Burnt Orange Ice Cream

I have had a bottle of Cointreau sitting, unloved, in my cupboard for twenty years. Twenty years! I knew it would come in useful one day, and now it has found it’s raison d’etre, as a key element of this fantastic ice cream, courtesy of Tamasin Day-Lewis.

Anyone who has ever had an artisan ice cream knows that there is a gulf between the generic, chemical-laden ice cream van version and something made using a handful of natural ingredients. This recipe is a bit involved, but it’s not difficult and it is absolutely worth the faff.

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RECIPE makes about 3/4 litre

300ml double cream

300ml full-fat milk

the grated zest of three large oranges

the juice of three large oranges

150ml Cointreau

150g golden caster sugar & a further 2 tbsp

the yolks from ten large eggs (keep the whites, for meringue or Madeleines)


METHOD

In a medium saucepan, combine the double cream and milk and grate the orange zest directly in to it. Over a medium heat, bring it to scalding point (where the edges of the liquid just start to move) then turn the heat off, put a lid on it and set it aside to steep for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another pan, combine the orange juice and Cointreau and simmer until the volume has reduced by about half. Whisk it into the milk and cream mixture, then strain all of the liquid through a sieve into a clean pan to remove the solids. Keep warm.

In a scrupulously clean, large saucepan, heat the 150g of golden caster sugar over a high heat and allow it to melt and caramelise until it is a very dark brown. DO NOT BURN IT, AND DO NOT STIR IT. You can swirl the sugar in the pan so it melts and colours evenly, but that’s all.

Remove the caramel from the heat and wrap your dominant hand in a damp dishcloth. Using that hand to hold a whisk, temper the caramel by slowly pouring a small amount of the warm orange cream into the caramel, whisking vigorously as you go.

BE CAREFUL, the caramel will spit and bubble violently. Keep adding the orange cream, slowly and whisking all the time, until it stops bubbling, then add the remaining orange cream to it and whisk thoroughly.

Place the pan back back on the heat and bring it to scalding point once more. Remove from the heat, and turn to your egg yolks.

Add the yolks to a mixing bowl with the 2 tbsp of golden caster sugar and whisk until fully combined then, with the whisk still running, temper the yolks by pouring a slow, steady stream of the hot caramel cream. You don’t need much, aim to double the initial volume of the yolks. Now pour the tempered yolks back into the cream and return to the stovetop over a medium heat.

Whisk gently and continuously over the heat until the mixture forms a perceptible custard which coats the back of a spoon. Don’t overcook it, otherwise it may curdle.

Strain the custard through a sieve into a large bowl, to remove any lumps of caramel, and leave to cool completely. You can leave the custard in the fridge overnight if you wish.

You will no doubt have stuck your finger in it to see what it tastes like, and you may be surprised at how intense the flavour is. That’s good, when frozen the flavour doesn’t come through as strongly so it needs to be dominant.

When the custard is completely cold, churn it in an ice cream machine or, if you don’t have one, put it into a tray that will fit into your freezer. If you use the tray method, take it out of the freezer after an hour and scrape the sides into the middle with a fork, and again a couple of hours later, to prevent ice crystals forming.

Store in the freezer in a suitable lidded container. The Cointreau will prevent it becoming rock solid in the freezer, but take it out 15-30 minutes before you serve it, so that it softens to an edible consistency.

Easy-Peasy Chocolate Brownies

I look after one of my grandsons before school, and one of the things that he loves to do is baking. I therefore have a stock of easy recipes that he can follow, without too much risk of disaster! It keeps him occupied, gives him a huge sense of achievement, and is also a valuable learning experience as he learns the role and function of the various ingredients.

These brownies are particularly delicious; we made them the first time yesterday morning, and they were so good we decided that it would be a nice gesture to make another batch for his class and teachers. We did that this morning, and they are cooling on a rack as I write this.

I have specified spreadable Lurpak here, just because Delia Smith has tested every brand of spreadable butter and Lurpak is what she recommends. I have however baked using all kinds of spreads and there isn’t so much difference that you need to worry about it. Use whatever spread you have to hand and you will still be delighted with the results.

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RECIPE makes 18

175g spreadable Lurpak (unsalted)

350g golden caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 large eggs

125g plain flour

1 level tsp baking powder

50g cocoa powder

a couple of good handfuls of cacao nibs


METHOD

You will need a small ovenproof dish – I use one that is 10 inches by 8 inches.

Preheat the oven to 180C/ gas 4 – don’t use the fan if you can avoid it, it cooks too quickly.

Cut a sheet of baking parchment to fit the bottom of the dish. Grease the bottom and sides of the tin with a little of the Lurpak, lay the parchment in the bottom of the tin and grease the parchment as well.

