It’s the first day of autumn here in the Adelaide Hills today and there are signs of harvest everywhere. Driving along the winding roads becomes a little more hazardous as we dodge the large grape-picking machines which travel from vineyard to vineyard, the enormous double-trailered (there’s probably a name for these) trucks carrying the precious grapes to the wineries and various private cars, vans, trucks and utes (pick-ups) loaded with ladders and itinerate pickers heading to and from the apple orchards as the apple harvest begins.
Not so at our house, though. I managed to steal some of the plums away from the birds, but our other stone fruit and ALL of the apples are long gone – ravaged before ripening by the voracious galahs, corellas and rosellas. We still have our citrus fruit (thank heavens for bitter rinds), the quinces ripen quite late up here and I can always seem to find some ripe figs that the birds have missed.
We have a scrawny orange tree that I have been nurturing along for some years. That, and an up-until-recently unidentified citrus, have been overshadowed and stunted by a scruffy, unattractive Paper Bark tree whose existence has been the subject of intermittent marital disagreement. A recent visit by some horticulturally savvy friends shed light on the identity of the anonymous citrus – a Tahitian Lime, no less – and the tree next to it which I had never even really noticed. Seems that this is a White Mulberry and what I had always assumed to be it’s nondescript flowers are, in fact, the most ambrosial tasting fruit I have ever eaten. This tree, too, has been stunted by the increasingly ugly Paper Bark. In a calculated move a little like Eve (but plumper and older) with the apple, I lured the disputing spouse under the tree and fed him some of the White Mulberry fruit. One taste was all it took for The Husband to pronounce the death sentence upon the blot on the landscape and it is astonishing how quickly the citrus trees have responded to the extra light, water and space.
Our oranges don’t look like much, but they have an amazing flavour and I have been working on ways to combine them with the only other ripe fruit to hand at the moment – the figs. I made a vow at the beginning of summer to try to make more home-made ice cream and am proud of this gorgeously fragrant recipe which I eventually came up with. While there are a couple of steps, it really is not a fussy recipe and is well worth the effort. I found that the flavour of the orange blossom water tends to dissipate after freezing so you may need to beef this up a little. After I’d made it I also thought some toasted, slivered almonds would be a great addition – so feel free to play around with it. A Thermomix makes this easier, but is not necessary – I have given instructions for either stove-top or TM.
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 500 gms fresh figs, stems removed and quartered
- 2-3 tsp orange blossom water
- 250 mls pouring cream
- 250 mls full cream milk
- 150 gms white chocolate, finely grated
- ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
- 2 egg yolks
- 70 gms caster sugar
- Place orange juice, honey and cinnamon stick into small saucepan and bring to the boil over moderate flame. Remove from heat and allow to steep for an hour or two then remove and discard cinnamon stick.
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Place quartered figs in a shallow, greased oven tray. Pour over the orange juice and honey mix and roast figs until all the juice has evaporated and the fruit has caramelised - about 20 minutes. Watch carefully towards the end to avoid burning.
- Cool the fruit before placing in food processor and pulsing until finely chopped.
- Stir in orange blossom water.
- Combine the cream and milk in a saucepan. Add chocolate and vanilla paste and heat, stirring, until chocolate melted. Cool a little.
- Beat sugar and egg yolks together until thick and creamy.
- Add a small amount of the warm cream/milk mixture and blend well before gradually adding the egg yolks to the rest of the cream/milk over a low flame. Cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture just thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Refrigerate until cold.
- Place in ice cream machine and churn until frozen, place in freezer container, add figs and stir through. Freeze until solid.
- THERMOMIX INSTRUCTIONS for Ice Cream
- Grate the chocolate at speed 8 for 5 seconds.
- Add milk/cream and melt together 2 mins, 50C at speed 3.
- Add butterfly and vanilla paste and sugar. Process 2 minutes at speed 4, adding the yolks one at a time through the lid.
- Refrigerate until cold and then proceed as above.
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I’m very fortunate to live in a glorious part of the world. South Australia is an arid, dry state for the most part, but here in the Adelaide Hills (or more specifically, the Onkaparinga Valley – a distinction The Husband always insists on) we enjoy a decent annual rainfall, four seasons in each year instead of just two, lush rolling hills and fertile soils. There is rich farmland up here and from my property I can see orchards, vineyards, olive groves, herds of cattle and paddocks full of pasture gently undulating in the breeze. (Actually, from the front doorstep on Saturday I could see a big, brown snake, too!)
Spring time is magnificent here as the days begin to warm up and lengthen, gardens burst into life and the local farmers get on their tractors and begin to cut the hay. And there’s the sting – that bloody hay. This last weekend the weather was stunning; perfect for pottering around in the garden and dusting the redback spiders off the outdoor setting ready for alfresco dining. At least that’s what I would have been doing if I hadn’t had to shut myself in the house and practically hermetically seal all the doors and windows against the ubiquitious hay fever allergens. Red-nosed, streamy-eyed and clutching a big box of tissues, I wandered from room to room gazing out of the windows at natures bounty unfolding in my front yard, making very brief forays out to hang a load of washing in the back in between bouts of sneezing.
Resigned to my fate, I decided to put my time to some use in the kitchen and dragged out my ice cream machine. I’d laid my hands on some beautiful, locally made La Gringa Dulce de Leche and was pretty keen to find some more ways to incorporate it into my diet. This resultant ice cream is a very happy way to do so, but the addition of the Salted Maple Pecans was truly a rare (for me, at any rate) moment of inspiration. They are deliciously simple, but give the plain ice cream the lift it needs and are utterly addictive.
