Not So Rocky Road

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This one is a kid-special, though I’m pretty sure grown-ups will like it too – especially those in need of a sugar-hit. Seriously smooth chocolate fudge filled with marshmallows, gummy bears and sprinkled with popping-candy to top it off. Perfect for children’s parties, or, just because.

RR3

A kid favourite!

What You Need:

Fudge:

400g milk chocolate, chopped

50g butter, cubed

385ml can of condensed milk

RR1

Ingredients

 

Filling:

Popping candy

Gummy Bears

Marshmallows – I chopped mine into about four pieces each

RR2

Too easy to mix!

 

How it’s Done:

Start by preparing a slice tin by greasing and lining with greaseproof paper. My tin is about 18cm square. Place about a cup (or handful) of Gummy Bears and chopped marshmallows into the bottom of the tin randomly. Now, it’s fudge time.

 

I’ve blogged about this fudge recipe a couple of times before. It’s ridiculously simple. Just add your butter and condensed milk to a small saucepan, and stir constantly over a medium heat until the butter has melted completely. Add chocolate and continue to stir vigorously until it all comes together. Working quickly, add the fudge mixture to your prepared tin, directly over the top of the Gummy Bears and marshmallow. Add a few extra Gummy Bears on top, then sprinkle with Popping Candy. Place the slice tin into the fridge for about an hour.

 

And that’s it! Told you it was too easy.

 

Chocolate Spoons

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What goes with winter? Open fires, cosy rooms, woollen coats and chocolate. Always with the chocolate. Hot chocolate to be specific. I’m not a coffee drinker (anymore…wahhh!) and although I don’t mind the occasional herbal tea, my blood-warming drink of choice is hot chocolate. Day to day, I devour a sugar-free brand but for something special – there’s these. The real deal. Chocolate spoons. Simply add to warm milk…

 

Ingredients for Chocolate Spoons

Ingredients for Chocolate Spoons

What You Need:

  • Spoons. While you can use and re-use your finest silver, I bought a pack of cute mini-faux-silver spoons from one of those Super-Cheap shops – 50 spoons for $2. Bargain.
  • Chocolate. As always, the better the quality, the better the result will taste. For dark chocolate in particular, try using one that is at least 75% cocoa. You’ll thank me for it later.
  • Flavours: try adding mini marshmallows, chopped Jersey Caramels, cinnamon or chilli. Be adventurous! Try sea salt flakes (on dark choc) or raspberry dust* (recipe below) My one word of advice is this – think about who you’re making these for. Kids or adults? For my children, I’m more likely to make them with marshmallows, for myself – chilli or raspberry.
  • A chocolate mould. Make sure it’s deep enough to fit a spoon. I used a mini-muffin silicone mould.

 

How to make chocolate spoons...

How to make chocolate spoons…

 

How it’s Done:

Make sure your mould is clean and dry. Melt chocolate in a cup in the microwave, or in a double boiler over the stove. Spoon melted chocolate into moulds, tapping gently to get rid of any air bubbles. Add the spoon and flavours before chocolate sets completely. Leave for at least twenty to thirty minutes, pop out of mould gently.

 

Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Spoons with Raspberry

Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Spoons with Raspberry

To Serve:

Heat milk in either a saucepan over low heat – don’t let it quite come to the boil – or in the microwave. Serve in a large cup or mug, add chocolate spoon and stir until chocolate has dissolved. Yummo! Chocolate spoons are also great bunched together and tied with ribbon for a simple gift idea. Try finding delicate vintage spoons at your local second hand shop or market, playing around with mould shapes and sizes…the ideas are endless.

 

Dark Chocoate and Raspberry Dust Chocolate Spoon

Dark Chocoate and Raspberry Dust Chocolate Spoon

*Raspberry Dust Recipe

A handful of fresh raspberries, washed, dried and thrown into the dehydrator for about 5 hours on high. They won’t develop a crunchy texture, more like a fruit leather. Once dried, place the fruit into a snap lock bag, and into the freezer. Once frozen – but still in the bag – smash gently with the back of a knife of small hammer.

Voila! Raspberry Dust!

Store in an airtight container in the pantry. Use sprinkled on ice cream, meringues, biscuits or even warm Camembert cheese.

