April 27, 2009

Herby 'Griddle Cakes'

In all honesty, this recipe came about in my attempt to create a bit of interesting 'stodge' to go with our very spicy bean stew. I didn't want the usual boring potatoes or rice and bread was of course out of the question. So inspiration struck from the Venezuelan classic arepa - a grilled round 'pancake' made of a type of corn flour similar to masa harina, but specially meant for arepas. This mini corn pancake tastes amazing on its own, or classically stuffed with cheese or shredded meats almost like a taco, but many arepas are served with spicy stews to offset the multitude of flavours already competing for your taste-buds and to provide more weight to a vegetarian or meat-minimal dish.

This recipe then is a cross between Southern U.S 'griddle cakes' and South American arepas with a few European herbs thrown into the mix for a deeper flavour.

3 eggs
1 heaped tsp dried oregano leaves
1 heaped tsp dried or fresh rosemary leaves ground or chopped very finely
2 tbsps olive oil

Whisk the above together then prepare the flour mixture:

1/3 cup potato starch
2/3 cup polenta/cornmeal
1/3 cup rice flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder (gluten free)

*3/4 cups milk (see instructions below)

Mix the flours together then add to the egg mixture and gradually whisk in by starting from the centre, incorporating the flour from around the outside. When the mixture starts to stiffen then add *1/4 cup milk, keep whisking until it starts to stiffen and then add the next 1/4 cup milk, whisk, then follow with the last 1/4 cup.

Heat the frying pan on low-medium heat. Brush some oil onto the pan. To stop the pan from smoking too much simply cook 4 griddle cakes at one time to reduce exposed surface area- this will also give you nice and small cakes. Keep them warm on a plate in the oven on the lowest heat setting until ready to serve. They are best eaten fresh and can be toasted any other time for a quick snack- try it with melted cheese on top.

Enjoy :)

April 19, 2009

Green Tea Ice Cream with Honey and Vanilla Bean

This Christmas saw the introduction of an appliance that's been 'desperately' required in my kitchen for a while- an ice cream machine! After years of attempting to make perfect ice cream with no machine, and certainly with no perfect results, I came to the conclusion that an ice cream machine is completely necessary for the ice-cream obsessed.

Without a machine you are committed to being home once every hour to stir the ice cream to achieve the desired smooth consistency. However, if you don't work from home, then finding a day that allows you to be available this often is quite a rare occurrence.

A Cuisinart ice cream machine is the answer! It's stylish with clean lines and a smooth exterior true to the ice cream it produces. It's simply designed, and that means less moving parts, so there is less chance of breakage and the need for maintenance. This way it should last for a very long time. I've used it every few weeks since Christmas and definitely our consumption of ice cream has increased, but because I only make small batches (lots of small batches = more experimentation!) we then eat less of it at any one time- and it all works out!

Not all experimentations in 2009 have been successful, but there are a few recipes that did work and are very worth mentioning, such as rich coffee ice cream, chocolate and spice, coffee-chocolate (coming soon!), and this one:

Green tea (Matcha) ice cream flavoured with honey and vanilla bean. The flavours work really well together and surprisingly the honey, although I only used a small amount, really came through when the ice cream was completely frozen. In its 'soft-serve' state the honey is less vivid but still enjoyable.

As with most ice creams, start by making a simple custard:

- In a small pan on low to medium heat, heat 250ml whipping cream with half a cup medium-fat milk (2% or semi-skimmed).
- To the cream add the seeds and the pod of half a vanilla bean. The other half of the vanilla pod can be stored in an airtight container for another time.

- In a mixing bowl combine 100g caster sugar or Fairtrade/organic sugar with 3 egg yolks and whisk until the mixture is pale yellow in colour. To this add slightly less than 1 tbsp matcha (fine green tea powder) and stir until any lumps dissolve.

- When the cream mixture is heated through add 2 tbsps of mild honey then remove from the heat and pour through a sieve into the egg mixture quickly stirring with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
- Return to the pan and heat on a low heat for about 10 minutes, frequently stirring until the custard has thickened. You will need to watch the custard closely. When you can draw a line through the custard on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon then the custard will be ready.

Once thickened remove the custard from the heat and be sure to cool it to at least blood temperature before adding it to the ice cream machine. I have noticed that either the honey or the matcha powder seems to stop the ice cream from freezing as fast as it normally does within the machine, so if after 25 minutes the ice cream is still in a 'soft-serve' state, then transfer to a container and complete the freezing in the freezer. With a bit of patience wait until the next day and you will have scrumptious, silky smooth honeyed green tea and vanilla ice cream.