 minutes.

Caramelised Onions
(Adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis' The Art of the Tart: Savory and Sweet)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2oz/60g unsalted butter
2 medium onions, sliced thinly
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
1 1/2 tablespoons thyme (or as you prefer)
a pinch each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons brandy

1) In a skillet over medium heat, combine the olive oil and butter.
2) When the butter has melted, throw in the onions and thyme, followed by the salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir frequently, coating the onion slices in the oil and butter. Cook the slices down until quite feeble, approximately 25 minutes.
3) Stir in red wine vinegar and brandy. Once the alcohol has evaporated, remove from the heat.

Caramelised Onion Tart

Baked tart shell, as above
Caramelised onions, as above
1/4 cup marscapone cheese
1/4 cup heavy/double cream
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese, or whatever cheese you prefer
a pinch each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1) Preheat oven to 390 F/200 C.
2) In a bowl, combine marscapone and cream until smooth, then add cheese, and a pinch each of salt and pepper.
3) Layer the onion over the base of the tart shell.
4) Pour the marscapone mixture over the onions.
5) Bake until golden, approximately 15 minutes.

The sweet aroma coming from the oven will let you know when this elegantly luscious tart is ready. The first flavour to appear, at least on my tastebuds, is the brandy-coated onions, then the cheese, and finally the thyme. The pastry is incredibly buttery and flaky, adding to the richness of the contents of the tart shell. Feel free to do without the adornments of thyme, but a student must glamourise his or her life from time to time, however simply. This is an easy and fulfilling lunch for any season, and it might be a recipe I keep tinkering with over the next two months when I seek refuge from Master's thesis-induced fatigue.

This post is being submitted to Sarina at Trini Gourmet, who is hosting this month's Hay Hay, It's Donna Day.

Post script Go here for the Hay, Hay, It's Donna Day # 15 round-up.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007


Pollo alla Diavola

This is an after the fact entry commemorating the last dinner my angelheart Eric and I cooked before I returned to New Zealand this week after a two month trip to the US. Goodbyes are always heartbreaking, hellish even - each one saltier than the last. Recalling this Umbrian chicken preparation, though, vaunts the sweeter moments of the time with my angelheart Eric over the sadder ones.

This year's September issue of Food & Wine magazine is all about Italy. Broken up by region, there are articles aplenty waxing lyrical on food, wine and travel. This is an incredible primer on the regions of Italy for the page-flipping public of short attention span (and some days that includes me). Amongst the many dog-ear-mark-worthy articles, my angelheart Eric and I were intrigued by Nancy Harmon Jenkins' piece on contemporary trattorias.

Trattorias are to Italy are what bistros are to Paris. They are the heart and soul of a town, a continuation of lineage. With a firm hand on tradition, trattorias offer comfort food. In some parts of Italy, particularly Umbria, the area with which Harmon Jenkins in concerned, there is a rebirth of trattorias that provide sophisticated and modern twists on traditional fare.

In an effort to understand the relationship between ingredients better, I gravitate towards recipes that appear simple. That is to say, ingredients are pared down and the method is assumed to bring out the best in the chosen protein or vegetable. When my angelheart Eric pointed out the dish, not only was I keen to try another version of spatch-cocked chicken (that is to say, a whole chicken flattened once its backbone has been removed, which cuts down on cooking time), but I was also intrigued by the notion of a Pollo alla Diavola that didn't only rely on dried red peppers and black pepper as its seasoning condimento. My interest was also piqued by what Salvatore Denaro (the regional human subject of the quiet culinary movement) was substituting to amp up the flavour: a rosemary-spiked acidic marinade.

Salvatore Denaro's twist to Umbrian delights is the integration of flavours from the grand Italian islands of Sardignia and Sicily. In the following recipe, Ms. Harmon Jenkins replaces Salvatore Denaro's powder of Sicilian myrtle and Turkish Bay Leaf for dried sage. I have to say that I am not the biggest fan of sage, finding it very astringent (which, I know, is rich coming from he who loves juniper berries), but I was game nonetheless. The only change I made was to keep the quantity of ingredients for one chicken as opposed to two, for Eric and I wanted maximum flavour, knowing sometimes that magazine writers sometimes offer conservative amounts of seasonings for mass appeal. Just bear in mind that you will need to start two days in advance for maximum flavour (it shouldn't be difficult as the only advanced preparation requires that you combine a liquid and a dried herb).

