I had a very quiet holiday. I even took a few naps. Something I never do. I do not know why, cause it is actually quite nice. I also walked the dog, played with the cats, smiled at obnoxious taxi drivers and spend quite a few hours on the couch researching new ideas with food. When a much-anticipated brown box filled with weird powders and strange kitchen tools arrived from afar, I set up camp in the kitchen and started cooking. For about a week, I did nothing but cook. Okay, I did take breaks: to feed the pets, water the garden and rush to the shops to get more ingredients.
My family cannot be regarded as adventurous eaters. Nope. So this Christmas I loaded the table with Asian dishes: slow-roasted pork belly with five spice and ginger ketchup, pickled radishes, shiitake mushrooms pickled in soy, rice vinegar and fresh ginger, chicken poached in a master stock served with sweet chili dipping sauce and a fish sauce and palm sugar syrup, green papaya salad with sticky lime and chili dressing, coconut rice, a fresh prawn salad and kimchi gel. Nervous that I have push them too far, I served loads of ice cream for dessert.
I am happy to report that to date, no one reported excessive dread or minor disease, so I guess it was a success. Well, sort of – we do not really communicate our feelings all that well.
After a full day of doing the dishes and another resting on the couch, I was in need of another small project.
I had been playing around with ice cream a lot over the holidays, so I decided it was time to share my progress with others. The enthusiastic responses to my call for tasters drove my straight to a mild nervous breakdown (it always does) and I headed of to the nearest liquor store (as I always do). I grabbed some absinthe (I have not seen the little green fairies in quite a while), some Muscat and Port wine, vodka and local prickly pear snapps.
The key to making good ice cream surrounded by copious amounts of alcohol is not to drink the booze, but to add it to the cold treats to boost flavour and to produce a smoother texture.
From the super market I got fresh and flash frozen fruits, glucose, sugar, vanilla, chocolate, tea, eggs, nuts, milk and cream and a good head of cauliflower.
Along the way, I stopped for some dry ice.
Back home I retrieved some chicken skin from the fridge and from the kitchen cupboard, some isomalt, pectin, malic acid, xanthan gum, guar gum and gellan.
For the next two days I did little more than make and taste small batches of ice cream and sorbet. The neighbours complained fiercely about the unrelenting squeal of the stand mixer and the pets took refuge outside under the garden table to escape the ever-growing cloud of dry ice smoke.
I could not be bothered. I was in the zone right in the middle of that cloud.
The Muscat wine was added to some egg yolks and sugar to create a classic Zabaglione gelato with fresh strawberries stirred through. Mom’s fresh figs were baked with honey and some Port wine, and added to a simple custard for a lovely fig and honey ice cream. Flash frozen raspberries were pulverized and strained; pectin and glucose were added to make the freshest sorbet. Fresh mangoes were peeled, and processed with some water, sugar and lime juice and I got to suck the pips.
I wanted at least two elements of surprise for my tasters. First, I mixed prickly pear syrup with some frozen raspberries and malic acid to balance the sweetness of the syrup. Next, I added some gellan gum and whisked the mixture into a fluid gel. Churned it to the right frozen consistency. Scooped a little into a bowl, and poured some Calvados (French apple brandy) over and set it alight. Vola! A flaming sorbet that does not melt!
The stretchable Turkish ice cream, Dondurma, has fascinated me for ages. Time to put Dave Arnold of the French Culinary Institute recipe to the test. The key is to produce a stretchable fluid gel, hence in goes the gellan gum and some guar gum. Once the mixture is set, it is sheared, churned and frozen. To my great delight (and that of the tasters I might add) the texture was like that of fresh, stretchy cookie dough. It stretched and when I dipped it in sugar and put a blowtorch to it, it bruleed perfectly.
Most people must have regarded our little congregation at a local pub a little suspicious: ten adults and one child meeting on a Friday afternoon to eat ice cream.
In total, we consumed nearly eight kilograms of ice cream that day. Everyone had a very good time, and even though I was dead tired and the pets remained suspicious of the stand mixer for a few more days, I was really happy that my ice cream had such a positive impact.
My year had started well. I hope yours did too.