Chilli Chocolate Spoons

Chilli Chocolate Spoons

Mandy Mandy Quite Contrary part #2

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*Collapses, flailing on the couch with relief*

Finally, tomato season is over. I made my final batch of green tomato chutney over the weekend, marking the end of what turned out to be months of weekend sauces, chutneys, relishes and salsas. I’ve pulled most of my tomato plants out – already replacing some with garlic, kale and leek – and this weekend I’ll pull the remaining ten or so. Already, there’s literally hundreds of baby tomato plants popping their heads up after self-seeding. What a shame they won’t last the winter! Along with tomato preserves, I’ve been pickling chilli, gherkins and other veggies, drying herbs and freezing berries. I feel very organised and prepared for any zombie apocalypse.

 

Raspberries!

Raspberries!

Berries

I’m still getting about half a dozen strawberries and maybe three or four ripe raspberries each day. While I did get to make loads of yummy stuff with the strawbs, there was never quite enough razzies in one day to do much with. So towards the end of the season, I’ve been freezing my berries. It’s by far the easiest and most practical way of preserving them for use later in the year. Raspberries, I simply pick and immediately pop into a small snap-lock bag in the freezer. I don’t even bother to wash them – my garden is totally organic, so I know there’s no unwanted chemicals hanging around, and the lack of water means no ice crystals will form on the fruit. I do, however, check the berries over for unwanted critters and hitchhikers! With strawberries, I’ll hull them first, and maybe slice the bigger ones in half. That’s it! Perfect for baking, defrosting to have with breakfast cereal, yogurt or desserts.

 

Strawberries and Raspberries ready for the freezer

Strawberries and Raspberries ready for the freezer

Herbs

Last summer, I turned most of my basil into pesto and froze it. I didn’t find it all that successful, and we struggled to use it all up. This year, along with chives, Italian parsley, oregano and celery leaves (sooo delicious!) I’ve been dehydrating my basil to use dried in the kitchen. It’s time consuming, but so, so simple. You can buy a basic dehydrator like mine for about $40 upwards. I think we paid around $60 five years ago. For herbs, just pick straight from the garden, remove leaves and check for critters. With chives, I hold a bunch in one hand and snip them into smaller pieces with scissors – much easier than cutting with a knife. Arrange leaves flat on the shelves of your dehydrator, and set to a low heat for about six to eight hours. You’ll know when they’re ready because the herbs will be crunchy. Your kitchen will smell AMAZING for days. Commercial dried herbs have nothing on the homemade stuff – you’ll find home dried herbs have a more concentrated flavour and are a great replacement when you can’t get hold of fresh produce.

Basil in the dehydrator

Basil in the dehydrator

Cookbook Review: Argentinian Street Food

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Argentinian Street Food

‘Argentinian Street Food’ might be a super-cute cookbook with its simple cover and cut-out design, but don’t be fooled – it works damn hard for all that cuteness. A little on the quirky side, filled with simple step-by-step illustrations and gorgeous photographs, it’s the sort of book that will have you pouring over the recipes just for the fun of it. And then, pretty much demanding you cook from it. It’s that irresistible.

 But what I love most about Argentinian Street Food is the subject matter. Yeah, yeah, of course – FOOD – but my favourite kind of food. We’re not talking sit-down to eight courses that take three days to prepare here, Street Food is exactly what it should be: simple to prepare. Simple to hold. Simple to eat, pastries. The kind of food where you’re more concerned about the awesome conversation you’re having with the people you’re sharing that food with than which of the eight knives and forks you’re supposed to use first. In other words, this is social food. It’s fun and it’s tasty. And then there’s ice cream. Well, helados, which is kind of like Argentina’s version of gelato, but… different.

argentinian

The authors, Enrique Zononi and Gaston Stivelmaher are Argentinian chefs who live and work in Paris, serving up their specialty pastries and ice cream in three different restaurants, as well as a mobile food cart that wanders through the streets of Paris. Called ‘Carrito’, the van is a tribute to the Buenos Aires of the 1950’s, serving empanadas and helados. The book starts out with the basics – how to make the two different styles of dough required for making stuffed empanadas (baked and fried).