Pollo alla Diavola
(closely following Nancy Harmon Jenkins' adaptation of Salvatore Denaro's recipe in Food & Wine, September 2007)

1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 3-3 1/4 pound (1 1/2-1 3/4kg) whole chicken
2 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or 1 teaspoon piment d'Espelette or Aleppo pepper)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1) In a bowl or small jar, combine white wine and dried oregano. Cover and leave at room temperature for two days.
2) Strain into a bowl and stir in the olive oil.
3) Remove the wing tips and backbone from the chicken with either poultry shears or a chef's knife.
4) Skin-side up on a baking sheet lined with aluminium foil, press down on the breastbone quite firmly to flatten the chicken.
5) Score the chicken to the bone with the tip of a chef's knife.
6) Drizzle over the chicken all but two tablespoons of the olive oil marinade. Rub into the flesh. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.
7) In a small bowl, combine the sage, salt, pepper, rosemary and black pepper. Rub all over the chicken. Feel free to use a pastry brush to pick up any spilled-over liquid. Get it into every crevice.
8) Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.
9) Preheat oven to 220 C/425 F.
10) Roast chicken skin-side up in upper third of the oven until done, which is when it registers 75 C/165 F at the thickest part of the chicken, approximately 45 minutes. Baste with the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil half-way through the roasting procedure.
11) Preheat broiler.
12) Pour pan juices into a small saucepan and keep warm over a low heat.
13) Broil chicken 10cm/4" from the heat, rotating the pan until brown and crisp, approximately 3 minutes.
14) Carve chicken, pour warm pan juices over it and serve.

My inveterate skill as a failed food stylist aside, this is an incredibly tasty chicken. In fact, it doesn't bop you over with head. I find that the inclusion of wine actually creates a deeply savoury marinade, which is potentially akin to the result of Chef Denaro's myrtle and bay leaf condimento. Served with a creamy avocado and cherry tomato salad, this is a substantial Summer dish that doesn't require much fiddling about in a warm kitchen. Most importantly, the flavours are sophisticated and the chicken is tender and flavourful on either side of the bone.
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Friday, September 14, 2007


Weekend Cookbook Challenge # 20 - Chesapeake Bay Classic Crab Cakes with Spicy Remoulade

The theme of this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge, as hosted by Sara at i like to cook, is Show and Tell, for which one is to describe a cookery book from one's collection. This month's book that I am accessing for this challenge is an anomaly in my collection. As much as I love single-subject cookery books, I usually steer clear of any books along the vein of "101 Ways with..." because I generally find them to be badly written and haphazardly collected. However, Tom Douglas' I Love Crab Cakes is not tacky, despite the multicoloured font on the cover.

It was my angelheart Eric who (finally) turned me on to crab cakes this year, and they are now my usual entree/appetizer. It was at the end of last year that I started to eat crab again, on account of the thick and sweet meat of Alaskan King crab. Before then, no crab meat had passed my lips for 16 or so years as puberty prompted a disavowal of all seafood. I have had different and many riffs on crab cakes, from those with loads of lump crab meat, some filled with a combination of lump crab meat and corn, and (the worst ones) consisting of more filler than crab meat.

To my mind, the best crab cakes have barely any filler other than lump crab meat (which is from the body of the blue crab). I say 'barely' because I want more in my binding ingredients than egg yolk, canola oil and Old Bay seasoning. In our quest over the last week to make the most simple yet perfect tasting crab cakes, my angelheart Eric and I have gone through (and subjected others to) three pounds/1 1/2kgs of lump crab meat (one pound fresh, two pounds pasteurised) and many cups of breadcrumbs and panko to decide how we best like a straight-forward crab cake, specifically Tom Douglas' Chesapeake Bay Classic Crab Cakes.

The main reason this book doesn't fall into the "tacky" category of made-for-a-quick-buck-cookery books is the author's perspective. Before settling in Seattle, a gorgeous city on the Pacific Northwest coast, Tom Douglas was raised in the mid-Atlantic, the home of crab cakes. Additionally, in this book there is sufficient information regarding which crab meats work best for crab cakes, and Mr. Douglas succinctly explains how to form, dredge, and cook them. There is also an explanation of the key larder and other comestible items largely used. I learned about Old Bay seasoning, a traditional fish seasoning that is used all over the Atlantic states. If you do not have it to hand, use any fish seasoning and supplement the ingredients you are lacking by using - or follow outright - Aliza Green's recipe. Concerning the recipes, the book is split into the following chapters: American Crab Cakes, Global/New Wave Crab Cakes, Brunch and Breakfast Crab Cakes, Crab Cake Sandwiches, Cool Crab Cakes, and Sauces and Salsas.