- 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 600 mls pouring cream
- 300 mls milk
- 275 gms dulce de leche
- ½ tsp vanilla paste
- 1 good pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 170C.
- Combine the pecans, maple syrup and salt in a bowl, stir to coat thoroughly.
- Scatter on a lined baking tray and put in oven.
- Stir around to ensure even browning after 10 minutes, cook for 10 minutes more or until golden. Cool on a rack.
- Combine cream and milk in saucepan over moderate heat, bring just to the boil, then remove from heat.
- Whisk in dulce de leche, vanilla paste & salt. Pour into bowl and refrigerate until cool.
- Churn in Ice cream machine until frozen.
- Sprinkle with the pecans before serving.
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Ah, spring – the return of the sun, lilac blossom, bees buzzing, birds nesting (on my outdoor blinds, unfortunately), occasional sudden spring showers, but everywhere new life and the promise of the long sunny days to come.
Spring has certainly given of her capricious best this year. I sit here typing this at home – the front and back doors are open, the air is warm, scented and about 17C. This time yesterday it was 3C here and hailing – when it wasn’t trying to snow. Is it any wonder I don’t have any idea what to wear from day to day!
Regardless of the weather, I have decided to at least embrace the spirit of spring and begin honouring a promise I made to The Husband this year. I’m not a huge fan of ice cream, but I’m the only person in this house who isn’t. They all love it and like nothing more than the real, rich, creamy, calorie-laden, home-made iced treats that I only occasionally turn out. With my own personal focus on chocolate, I admit I have neglected the dessert needs of my nearest and dearest, but have determined to mend my ways, atone for past omissions and get back into their good graces with much more fresh made ice cream offerings this summer.
I turned over the new leaf with a particularly nice version that came to me while gazing glassy-eyed into the fridge one day, desperately hoping for some dinner inspiration. What my eyes fell upon instead was an almost full bottle of maple syrup which had been sitting on the door shelf for months. This was enough to distract my attention away from the main part of the evening meal, ultimately resulting in a trip to the Chinese take-away. However,I find ice cream can excuse quite a lot and ice cream combined with the very scrummy Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies that I shared with you a few weeks back can turn a distracted domestic goddess into a culinary paragon in the eyes of her family!
And anyway, I think the addition of almonds and chocolate covers the important food groups and just about makes this a complete meal on it’s own, don’t you?
I’m lazy, so made this without cooking the custard and I know the idea of eating uncooked egg yolks freaks some people out, but it hasn’t hurt us yet. This whizzes up in no time with a food processor and, sandwiched between the choc chip cookies, it made a very special dessert for a Sunday lunch.
- 500 mls pouring cream
- 250 mls milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 200 mls pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- good pinch of salt
- Place all ingredients in a processor and whizz together until thickened.
- Pour into ice cream churn and churn until frozen.
- Place into freezer container and freeze until completely frozen.
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Unlike the rest of my family, I’m not a huge fan of ice cream. The rest of them, especially The Husband, would crawl over broken glass for a good bowl of ice cream – or even a mediocre one if that was all on offer. When they were very young two of my children had major, reconstructive abdominal surgery and were unable to eat solids for some weeks as a result. Finding nutrient and calorie-dense, appetising, varied soft foods was something of a challenge to me in those pre-Thermomix days, but one of the absolute favourites was always home made, egg based ice creams. It was never difficult to convince fussy toddlers to eat it and making it from rich cream, fruit and egg yolks meant it was as intensely nutritious as it was delicious.
Thankfully, those times are well behind us and home made ice cream is not something that I think to make very often at all these days. Now that my son has his driving license the emergency post-prandial dashes to the local shops can be shared between him and his father whilst I remain blissfully undisturbed once my stint in the kitchen is done. However, I did overhear a pathetic little conversation between our youngest and her father a couple of weeks back. Reminiscing, The Husband was waxing lyrical about my ice cream making skills and expressed his dismay over the sad state of affairs they face as it is a joy now seldom experienced.
As most things tend to fly out of my brain with alarming immediacy, it can’t have been too long after overhearing their plaintive discourse that the lemon theme for the current Sweet Adventures Blog Hop was announced. Some of my few remaining neurons managed to spark to life and dim corners of my brain began to glow as connections between the Blog Hop, the current spate of unseasonably warm weather, a glut of lemons on our splendid tree and ice cream began to form. This resulting ice cream is not egg based, but is altogether quite rich enough with an exclusively cream base. I used rosemary simply because I have extensive rosemary hedges planted in my garden, but I suspect you could play around with other aromatics very successfully. It is utterly simple to make and if you don’t have an ice cream churn, just freeze it for a few hours, remove from the freezer and beat it – doing this at least twice before it freezes completely. This will break up any forming ice crystals and give you a smooth, creamy result.
I was very pleased with this ice cream and The Husband thinks it worthy too, but the horror on the faces of my family when told they couldn’t actually eat it until the next day, when I had a chance to photograph it in daylight, was truly priceless.
- 600 mls pouring cream
- Grated rind and juice of one lemon
- 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- ¾ cup caster sugar
- Place cream, lemon rind, rosemary and bay leaf in a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to cool.
- Beat sugar and lemon juice together until sugar dissolves.
- Strain cooled cream to remove lemon and herbs, then beat in with sugar and juice.
- Pour into ice cream churn and churn until soft frozen, then place in sealed container in the freezer.
- Alternatively, place cream in freezer for 2-3 hours, remove and whisk. Repeat this once or twice more then freeze until firm.
Details here for how to join the blog hop. Check out the other luscious lemony lovelies from this month’s blog hop here –