Then, with step-by-step instructions even a first-timer can understand, it moves on to how to fill and fold the dough ‘parcels’, and, most importantly, how to ‘hem’ them to get not just a great-looking result, but a empanada that won’t leak. And then, the recipes move on to the actual fillings. For me, the first one I’m going to try cooking is definitely the Blue Cheese and Celery (with pecan nuts and mozzarella too!) though my husband is keen on checking out the Duck Confit and Foie Gras version. But it’s not just extravagant, out-there fillings included here – good old ham and cheese gets a look-in too.

Zanoni and Stivelmaher have also included a handful of ‘Pica Pica’ dishes, which are basically ‘little dishes’ – a bit of something on the side. My favourite here is the marinated beetroot with fresh goat’s cheese and chopped pistachios. Omgosh!

Finally, we get back to the helados and dulces – or confectionary. I’m passionate about making my own ice cream, and the stand-out recipe for me here is the Raspberry-Malbec sorbet. I can’t wait to try it out with some home-grown raspberries. And oh, while we’re at it, I think the Preserved Cumquats recipe just saved me the drama of marmalade this year…

 

Argentinian Street Food is available from April 1st, 2014.

 

Published by Murdoch Books

160 pages, hardcover

ISBN – 9781743362945

RRP – $29.95

Zucchini and Sweetcorn Relish

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I love the whole process that goes with cooking sauces, chutneys and relishes. From collecting suitable jars and bottles to growing the ingredients myself (you don’t actually have to do that bit…), chopping veggies and adding to the magnificent four gallon enamel pot that once belonged to my Dad. He gave it to me a few years before he died, and using it isn’t just seriously practical – it’s very sentimental. I love the scent of vegetables, vinegar and spices wafting through the house, having something to stir and taste each time I wander into the kitchen, and the fact that it might take a whole day (or even two!) to make a good sauce. It’s worth every minute. If you’ve never attempted making your own sauces or chutneys, don’t freak out! It’s a much easier (and weirdly relaxing) process than you might think.

My Dad's 4 Gallon Pot. Perfect for cooking relish!

My Dad’s 4 Gallon Pot. Perfect for cooking relish!

 

I’m going to write up a few of my chutney recipes over the coming weeks – all made from home grown ingredients. We’ll start with the simplest of them all, Zucchini and Corn.

 

We didn’t just have an abundance of zucchini this year, but also corn and capsicum. The corn in particular was to die for. I almost felt bad using it to make relish, but then…nah. I didn’t. Now, these quantities listed are for a double batch. Feel free to halve them. You can also play around a little bit with spices, garlic and chilli. But *don’t* change the quantities of your sugar, salt and most importantly, vinegar. This has to do with the preserving process, and keeping things safe. This recipe will make about 8 quart-size jars.

Preparation for relish

Preparation for relish

 

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1500g of zucchini, diced. This works out to be around 8 largish zucchinis.
  • 2 red capsicums, diced.
  • 1 green capsicum, diced.
  • 2 cups of corn kernels (fresh from the cob, if you can). Works out to be around 3 – 4 large cobs of corn.
  • 3 onions, sliced.
  • 3 cups of white vinegar.
  • 2 ½ cups of white sugar (seems a lot, but this is a big batch of relish).
  • 1 medium chilli – this is optional. I did one batch with it this year, once batch without. The spicier version is the family favourite.
  • 8 teaspoons of turmeric.
  • 5 teaspoons of mustard powder.
  • 3 teaspoons of mustard seeds (or whole grain mustard).
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder.
  • 4 – 5 cloves of garlic, crushed.
  • 3 tablespoons of salt.
  • Cornflour to thicken at the end of cooking.

 

Zucchini. Corn. Capsicum. Onion. That's pretty much it!

Zucchini. Corn. Capsicum. Onion. That’s pretty much it!

HOW IT’S DONE:

After you’ve chopped everything up – throw it all in the pot (except the cornflour). Seriously, that’s it. Just chuck it all in. Bring it to the boil, then turn down the heat to low. Now, I have recipes where they recommend simmering for an hour. I cook it all day – well, for at least five hours anyway. Leave the lid on your pot for the first couple of hours, then remove, which will help to reduce your mixture. Make sure you remember to give it a good stir regularly. Keep tasting it, too, and feel free to add more of your favourite spices (or chilli!)