This recipe uses one pound of lump crab meat and makes approximately eight crab cakes. You will find our preferred substitutions in the ingredients' lists and Mr. Douglas' suggestions in parentheses. Before using any crab meat, drain it in a sieve and squeeze out any excess liquid while simultaneously combing through for any remaining cartilage or shell. Regarding the method of frying, butter is problematic because one wants the temperature high enough to fry, but butter does not have a high burning point. Combine butter and olive oil for both flavour and a high burning point, or you could just use olive oil, as we did. The remoulade recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups, so there will be leftovers, perfect for spreading on slices of bread when having steak sandwiches, as one would with mustard or mayo (at least, that is something I did with the leftovers).

Chesapeake Bay Classic Crab Cakes with Spicy Remoulade Sauce
(Adapted from Tom Douglas' I Love Crab Cakes)

For the crab cakes, you need:

1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
1/2 cup canola oil (or peanut oil)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons tarragon (or 1 tablespoon scallions/green onions, minced)
1 pound/1/2kg lump crab meat, fresh or pasteurised
3 cups bread crumbs (fresh, or use 4 cups if not using panko)
1 cup panko
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil (or butter, or a half-and-half combination of both)

1) In a blender or with a whisk, process egg yolk, Old Bay seasoning, mustard, lemon zest and juice, and vinegar until smooth.
2) Slowly pour in the oil (with the machine running, if using a blender) until the mixture emulsifies, forming a mayonnaise.
3) Season with salt and pepper.
4) Fold in the tarragon and crabmeat until well combined.
5) Combine bread crumbs, panko, and parsley in a shallow bowl.
6) Form crab cakes by quickly tossing them in the palms of your hands, as you would a meat patty, or use an ice cream scoop of 2 ounces to collect your crab meat. You can also lightly pick up 1/4 cup of crab meat with your fingers to form crab cakes. To dredge, either scoop the meat onto the bread crumb mixture and push crumbs around the cakes, or you can flip the meat in the bread crumb mixture, nudging it around the sides as well. The crab cakes should not be larger than 3" wide and 3/4" inch high.
7) Refrigerate, covered, on a bed of the bread crumb mixture for 30 minutes to one hour. If you are using panko, I do not suggest leaving the crab cakes to sit in the fridge for more than 30 minutes as the crab meat actually absorbs some of the bread crumb mixture.
8) In a 10" cast iron or stainless steel skillet/frying pan over medium heat, pour in two tablespoons olive oil.
9) Pat off excess bread crumbs and place 4 crab cakes in the skillet. Lightly fry until done (internal temperature should be 155 F), approximately 4 minutes per side. Turn carefully with a spatula as the interior is moist and fragile.

For the remoulade, you need:

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (use one tablespoon if you want it mild)
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce (or ketchup)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teapoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (or 1 teaspoon Tobasco sauce)
1/2 teapoon garlic, minced
kosher salt

1) Put all ingredients into a bowl with the mayonnaise going first, forming a bed for the others.
2) Stir to combine.
3) Season with salt to taste.
4) Store in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to serve.

There are endless variations on crab cakes and serving sauces, and Tom Douglas provides recipes to suit all tastes. I may next try one from the Global/New Wave Crab Cakes chapter in which crab cakes are made using fresh ginger and are coated with coconut - perfect for a Kiwi Summer barbeque. Presently, I prefer this classic American crab cake with an intense and sweet crab taste, highlighted by the herbs and made piquant with the remoulade. Of course, you could always dip them in a cocktail sauce, but I adore the spiciness of horseradish. We served our crab cakes with lamb's lettuce (mâche), providing a mild and velvety contrast to the crab cakes when not smothered with remoulade.
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Sunday, September 09, 2007


Savoury Aubergine "Jam"

I became a convert to aubergine (eggplant) many moons ago after I ate a deconstructed vegetarian lasagne at the now-defunct Skoozi on Victoria Road in Devonport. I have no idea what has happened to the head chef or the proprietor of this great establishment, but my love for aubergine has only grown.

Some people I know cannot stand it, finding the skin rubbery and the flesh strangely spongy. But perhaps they just haven't chosen the right ones at the market or grocery store. There are many varieties: some white, others deep, dark purple; some long and slender, and others with the curves of an hour-glass. Despite the variety, selecting aubergine isn't brain science, so there is no reason to not enjoy this delectable member of the solanaceae family (along with tomatillo, tomato, and gooseberry, to name a few). Look for aubergines with firm, unyielding skin that is shiny. In terms of colouring, ensure that there is no green (unless, of course, they are a variety in which the colour green is part of its make-up, such as ball-shaped Thai eggplant); they should be uniform in colour or pattern (the zébrine variety is zebra-striped white and violet) from the stem to the blossom end. If you pick aubergines that are 6-8oz in weight, you will not have to slice and salt them to extract the bitterness, for they contain fewer seeds.

