Saigon Chai Ice Cream

Adapted from Simply Recipes Chai Ice Cream, this version uses Saigon Chai tea from David’s Tea. I served it as the grand finale of the Indian feast I prepared for Dr. T’s birthday supper, earlier this week.
If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, there are plenty of Internet sites with non-machine methods, including David Lebovitz’s, so there’s nothing stopping you! If you DO have a machine, don’t forget to freeze the bowl well in advance.
Whether you have a machine or not, this is not a fast process – I started mine first thing in the morning, did the machine churning mid-afternoon, and had perfect ice cream late evening.
1 star anise star
1/4 cup Saigon Chai tea
1 cup of milk
2 cups heavy cream (divided, 1 cup and 1 cup)
3/4 cup sugar
A pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
1 In a heavy saucepan, heat the 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of the cream, the star anise and the chai until steamy (not boiling) and hot to the touch. Lower the heat to warm, cover, and let stand for about one hour. Don’t worry if it seems really strong – once it’s frozen, it’ll be perfect.
2 Use a fine mesh strainer to strain out the tea and spices, pouring the infused milk cream mixture into a separate bowl. Return the milk cream mixture back to the heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the sugar to the milk cream mixture and heat, stirring, until the sugar is fully dissolved.
3 Meanwhile, prepare the remaining 1 cup of cream over an ice bath. Pour the cream into a medium size metal bowl, set in ice water (with lots of ice) over a larger bowl. Set a mesh strainer on top of the bowls. Set aside.
4 Whisk the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl. VERY slowly, pour the heated milk cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that the egg yolks are tempered by the warm mixture, but not cooked by it. Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
5 Return the saucepan to the stove, stirring the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon so that you can run your finger across the coating and have the coating not run. This can take about 10-15 minutes. AS SOON AS IT THICKENS, the mixture should be removed from heat and poured through the sieve over the ice bath to stop the cooking.
6 Pour the custard through the strainer (from step 2) and stir into the cold cream to stop the cooking. Once it’s cooled, chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours.
7 Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
8 Store in an airtight container in your freezer for several hours before eating. Note that the ice cream will be quite soft coming out of the ice cream maker. It will continue harden in your freezer. If stored for more than a day, you may need to let it sit for a few minutes to soften before attempting to scoop it.
Makes 1 quart.

The wired kitchen

My kitchen, as some of you know, is filled with cookbooks – in fact, I can’t help but picture my overloaded shelves of cookbooks anytime someone seems skeptical about a vegetarian kitchen. Believe me, there’s plenty to do without meat!
Some of those cookbooks are indispensible – the Rose Elliot Complete Vegetarian, the Moosewood collection, and the The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook, for instance, all of which are consulted almost weekly. Others are great to have on hand for “special” occasions, and others are, sadly, very rarely cracked open.
We’ve been experimenting with the Jamie Oliver, finding ways to un-meat his recipes, and with great success. The chicken tofu chow mein is great, and tonight we’re trying his British beef ground round and onion pie.
Despite the ridiculous number of cookbooks, or perhaps because of it, we’re also trying to go digital in the kitchen. We are wirelessly online, and thanks to the vast array of cooking sites, it’s pretty easy to crack open a laptop instead of a book. One of my favourite sites is Epicurious, which features recipes from a decade of Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines, and has a great search engine, as well as members’ recipe boxes, excellent commenters, and mouth-watering photos, not to mention wine pairings and elaborate – or not so – menus.
My most recent Epicurious experiment was Chilaquiles – the tomatillos required are a green version of the yellow ground tomatoes* that are readily available this time of year at our local market. The recipe instructions for this one are misleading, though, so if you make it, read through first. I suggest blanching the tomatillos and the sweet potatoes while frying the tortillas, for instance; the instructions make it sound like everything has to be done one step at a time, which would mean a much longer process.
*Another fantastic site is the Cook’s Thesaurus; thanks to CT, I knew what to get for ‘tomatillos’! Half my cookbooks are from the UK, and the terms are not always the same as we use in Canada or the States (courgettes/zucchini, for instance). I also love Indian recipes, and frequently find myself consulting CT for insight into the required ingredients. CT is also a wonderful resource in a bilingual city – it’s often very handy to know alternative names for products when the grocer’s first language is not English.
Any cookbooks and/or cooking web site you can’t live without?