 

*Do note that I don’t use any oil in my chutneys. There’s good reason for this. Firstly, you don’t need it. With the vinegar and combined vegetables, trust me when I say there’s plenty of fluid in this mix. It won’t burn if you stir it every now and then. Secondly, oil can be a carrier for botulism when you’re working with preserves. So I’d rather stay safe than sorry.

 

To thicken your relish at the end, add a couple of teaspoons of cornflour to a small jug. Add water and mix until it forms a smooth, thin paste. Add to your relish mix in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Best to go a little at a time with this, remembering your relish will also thicken as it cools.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble...

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble…

 

 

Jarring Up:

Ah, the controversial bit. Depending on which country you live in, and what your food safety laws are, there are different recommendations for the preservation of food. What do I do? Well, I wash all jars – make sure they are the type where the lid will ‘pop’ up and down – on a sterilisation cycle in my dishwasher. Yes, even the brand new ones.Then, I add a couple of jars (and their lids) to a large pot of boiling water for ten minutes. Use a pair of tongs to remove. I make sure I’m wearing thick rubber gloves, too. Fill jars with VERY HOT relish mix, leaving about 1cm at the top. Wipe away any mess around the lip, and fit the lid. Some preserving jars will have a flat lid and a metal ‘skirt’ to fit around them. If your jar has sealed properly, and depending on the heat in the room, within about half an hour, the lid will ‘pop’ down with suction from the cooling relish. I store my sauces and relishes for over a year in the pantry if they’re unopened, in the fridge once they have been opened.

Zucchini and corn relish

Zucchini and corn relish

 

Other methods include water baths and pressure baths. I recommend checking them out for yourself and seeing what you feel most comfortable with, depending on the quality of your water and sanitising conditions. A good website for all things preserving can be found here:

Pick Your Own

 

Zucchini and corn relish is super-delish on ham, corned beef or salami. I’ve been using it as a dip, spooning a couple of tablespoons over cream cheese and serving with crackers and a crumbly tasty cheese. But my favourite use for it has turned out to be as a pizza sauce! Yep, a few spoonfuls on a pizza base, salami and a sprinkling of cheese – AMAZING.

 

Secret Choc Easter Egg Cupcakes

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What’s better than chocolate eggs at Easter? Chocolate creme eggs hidden in cupcakes, of course! Even better, with a few cheats, this is a quick, simple recipe that’s easy to make with a bunch of kids and minimal mess – and they taste as good as they look, especially when they’re bitten into!

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Cute bird!

 

What You Need:

300 grams caster sugar

300 grams of softened butter

6 eggs

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

60 grams of cocoa (I used Cadbury brand)

240 grams of self raising flour

24 mini creme-filled Easter eggs. I used a mixture of Cadbury’s Creme Eggs, caramel-filled, strawberry-filled and mint.

24 cup cake cases. Good quality ‘foil’ cases work better for this recipe (though not essential)

2 tubs of commercial vanilla frosting. This is part of the ‘cheat’ bit.

Various aerosol food colours (colour in a can)

Various Easter-themed sugar decorations or melted chocolate

 

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Half fill the cupcakes cases, then add a frozen chocolate egg

 

EE cupcakes 2

Top with cake

How it’s Done:

Freeze your eggs for a few hours, overnight is best.

Pre-heat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Line two by twelves cupcake tins with the cases. Using an electric beater, beat the sugar and butter until it lightens in colour and begins to ‘fluff’. Beat in the eggs on at a time, and then the vanilla. At this stage, your mix will probably look pretty ghastly and have begun to curdle. Don’t worry! It will all come back together with the next step – adding the flour and cocoa. As I’ve mentioned in previous recipes, this is a good time to remember to use the spill guard on your mixer, or to stir through the flour slowly. Unless, of course, you like to wear flour…

 

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Rainbow colours

Now, don’t be thrown by the fact this is quite a stiff mixture. It needs to be that way to stop the eggs dropping. One mixed through, add a large teaspoon of mix to each cupcake case. You need enough to give a generous covering of the bottom of the cupcake. Then, add an unwrapped Easter egg, by laying it on its side. Cover with another spoonful of cake mix, making sure the egg is totally covered and the case is about 2/3 full. Bake for aprox. 20 minutes, or until the cake springs back when you touch it. The usual method of sticking a skewer inside won’t quite work this time.