Aubergine is incredibly flexible. It is just at home as part of a mezze as it is in a main dish, and it is also a highlight of both hot and cold dishes. Native to India, aubergine is a key ingredient of dishes all over the subcontinent as well as Asia and along the coasts of the Mediterranean. One of my favourite preparations of Japanese aubergine is what my angelheart Eric's mother calls Eggplant with Basil, in which half-moon shapped slices of eggplant are first lightly sautéed and then cooked off with garlic in a bath of soy sauce. I am also partial to Mediterranean preparations: the Sicilian Caponata, a sweet and sour relish; Baba Ghanouj, a Lebanese dip of aubergine and tahini; and Patlicanli Pilav, a sweet, sexy Turkish pilaf in which aubergine is baked before being combined with sauteed onions, pine nuts, and rice into which is tossed currants, cinnamon and allspice.

Not quite an aubergine caviar, for this recipe does not require one make a purée, but it is a soft spread that one can smear over toasted bread. If you choose an aubergine that is larger than 8oz, peel and slice the aubergine according to the following recipe, and then salt it generously and allow to sit in a colander for an hour. After said time has elapsed, rinse the slices of aubergine and dry thorougly. This will ensure extraction of bitterness. The dish can be served warm or at room temperature.

Savoury Aubergine "Jam"
(Adapted from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets)

1 pound aubergine
sea salt
pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 chile de arból, dried, seeds removed, and thinly sliced
1/2-1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon star anise powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander/cilantro
2 tablespoons coriander/cilantro, finely chopped
juice of 1/2 small lemon

1) Peel wide ribbons of the aubergine skin, then slice into 1cm/1/2" rounds.
2) Heat olive oil in a large sautée pan.
3) Over medium-high heat, add aubergine slices and brown on both sides - approximately 15 minutes.
4) Add garlic and chile de arból and let it meld with the aubergine for one minute.
5) Turn heat down to medium and add 1/2 cup water, star anise powder and ground coriander. Mash the aubergine with the tines of a fork until broken into a jam-like consistency. Add more water to help break it down. If there is too much water left once consistency is reached, turn up the heat to evaporate it quickly.
6) Stir in the chopped cilantro and lemon juice before serving.

This is a smoky spread, augmented by the toasted bread of one's choice. I love the crunchy texture of the bread juxtaposed by the soft aubergine jam. The spices and fresh coriander and lemon provide overall balance and interest. For me, this makes a great addition to mezze, but, on its own, this is light and healthy late-Summer lunch.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007


Orange and Rosemary Ice Cream

Berries, stone fruit, and ice cream are generally the chosen sweet treats for Summer. They are luscious and cooling, their juices or creaminess rehydrate the thirsty beings that we become. In the blogosphere, there have been so many great ice cream, sorbet and gelato posts over the Summer. The only one I have posted is by way of my book review of Nigella Lawson's How To Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food, from which I lifted Marcella Hazan's chocolate ice cream - or, quite simply, The World's Best Chocolate Ice Cream - which has caramel beaten into it, giving the ice cream heft and depth.

I'm surprised, actually, that I have not written more posts on ice cream, for my angelheart Eric and I eat it throughout the year. I don't think in all of my life there has been a time in which at least a quart of ice cream cannot be found in the freezer - except other than when I spent some months living in France back in 1997. New Zealanders are amongst the largest consumers of ice cream in the world, so it is no wonder, then, that ice cream is on the grocery list if I have not taken the little time needed to make it myself.

To understand better the method, I would prefer to devote time to the various techniques and what seems to be changing quantities of liquid. Time, however, is of the essence and is not something I presently have in surplus (and I won't have it until after mid-December, when my Master's thesis is due). In the course of some quick reading here and there, I have come across a method that I had forgotten about. This method involves stirring firm whipping/double cream into a cooled custard. You need the cream anyway (unless you're making ice cream from yoghurt), so it may as well be as luxurious as is possible. The custard is always the perplexing thing, for the number of egg yolks to whole/full fat milk and sugar always varies. Perhaps the only thing that ultimately changes is the volume that is produced at the end, and I have just to work out the formula. year. What also makes a difference to the volume, and the reason for which I make ice cream at home in the first place, is that too much air provides too light an ice cream, which is the problem I have with commercial ice creams, even the top-shelf kind, however velvety they are. An ice cream maker for home does the job beautifully, saving one on labour, but also ensuring not too much air is whipped into the product.