See the world through multicoloured glasses

Sometimes cheap ends up being brilliant – for instance, my latest (and only) party tip: if you’re serving cocktails, hit your local charity shop(s) ahead of time and buy an assortment of glasses.
The key is to deliberately mismatch the glasses – there should be no two the same. Come partytime, each guest gets to choose a unique glass, and keep track of it all evening.
Once the party is over, you can store the glasses for another time, or simply bring them right back to the charity shop. Either way, you can feel (a) brilliant for finding a simple way to tell everyone’s drinks apart and (b) virtuous for reusing someone else’s cast-off glassware and supporting local charities.

Avocado & Mango Salsa

I’ve made this for a few gatherings now, and inevitably at least one person requests – nay, demands – the recipe, so here it is. It is in fact remarkably easy, particularly if you cheat with the mango and use the frozen chunks (I tend to have lots on had because I use them for my cereal, fruit and yoghurt breakfast concoction). The key is to be generous with the coriander and ginger, and use fresh avocado. I am delighted that the fruit & veg guys at the local farmers’ market know their alligator pears pretty well, and can always find me a couple at just the right stage.
• 1 perfectly ripe avocado
• Half a red onion
• 1 mango (see note below)
• Small bunch of fresh coriander (I tend to be generous in my definition of “small”)
• One red chili, and/or one jalapeno pepper (decide based on how hot you want the salsa to be)
• 1” piece of ginger (again, be generous in your estimate here)
• Dash of Tabasco
(Note: I use 1 cup frozen mango chunks instead of a fresh mango – don’t even bother thawing if you’re making this ahead of time. In fact, if you’re making this for a picnic, use frozen fruit so it stays cool in transit.)
Chop everything into large chunks, then toss everything into the food processor, and whiz everything together until you have the consistency you want – you can go chunky or smooth! If you’re using the frozen fruit, it’s a little harder to chop the mango into recognizable pieces, and you’ll probably end up with a bright green puree rather than a colourful melange. If you want true chunks, forgo the processor and get out the sharp knife.
Serve with anything that you’d serve with tomato-based salsa, such as tortilla chips, pita toasts, or frittata.

Not-so-innocent whites

In our house, you really can’t go wrong with red wine, particularly a nice New World Syrah or Grenache – but we’re big on whites, too (well, really, we’re just big on wine, and sticking to one colour would be far too limiting).
White wine was actually taboo for quite some time with me, due primarily to a regrettable prom night during which I tried to look sophisticated by drinking white wine. Not only did I not achieve the desired sophistication credit, I awoke with enough headache for three people, and what I thought was a lifelong aversion to white wine.
Then I discovered oaky Chardonnay.
It turns out that there are many, many white wines out there, and not all of them are horribly cheap house wines served in small town bars. It’s true that in the dead of winter, a nice, deep red seems like the way to go, wine-wise, but we do have a few suggestions, starting with the oaky Chardonnay that sparked the whole rediscovery process…

Continue reading “Not-so-innocent whites”

Use-up-the-bananas Brownies

In our house, bananas are popular – but it’s not uncommon to end up with two or three very sad looking bananas at the end of the week. What to do, what to do…
This is kind of a cheat, but at least it’s an alternative to yet another loaf of banana bread.
2 or 3 sad bananas
1 pkge brownie or cake mix
oil and eggs as per the cake mix instructions (if it calls for 3 eggs, use 2)
1 cup walnuts/choc chips/raisins
Use the food processor to mash the bananas, adding the oil and eggs. Once the banana mash is uniform, mix it into the dry cake mix, adding the nuts or alternative at the end.
Bake according to the cake mix instructions – mine took 25 minutes for a 9″ pan.
I plan on experimenting with this one, not least because I happen to have a box of white cake mix in the cupboard. I think it’s probably possible to add things like oats, but time will tell.
In the meantime, tell me – what do you do with your sad bananas?

It is easy, right?

