Sunday, 16 September 2007

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

What to do with all these strawberries that we bought from Prahran Markets? Paul suggested making Strawberry Ice-cream, which sounded like a brilliant idea. But how to mix the strawberries into the ice-cream was the question. Do we pulp the berries & add them? Do we coarsely chop them and run the risk of frozen berry lumps attacking the teeth? Or do we make a strawberry jam & use the jam as flavouring in the ice-cream?
The picture in the previous post should have been a give away – we went with the last idea. Half a kilo of fresh strawberries made into some divine jam. I purposely left it a bit syrupy so that it would combine better with the ice-cream. The higher sugar content of the cooked berries would also help prevent them from freezing into solid lumps.

500g strawberries, cleaned & cut in to quarters
500g castor sugar
6 free range egg yolks
600ml cream (35% milk fat)
40g vanilla sugar


To make the jam: place the berries in a saucepan, add the sugar and cook over a medium heat, until the berries have lost most of their moisture content. The syrup should be nice and thick. A small teaspoon will set when tested on a cold plate.
Be careful not to over cook the berries, as they will end up with a burnt, caramel taste. Pour the jam into sterilized jars & let cool.

To make the ice-cream base: This is a classic Crème Anglaise, place the cream in to a saucepan and heat till it just starts to bubble. Meantime beat the egg yolks and vanilla sugar till light & fluffy. Add the heated cream slowly to the egg mixture whisking crazily to thoroughly combine the two mixtures.
Pour back into the saucepan & return to a low heat stirring constantly till it thickens.
Strain through a fine sieve to a cold bowl & keep stirring to help remove the heat from the mixture. I have also read that you can place the bowl in chilled water to help cool it.
Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Once cooled, add a few spoonfuls of your fresh strawberry jam, how much depends on your taste buds & your sweet tooth. I used about 100ml of the jam.
Mix thoroughly, cover & leave over night in the fridge.
Next day pour the mixture into an ice-cream churn & churn till it thickens & starts setting. Pour this into a clean container & place into the freezer to set totally.
Serves 4. Needless to say, eat as quickly as possible while its fresh.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Making Pasta

Yes, my partner Paul, has managed to teach me the mysterious Italian art of pasta making.
Having attempted this Italian art in times gone by, and failing miserably, I was wary when Paul decided to break me in. Having learnt from his grandmother, Paul decided to pass on the secret to me. And I responded to the challenge!
I was eased into this mysterious art by learning the basic formula:
Italian Tipo 00 flour
Free range eggs at room temperature
100g flour = 1 egg
Sounds simple? Yes. The trick is making it all work together.
Italian Tipo 00 flour is a finely ground flour that is ideal for making pastas. I have tried the Australian Tipo 00 but while it was easier to work the texture, once cooked, wasn’t as good as the Italian flour. (actually, it was horrible- Paul)
I usually use 200g of flour in which I then gently combine 2 eggs. This is done on the bench. As the eggs and flour combine; you start working it eventually kneading the formed dough. This is a very tactile exercise where the feel of the dough is very important. I’ve found the dough should be ever so slightly tacky, just so you can barely feel it sticking to you fingers. Add some flour a little at a time if you feel that the dough is too tacky. You don’t want the dough to be too dry either, as it will become difficult to knead. Keep kneading the dough till it looks and feels completely smooth, “as smooth as babies skin” I’m told….
Once you have reached this point, wrap the dough tightly in cling film and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.
Now the fun starts.
Set up your pasta machine. If you don’t have one I guess you could use the rolling pin (or use the rolling pin on your partner & get them to buy a pasta machine).
Divide the dough into 3 roughly equal portions. Keep 2 of the portions wrapped in cling wrap so they don’t dry out. Press out the portion on a floured bench top. Make sure both sides of the flattened dough are dusted with flour. While the dough was kneaded, the tackiness was important. Tackiness here is the enemy of the pasta machine (trust me or you will be cleaning the insides of the machine). Pass the dough through the largest setting on the machine. Then fold the dough in half. Dust the outsides if it’s feeling tacky, and pass through the machine again. Repeat this 10 (yes 10) times- this is important as it helps work the dough to an ultra smooth consistency.
Now we start winding up the settings, dusting the dough if needed between each pass through the machine. If at some stage you feel the length of the dough is getting unwieldy, cut it in half.
I’ve found from experience that any higher than the 3rd last setting, makes the pasta too thin, leading to it disintegrating rather than being coated in sauce.
Once you have reached this stage, place the rolled out dough on a floured surface & dust with additional flour.
Repeat this with the remaining portions.

Leave the pasta sheets to dry for about 15-20minute. You can trim these sheets & use them for lasagna, or you can pass them through the cutters on the machine making tagliatelle or tagliarini. After each sheet of pasta is cut, wrap the pasta around your hand & then slide it off to form a little nest. Dust the cut pasta with flour & set aside till you are ready to use.

To cook your pasta, have a large pot of salted water boiling (use the biggest pot you have). Test the cooking time with a few strands of pasta. It should only take seconds, a minute at most, to cook, depending on how long you have let it dry. With fresh pasta it’s pretty much, in then straight out. It should be strong enough to be able to be picked up with a fork without breaking. It will be delicate and silky in texture, poles apart from commercial pasta. They are different products and should not be compared.
Drain the cooked pasta & toss with some butter (or oil if need be) before combining with the sauce.
You will find that homemade pasta has a different texture to commercial dry pasta. Once you have tried & mastered the process, you’ll be amazed & addicted. A 2 egg pasta makes enough for 3 decent serves.