What should also be whipped into the product is something aromatic. Most of us lovingly use herbs and spices in the kitchen, and the more I spend time cooking, the more intimately I want to know how fragrant flora can be applied to various dishes. In fact, I almost always want to add at least one to any dish I make - even ice cream. The inspiration for today's ice cream comes from a couple of sources. The first is Diana Henry's enchanting Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons in which she offers a custard-base ice cream of Lemon and Basil. The combination of herb and citrus started me off quite squarely. I forgot I was making ice cream and just thought about the herb and citrus combinations I love best: tarragon and orange, sweet basil and lime, thyme and lemon, cilantro/corriander and grapefruit, bay leaf and kumquat. The second inspirational source is Jerry Traunfeld's
The Herbal Kitchen and his soft-set (that is to say, milk and cream-based ice cream) Strawberry Rose Geranium Ice Cream. This made me think to look outside in the garden and find what we have growing there now. How could I have forgotten rosemary? This is the herb that I loved most as a kid (well, that and marjoram, which features prominently in the potato salad that is on the family buffet table at every Christmas lunch). In retrospect, it seems so at odds with my mother's suburban garden of ferns, roses, Birds of Paradise. Perhaps that is why I liked it. Always fragrant and always available, it seemed other-worldly to me. Even now it has the power to transport. Rosemary also has the tendency to taste acrid once it hits hot liquid. The key is to allow it to steep in milk that has already been brought to the boiling point and to not use too much.

Making custard can be frightening all because once the egg yolk looks like it is curdling, one has to act promptly to save it. Either keep beside the stove a bowl of iced water large enough to hold your saucepan or have enough cold water and chunks of ice in a sink to come halfway up the side of your saucepan. Should the egg yolks look like they are curdling, lift your saucepan and place it in a vessel with iced-water and whisk like mad until it comes together again. You could also take the saucepan directly off the heat, dump in a few ice cubes, and, again, whisk furiously. Once stable, put back on the heat until the custard is finished. You may lose some volume because of this, but it is better than having no custard base at all. This stressful procedure can be circumvented altogether by making the custard in a bain marie or by setting the element to medium-low, as opposed to medium, which will mean it could take up to 30 minutes to complete. Remember, you are making a custard base, so it doesn't have to be set solid. A slightly thick set will suffice. The setting can be tested by running your finger down the back of the spoon. If the line left remains clear, like the parted Red Sea, then the custard base is done.

This ice cream recipe makes enough for 1 quart.

Orange and Rosemary Ice Cream

10 fl. oz/1 1/4 cups whole/full fat milk
3 sprigs rosemary, each approximately 15cm/7" long
rind of 1 orange, cut into strips, pith removed
5 1/2 oz/slightly more than 1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
juice of 1 orange, strained
5oz/ 1/2 cup whipping/double cream

1) Bring milk to the boiling point, then take off the heat.
2) Add rosemary sprigs and orange rind to boiled milk. Cover and allow to steep for 40 minutes to one hour.
3) Beat sugar and egg yolks together until pale and fluffy.
4) Strain the rosemary and orange-infused milk into the sugar and yolk mixture. Stir to incorporate. Pour into a saucepan.
5) Make a custard by continuously whisking over medium heat until thickened, then stir with a wooden spoon until the back of it is well coated. Over a medium heat, this should not take much more than 10-15 minutes.
6) Pour into another bowl, cool, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.
7) Stir orange juice into the custard.
8) Lightly beat the whipping/double cream until gently thickened (no stiff peaks), then fold into the custard base.
9) Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions or still-freeze (whizz in a blender or use a hand-held beater once every hour for three hours to prevent ice crystals from forming).

This is an incredibly mellow, though tantalising ice cream. The rosemary is not at all overly pronounced - in fact, you might have to work at it to guess that it is there at all. One knows, though, that orange is not the sole flavour at work. You could, of course, be more daring and add a few more sprigs, but I personally prefer the rosemary lazing about in the background, letting the warming and zesty attributes of the orange take centre stage. This is dreamy, subtle, and somehow perfectly summery, despite the fact that orange is a Winter fruit.

Other ice cream posts:
Dried Fig and Coffee Ice Cream
Stem Ginger and Spice Ice Cream

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