 

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Nom! Creme Egg Cupcake

When baked, allow your cupcakes to cool completely. Fill a disposable piping bag with frosting, and using a large nozzle, pipe a simple swirl. Give a quick squirt with the aerosol colours, and decorate with either: more eggs, melted chocolate or sugar decorations…or, you could use all of the above like we did!

 

 

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Heavenly choc drizzle

Home Made Chocolate Creme Eggs

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It’s almost Easter! Just a few more days until the Easter Bunny is due to deliver the goods. And when you’re six years old, this is a Very Big Deal indeed. Such a big deal in fact, that the six year old living at my place has been counting down the days since…well, December 25th came and went. My kids are also currently on school holidays, so to help keep Mr 6 amused (and yeah, maybe to keep the Bunny-ache at bay…), we’ve been making all sorts of Easter Yummies. First up, the mandy wrangles version of that oh-so-amazing-gooey-chocolately-fondantey-goodness in a ball – the Cadbury Creme Egg.

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Gooey Easter Goodness

 

What You Need:

Egg shaped chocolate moulds. Mine are plain, but you could use patterned ones.

Milk chocolate melts.

White fondant, available from all cake decorating shops, some supermarkets and online.

Yellow food colouring.

Vanilla essence.

A clean paintbrush.

Brushing chocolate up the sides of the egg moulds.

Brushing chocolate up the sides of the egg moulds.

 

Using a spatula, spread melted chocolate as smoothly as possible across the back.

Using a spatula, spread melted chocolate as smoothly as possible across the back.

How It’s Done:

Make sure your moulds are clean and completely dry. Remember: when working with chocolate, moisture is your enemy. Melt milk chocolate using your favourite method, whether it be a small amount at a time in the microwave, over the stovetop using the double boiler method, or like me, using a cheap little fondue set. Once your chocolate is melted, you need to work fairly quickly. Place a small teaspoon full into each chocolate shape. Now, you need these eggs to be hollow, so don’t over-fill. Using your paintbrush, brush the chocolate right up the sides of the mould before moving on to the next egg shape. Once all egg shapes have been chocolatised (yes, that is totally a word. Now.) put aside to set at room temperature.

Chocolate shells with fondant.

Chocolate shells with fondant.

 

While your chocolate egg shells are setting, take a couple of tablespoons of the white fondant and add some vanilla to taste and a few drops of yellow food colouring. The vanilla flavour won’t give you the exact flavour of the Cadbury kind, but it’s pretty darn yummy. Technically, you could use any flavour – in fact I’ve been considering making up some zombie easter eggs with green or blue insides flavoured with blueberry or mint…but that could be an entirely different blog post…

Once your shells are set, spoon a teaspoon of white fondant into each. Then repeat with a smaller amount of yellow fondant in the centre. Melt up some more chocolate and smear over the top of your shells, trying not to make too much mess of your fondant. Smooth off the top with a flat knife or spatula, as in my pic.

 

Once the egg halves are completely set (don’t rush them), they will pop out of the moulds with a small tap. Then, with a little more chocolate dabbed onto the back, join two halves together to make a whole. See…so easy a six year old could do it!

 

See? So easy a six year old can do it.

See? So easy a six year old can do it.

 

 

 

Peacemaker Blog Tour: Marianne de Pierres

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PEACEMAKER by MdPI talk to Marianne de Pierres about her new novel, PEACEMAKER, and her signature dish!

 

  • The world of Peacemaker and its protagonist, Virgin Jackson, have been playing a big role in your life for a number of years now. Can you give us an insight into your relationship and history with this story?