Melt the Lurpak over a low heat, put the sugar into a large mixing bowl. When melted, pour the Lurpak over the sugar, add the vanilla extract and stir well until completely incorporated.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the mixture and stir well until completely incorporated. Add the cacao nibs and stir again.

Break the eggs into another mixing bowl and whisk (preferably with an electric whisk) until the eggs are foamy and their volume has tripled. Pour a little of the whisked egg into the mixture, stir well to loosen the consistency, then carefully add the rest of the egg and gently fold through the mixture. The idea is to keep as much air as possible, so this is a job that I normally do. Children tend to have two speeds: dead stop and sprint!

When the eggs are completely incorporated, pour the mixture into the baking dish, gently pushing into the edges and corners.

Bake for around 25 minutes, until a thin crust has formed but the mixture is still slightly sticky inside, you want a fudgy interior so use a skewer to give you an idea when it has reached the correct consistency.

Leave to cool in the dish for ten minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely before cutting into the desired number of brownies.

Poor Man’s Potatoes with Roasted Cod Loins

This rich, oily, garlicky Spanish dish is the very definition of peasant food: a few simple ingredients gently introduced to each other over time to create something quite delicious.

You might baulk at the amount of olive oil used, but fear not. The deliciously aromatic oil is decanted before serving, leaving a heady gloss on the vegetables.

I use the decanted oily broth as a flavour base in soups and casseroles, just divide it into convenient portions and freeze until needed. It lifts anything it touches.

Amazingly, we had some leftovers when I made this last night. I intend to process the remains into a pulp to use as an aromatic thickener to the vegetable soup I am making today.

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RECIPE serves 4 

4 thick cod loins

225ml olive oil

3 large onions, thinly sliced

6 fat garlic cloves, thickly sliced

3 peppers, 1 each of red, yellow and green (often that’s how they are sold)

4 fresh bay leaves

1kg new potatoes (or firm, waxy potatoes if it is winter)

300g cherry tomatoes

a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)


METHOD

In a very large, heavy bottomed casserole, heat 75ml of the olive oil over a gentle heat and when hot add the onions with a little salt and cook gently for about 20 minutes until soft and translucent.

Add the garlic, peppers and bay leaves (lightly crushed, to release their scent) and cook gently for a further 15 minutes.

Cut the potatoes into small chunks and salt them lightly. Pull the vegetables aside and add the remaining oil, when the oil is hot add the potatoes and tomatoes, stir thoroughly and leave to simmer for 45 minutes over a low heat under a lid. By this time the potatoes should be completely soft, but not mushy. The tomatoes will have pulped down and there will be a lot of liquid in which everything is braising.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/ gas 6. Rub the cod loins lightly with oil and season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Place the fish into a gratin dish and 10-15 minutes before serving roast in the oven. The fish should take around 12 minutes to cook through until the flesh just begins to flake, but keep an eye on it, there are few worse crimes than overcooked fish.

Warm a large serving dish, and using a spider, or a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked vegetables to it, leaving as much liquid behind as possible. Serve in bowls with the fish on top.

This dish stands all by itself, it needs no accompaniment other than a glass of sharp, dry white wine.

I like to stir a small bunch of chopped flat-leaf parsley through it just before serving, but this is entirely optional.

Sea Bass in Acqua Pazza

Life has a habit of getting in the way, as I have been reminded these past few weeks. Much of my cooking has been quick and simple, and I haven’t found the time to write about it.

Just because you’re short on time doesn’t mean that you can’t eat well, as this simple, quick and elegant dish illustrates.

Acqua Pazza translates as crazy water, the fresh and zingy poaching liquid which perfectly complements, and enhances, the soft white flesh of sea bass. You can make this with small whole fish (as the recipe below), a larger single fish, or fillets. Only the cooking time will change, just keep an eye on the fish and serve it as soon as the thickest part of the fish begins to flake.

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RECIPE serves 4 

4 small whole seabass, gutted, cleaned and scaled

75ml olive oil

2 thick garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced

1 red chilli, finely chopped

500g cherry tomatoes, halved

120ml dry vermouth

a small handful of capers, rinsed

a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

a small handful of basil leaves, torn


METHOD

In a very large, high-sided pan (preferably one with a lid, if not you can use foil) heat the olive oil with the garlic, chilli and a pinch of salt over a medium heat and lay the fish in it side by side.

After four minutes, gently turn the fish over and add the tomatoes. Cook for another four minutes then add the vermouth and capers. Cover, simmer for a further four minutes or until the fish is just cooked.

Lay the fish onto warmed plates, add the parsley and basil to the pan, turn the heat up for a couple of minutes to reduce the sauce to a syrupy consistency, then spoon over the fish.

Serve with some steamed rice and a simple lemon-dressed rocket salad.