As I tossed a handful of chopped fresh cilantro into the hot and soup soup I’m making for tonight’s supper, the thought crossed my mind that this soup, like so many of my stand-by recipes, is really easy. In fact, when I posted the recipe, I called it Hot & Sour & Easy.
Then I started to second guess myself. Not about the cooking that was actually underway, but about the casual “oh, that’s easy” attitude I have to most of the things I cook. Initially, I thought, well, it’s really just a matter of having a well-equipped kitchen and a well-stocked pantry – and these are certainly essential to the process, as I have mentioned in previous ramblings.
But then I thought about baking.
I have a well-stocked kitchen – a whole cupboard, in fact referred to in our family as “the baking cupboard”, filled with different flours, different sugars, different rising agents, different baking pans, and different dried things to throw in to one’s cookies/breads/muffins/cakes.
I have a well-equipped kitchen – a Kitchenaid stand mixer, a large oven with convection, whisks in a variety of shapes and sizes, a digital scale, and so on.
Yet the thought of baking, while it does not, perhaps, fill me with dread, certainly does not appeal to me the way cooking does. I love to cook, but I barely like to bake. My cakes are not spectacular. My cookies tend to be on one side or the other of ‘just right.’ My bread is great – but that’s because I let the Ferrari of breadmakers take care of it.
I do not bake to relax (which is probably just as well, at least as far as my waistline is concerned). Baking is not easy.
And custard is just plain mean.
So, when it comes to cooking, I wonder if the things that I think are easy are, in fact, not, really, or at least not for everyone.
And that led me to wonder two things about you (i.e, the two or three people who actually read my posts all the way to the end):
1. What do you find easy that other people might not?
2. What do you find perpetually not so easy?


According to a Spanish adage, good wine ruins the purse; bad wine ruins the stomach. When it comes to red wines, bad wine is truly bad, often for the stomach and head, because the tannins in cheap wine (or, as we connoisseurs say, “Chateau du Depanneur) are sometimes seed-based. Red wine is red at least in part because of the tannins, but in better wines, the grapes are crushed rather than pressed, so the tannins come mainly from the grape skins, not the seeds. The seed-based tannins can be quite harsh, and are responsible for many a regretful morning after.
We’ve discovered, thankfully, that we can still enjoy good red wine without ruining our purse. In fact, when I first broached the idea of a column of our “Top Five Affordable Reds,” Dr. T. looked thoughtful for a moment, then pronounced that the hardest part would be narrowing it down to only five. After some negotiation, we decided we wanted a list with a range of prices and nations. So, without further ado, this is our
Top Five Reds Under $20

Continue reading “RED HOT AND CHEAP”

Double-edged sword

It occurred to me, following the potimarron post, that I have a kitchen tip:
This is a grapefruit knife. It is, as you may know, serrated along both edges, and curved at the tip, which makes it easy to cut the wedges out of your half-grapefruit.
That’s not my tip.
I use my grapefruit knife to deseed squash – works a treat! Just halve your squash and insert the blade into the flesh and saw around the seed/pulp pocket. For a squash with a small pocket, like a butternut or potimarron, you should be able to get the whole pocket in one go, and pop it out intact.
You can use a similar technique with larger squash, like pumpkins, working in sections.

Recent acquisition #1: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

In the past week, three new and exciting things have found their way into my kitchen: a book, a machine, and an ingredient.
The first of these is Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. I am a Jamie fan. Although I’ve never watched any of his television shows (I think I caught ten minutes of one), I have eaten at his Italian restaurant three times, and loved the experience – Not just the food, but the ambience, the great balance between old-school cookery and high-tech gadgetry, and one of the best Pimm’s & lemonade I’ve ever tasted. (Of course, I do object to the title The Naked Chef. There is no nudity – it’s a crock-tease.)
I also like his philosophy, and how he puts his money where his mouth is. He believes that low income is not an excuse for bad food; nor is no time, no skill, no experience, and so on. He goes to schools in the UK and teaches the children about nutrition, and teaches the cooking staff how to make better, more nutritious food on the same budget.
One of the best meals I had at the restaurant was his Penne Arrabiata, which I’ve mentioned before. I liked it so much that I went and found it online, and from there, discovered some of his other recipes, many of which are from his book Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food, which supplements his television show of the same name.

Continue reading “Recent acquisition #1: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”