Saturday, 23 April 2016

No-Churn Strawberry & Banana Ice Cream: 4 ingredients and no added sugar

It seems the more I cook, the less I write about cooking.  If you were at school with me, it won't surprise you that I know this concept an inverse proportionality.  I looooved maths.  However, neither my cooking nor my writing is quantifiable enough to allow the involvement of the inverse square rule...

Hello?  Anyone still there? 

Right basically, while blog posts have been notable by their absence, my fridge, dry store and belly have been full to bursting lately.  I've been doing so much experimenting and note-making that my head spins when I lie in bed at night.  Writing about it all would probably do me the world of good.  I 'write' in my head all the time, but my moments of head-space are few and short, interrupted by chores, toddlerisms and general crappy life-min.  What can I say; it's been a long day!

On a cheerier note, the weather here has taken a turn for the better.  Here in the central east of Scotland, we really do experience four seasons in one day.  This morning, for example, the boys had sun hats on at the park one minute before diving under cover from hail stones the next.  No exaggeration.  Generally, though, things seem on the up, triggering the 'taps aff' at a crack of sun phenomenon and the sudden appearance of ice cream vendors from whence there was none.

While I will not be getting my tap aff this side of doomsday (not outside my bedroom anyway), I did join the ice cream brigade in my own, low-guilt way.  This sweet, soft, sickly-pink concoction is creamy, fruity and just the thing for those ten minutes before the hail kicks in...

Banana & Strawberry Ice Cream

makes 6 modest portions or 2 greedy ones

Image for aesthetic purposes only!
Do not freeze fruit before prepping or you risk loss of fingertips.
what you'll need
2 large bananas or 3 small ones, peeled, cut into chunks and frozen
half a cup of strawberries, hulled and frozen
2 TBSP single cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

a food processor with chopping blade attached
a freezer-safe container

what you'll do
  • throw all the ingredients into the food processor
  • pulse until everything comes together and the mixture has the consistency you prefer.  I like a few chunks but you can keep going if you want it super-smooth.
  • transfer the mixture into the container (make sure it's wide - as opposed to deep - enough to allow scoopage later) and freeze for at least a couple of hours
  • scoop and serve!

While you wonder at how I eked this method out into a 4-step 'recipe', I will share with you the wisdom of my ice-creaming experience.  First, do not just bung some whole bananas in the freezer, skin and all.  You will squawk in pain as you try to peel the damn things with icy fingers before hacking through them with your largest knife.  Dum dum.  Same with trimming the strawberries; much easier done before freezing.  (Although they do look good sitting in the sun on a bamboo mat, I reckon...)

Second, make sure to take the ice cream out of the freezer about ten minutes before you're going to eat it.  Easier said than done, I know, but it does save a bit of scooping effort or a cold lap(!)

I have used various recipes before, and if a recipe suggests that you use an ice-cream maker and you don't have one, don't even bother trying it.  I've made plenty of rock hard, crystallised, inedible (who am I kidding - we ate them, they just weren't nice!) blocks of frozen sweet stuff.  This one, however, does work without another small specialist appliance.  There's just no room on my counter!

I'm looking forward to trying this out with loads of other fruits in place of the strawberries.  Both the brambles (that's blackberries to you non-Scots) for awesome colour and the raspberries that grow in abundance round these parts later in the year, perhaps with a squeeze of lemon, would really be summer in a scoop.  From further afield, the prospect of mangos, peaches, blueberries and pineapples all get my mouth watering.  Fingers crossed for a few more sunny days.  And The Big Small has challenged me to make a green one, so look out for my clean, green ice cream, coming soon... 

Friday, 1 April 2016

Lightly-spiced sweet potato waffles (sweet or savoury)

Phew!  What a week! 

I had a Very Important Meeting on Wednesday, which has taken me weeks to prepare for, on and off.  Yesterday, it was The Small Small's second birthday, so there was a cake and family dinner involved.  Then today, The Husband (who has been on nightshift and only surfaced yesterday for said family dinner) headed off to Hamburg for a stag weekend!  Lucky bugger.  ( I might also mention that we've recently had two bathrooms renovated and I've still to finish the painting, but I don't really want to think about that just now.)

