I break tradition
Sometimes my tries
Are outside the lines
We've been conditioned
To not make mistakes
But I can't live that way, no
~ Lyrics from Unwritten, Natasha Bedingfield
My friend Nancy of Spicie Foodie blog is currently running a fun recipe contest with a giveaway which runs until July 27, 2011. The winner she eventually chooses will win a copy of her brimming-with-spices cookbook, An Epiphany of the Senses and the great news is, it's open to everyone. Yep, all of us on this planet are eligible to enter. Well, the catch is that you'd have to write up a post featuring a recipe that makes Nancy hungry and also uses several of your favorite spices. If it's your original creation, all the better!
Much as I would like to enter the giveaway, I already have two versions (a paperback and PDF) of her cookbook, so it's only fair for me to step aside and let someone else have a chance of winning it. Nevertheless, I couldn't resist doing a post of a 'Spicie' recipe that incorporates several of my often-utilised spices. Unlike me though, Nancy is not much of a dessert girl but I'm going to try to bend her tastebuds with this particular ice cream.
My ice cream machine and I have finally warmed up to each other and I've been churning ice cream on a daily basis, with exciting flavor combinations that make my in-house peeps look at me as if I'd suddenly lost my mind! Well, I happen to think that the pairings work really well together but I may just have very forgiving tastebuds. Although I hope that's so not the case.
Right now, I seem to be suffering from what looks like a phase of ice cream-induced insomnia. For the past two weeks, I've eaten, breathed and had delicious dreams of ice cream. And my ice cream recipe list is growing by the day, so far there are 15 types. I don't know how I'm going to blog about them all before the novelty starts to wears off or the ice cream season is finally over, whichever comes first.
Nancy's loving husband jokingly thinks that Mexicans (which Nancy is) put chilli, lime and salt on basically everything they eat. So to humor her, I decided to include these three ingredients in my frozen treat and added several of my own. In case you're starting to wonder, the spices I used in my ice cream are lemongrass, safflower and chilli, all bathed in a custard base of coconut milk.
My choice of lemongrass was not totally coincidental. It's a very versatile seasoning and due to its citrusy and sweet, grassy undertones, is used in many Asian (especially Thai) dishes. It is used less often in sweets or desserts, but its earthy, lemony flavor makes it a suitable spice for syrups, cakes, jellies and in this case, ice cream. So what do you do if you can't find fresh lemongrass? You can substitute 1 tablespoon of dried lemongrass for each fresh stalk. If dried isn't available, try several strips of lemon peel per stalk. I warn you, though, that the effect won't be quite the same, since lemongrass has a more subtle, delicate flavor than lemons or limes.
In many savory Thai dishes where lemongrass is used, you would often find it accompanied by chillies and lime. They taste so perfect together, the heat of the chillies criss-crossing the tartness of the citrus on the tongue. If there ever is a perfect threesome, these three ingredients would be it. And the coconut milk (as the custard base) would seal them in delicious matrimony for as long as the dish may last.
I wanted to highlight the supporting roles of the chilli and lime a bit more, so to start with, I made a sweet-sour lime syrup that could be poured over the ice cream just before serving. It gets the juices in the mouth going, all ready to absorb in the creaminess of the gelato. As for the chillies....I roasted one and kept the other one raw, and I tell you, they gave two different taste dimensions to the ice cream that could easily convince you they are not the same ingredient. Of course, I removed all the spicy seeds (because I'm chicken like that), but if you want to add that extra zing, keep some or all the seeds intact. Yes, go for it!
Hoping to add in an extra flavor, I also threw in some safflower petals, otherwise know as Turkish saffron, saffron thistle, or (this is my favorite) bastard saffron. However, like safflower oil, it has a very mild, almost undetectable accent, so all it really did here was give a pale yellowish tint to the custard. In other words, don't bother running out to buy some, you can leave it out of the recipe if you wish. If I had used saffron it would've made a world of difference, of course, but I just don't have any in stock.
To accompany the ice cream, I made flat, crunchy fingerlike cookies called Cat's Tongue, or en français, Langues de Chat. Normally they are plain, but mine were flavored with black sesame, yet another of my favorite spices. Langues de chats have rounded edges and skinny middles, resembling a cat's tongue (not that I've had the pleasure of inspecting our cat to prove this theory correct). The shape is made by squeezing the dough out of a pastry tube with a blob of dough at one end, followed by a streak and then another blob. The best thing is, these delicious and crisp cookies take only 5-6 six minutes to bake.
You see now how spices can 'spice' up your life? Hope you've enjoyed today's ice cream adventure with me. Remember, you don't have to always stay within the lines...
In the news today:
People of Norway, it's summertime and you shouldn't have to grieve like this. <3
Amy Winefield, R.I.P.
Lemongrass Chilli Lime Ice Cream with Black Sesame Langues de Chats
Makes about 2 cups
Lemongrass Chilli Lime Custard
2 lemongrass stalks
1/2 teaspoon dried safflower petals
1 ½ cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup caster sugar
2 egg yolks
2 large chillies
1 lime, lime zest only
1. Cut the lemongrass stalks in half lengthwise (use only the white part in the middle, 4-6cm from the base) and bruise them with a rolling pin. Place in a saucepan, add the safflower, coconut milk and salt and bring to just below boiling point. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about half an hour. Strain to remove the lemongrass and safflower.
2. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl with the sugar and cornflour until pale. Gradually add the coconut milk, whisking constantly.
3. Return mixture to the saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the custard thickens. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Chill for at least 2 hours in the fridge or 45 minutes in the freezer.
4. Cut the chillies lengthwise into half and remove the seeds. Take one chilli and chop into very small cubes, set aside. Roast the other chilli under a broiler oven for 10 minutes until parts of the outer skin is charred. Let cool completely, and cut into very small cubes/slices. Mix with the other raw chilli cubes and set aside.
4. Remove custard from fridge, stir the lime zest into the custard. Churn in an ice cream machine until thick (about 30 minutes). Stir in the chopped chillies, spoon into a container and freeze until firm. Let soften for 5-10 minutes on the counter before serving. Add a teaspoonful of lime syrup over the top and serve with black sesame langues de chat (below).
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup water
1 lime, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1. Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Boil for about 5 minutes without stirring.
2. Reduce the heat, add the lime slices and juice and simmer for another 5 minutes. Cool completely before using.
Black Sesame Langues de Chat
Makes: about 40-50 minis, 25-30 standard-sized
60g (1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon) unsalted butter, softened
60g (1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) caster sugar
2 egg whites
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons black sesame, finely ground
60g (1/2 cup) plain flour
extra sesame seeds, for decorating
1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white with a pinch of salt just until it starts foaming. Slowly add the egg white into the butter mixture, stirring it in as you add.
3. Add the black sesame and flour into the mixture, and gently mix with a spoon.
4. Transfer the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip. Pipe the mixture onto a baking sheet, leaving enough room between the strips for them to spread.
5. Bake for 5-8 minutes or until the edges are just slightly brown. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.