So today I really tried to take it easy.  For me, this is much easier said than done.  If I'm not doing at least two things at once, I consider the time wasted.  Not that anything I am doing is particularly vital in the grand scheme of things (whatever that might be).  I see letting my boys watch TV as a cop-out, even though it often results in everyone being less grumpy with each other and the late afternoon passing much more pleasantly for all of us.  Today, I indulged them and moseyed off to potter about in the kitchen.

Occasionally, I plan my kitchen experiments.  Usually, however, they come about through the build up of unused ingredients and this was the case today.  Earlier in the week, I'd roasted some sweet potatoes and a butternut squash.  I'd also soaked and cooked a small bucket of chickpeas, some of which went into a batch of hummus while the other lot were left sitting in the fridge.  Add to all that some leftover roast potatoes from last night's birthday meal, and there was plenty to play around with.

So, during Topsy & Tim and whatever other guff the boys were watching, I concocted the following: chickpea, spring onion and feta 'burgers', lightly spiced sweet potato waffles and homemade potato waffle-chips.

Step 1: place leftover roasties on hot, oiled waffle iron and close machine.

Step 2: open machine and discover DIY potato waffles.

The last creation requires no recipe, only the pre-roasted white potatoes and a waffle-maker brushed with oil.  You can imagine the rest.  The Big Small let me try one of his and it was pretty awesome: just a big, fat chip with a crunchy outside and a fluffy middle.  He has asked that we have them every day.  Ahem, no.  Although I will admit it to be the best reincarnation of a roast potato that this thirty-something Scottish girl has found, and we get through a lot of potatoes over here!

The chickpea 'burgers' were a bit less successful.  I tried them in the waffle-maker (have I mentioned that I treated myself to a Lidl special last week and have been firing anything and everything on that machine since?!) but they stuck like crazy.  I have had previous failure with chickpea waffles, although last time I used chickpea flour and this time the real things.  So after that, I fried little patties in a pan and they browned and crisped nicely.  I quite enjoyed them but the boys didn't like the flavour, so they're maybe something to be tinkered with another day. 

And that brings us to the third experiment: sweet potato waffles.  There were so moreish!  Subtly sweet - less sickly than a straight roasted version - but with a quality that makes them suit savoury dishes just as well as sweet ones.  The spice is gentle and adds a warmth, but does not say 'curry', if you know what I mean. 

I can see myself playing around with the flavours and I've got a feeling that they'll take a lot of different spices.  Cinnamon and ginger would be great for a sweeter version (maybe with a little grated apple in there or some orange zest), while garlic and lemon could really zing up a savoury version. 

Lightly-spiced sweet potato waffles (sweet or savoury)

(makes 8 little waffles)

what you'll need

3 small sweet potatoes, roasted and cooled (1 huge one or 2 mediums will work too)
2 medium eggs
2 TBSP wholewheat spelt flour (for such a small amount, try replacing with your flour of choice)
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp garam masala

what you'll do
  • turn on your waffle-maker to heat it up*.  It's also a good idea to put your oven on low so you can keep the waffles warm while you are waiting to serve them.
  • peel the potatoes and turn the flesh into a smallish bowl
  • add the eggs and mash with a fork until quite smooth (you could use a food processor or stick blender but it's just something else to clean)
  • add the other ingredients and mix well
  • brush or spray the hot waffle plates with a good frying oil (e.g. rapeseed, coconut) to prevent sticking (following various 'incidents', I do this even though mine has non-stick plates)
  • spoon the thick mixture onto the waffle plates.  I use a couple of big teaspoonfuls for each one as I like the uneven edge that comes from not filling up the plates.  Close the machine and let the waffles start to sizzle.
  • Cook to your preference.  I went for a little crispness on the outside of mine and they took about 5-7 minutes each.
  • Pop the waffles on a rack in the warm oven while you make the next batch. 

These waffles really can pass for a sweet or savoury dish.  I had mine with the salty, cheesy chickpea burgers and some green veg.  In the morning, I plan to pop a couple in the toaster - or even back on the waffle iron if I can wait for it to heat up - and cover them with Greek yoghurt and sliced banana.  Have a go and tell me what toppings you come up with.

*Every waffle recipe I've tried so far works well as pancakes too, so if you don't have a waffle iron then a frying pan will do.  But really, you should treat yourself to a new gadget: everything looks better when waffle-ised, doncha think...?