 

It started out as a short story ten years ago entitled Gin Jackson: Neophyte Ranger. In that incarnation, it was more obviously SF and less urban fantasy. It was also set in the outback in a future Australia that looked nothing like the environment in the current novel. I loved the character and played around with some spiritualism in the story line without really developing the ideas. The story was published in Agog! And then later by Fablecroft Publishing. Around the time that Fablecroft reprinted it, I began the novel. I was enjoying writing it, but the notion of it seeing it as a comic slowly took root. I left the novel unfinished to pursue that idea. Comic artist extraordinaire, Nicola Scott, recommended a young artist to me. Her name was Brigitte Sutherland and she did a great job matching her artwork  to my vision. Unfortunately, we never got past issue 1 as she was drawn away to other things in her life. That’s when I picked up the novel again…

 

  • You’re well known for genre mashing. Is this something you set out to do intentionally when starting up a new story – to push boundaries – or is it more organic, something that just happens as the story progresses?

 

GR author pic_webI just like it. It’s as simple as that. I find it stimulating to write and read. Single genre novels don’t always feel as exciting to me, and anyone who writes for a living knows how important it is to be thrilled by each new project.

 

  • Peacemaker has a fairly large cast of fabulous secondary or supporting characters. Do you have a favourite? Who was the most fun to write?

 

I’m always a bit in love with my secondary characters. One or more of them is usually funny, and they are always quirky! In Peacemaker, I think I would have to say that Hamish is my favourite. He’s so dysfunctional, sociopathic but also very competent and reliable. Can’t wait to write more of the story with him in it.

 

  • I know you put a lot of work into the naming of your characters. Virgin Jackson? Any insight into where that one came from?

Peacemaker cover_BlackI’ve always liked the name Jackson, whether as a surname or a first name. It seems kinda cool to me, so I’d always planned to to use it sometime. Virgin as a first name, was a way of harking back to an era when you could call someone a name like that and not be ridiculed. It’s old fashioned. I wanted that sense of nostalgia and connection with the good ol’ days

  • You’re very active in connecting with your fan base via the internet, public appearances and conventions. How important do you think this is for authors both now, and heading into the future? And on that note, do you find there’s much difference between fans – ie; your science fictions fans vs the crime readers?

Put it this way, if you don’t make the effort to connect with your readership online then you’re disadvantaging yourself, and probably missing out on a whole lot of fun as well. Not all writers are interested in making the time consuming commitment to using social media on any kind of scale, and I understand their choice. But if you are inclined to be sociable with readers, it will stand you in good stead. The key word here is personalise.

  •  Lastly, having some inside information, I know you’re a bit of a foodie. Do you have a signature dish? What keeps you going when you’re closing in on a deadline? Sweet or Savoury?

I’ve fallen out of love with cooking but not eating. It’s a bit of a conundrum. That’s why I pour over your recipes with such zeal, Mandy. However, I can make a decent baked cheesecake, caramel bananas, and strawberry shortcake. Definitely a dessert person!

 

Home Made Strawberry Icecream

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I’ve mentioned before that we have a glut of strawberries happening at our place this year. I’ve been growing them in pots for 3 or 4 years, and a good day’s picking would mean half a dozen, maybe more, and gobbled up within minutes of reaching the kitchen. If they reached the kitchen.  This year, we built a dedicated strawberry patch. I split a couple of the plants I already had, and planted about six more from my local nursery, in the hope that I’d have enough for jam in a next year or two. Wow, did I underestimated the fruiting ability of a happy strawberry! Still not getting enough in one day for that illusive batch of jam – but there’s been plenty of other recipes made. Including this one – possibly my favourite:

strawberry ice cream 3

Strawberry ice cream cone!

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

In the past, I’ve used a basic vanilla base without eggs for my strawberry ice cream. Since I have so many strawbs to play with this time around, I figured why not go for a traditional ice cream base using eggs (did I mention we also have a permanent glut of eggs, kindly laid daily by our eight backyard chickens?)

What You Need:

  • 3 cups of fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped roughly into quarters. Put aside 1/2 cup to add to ice cream later.
  • 1 ¾ cups of caster sugar. This will be divided into 2 lots – 1 cup for the strawberry sauce, ¾ cup for the ice cream base.
  • 2 eggs.
  • 3 cups of heavy cream.
  • Juice of one lemon.
Stawberry icecream_1

Home grown strawberries

How It’s Done:

Add 2 ½ cups of chopped strawberries, 1 cup of sugar and the lemon juice to a medium saucepan. On a low heat, cook until the mix resembles a slightly chunky sauce and sugar is dissolved. It’s okay to bring it to a simmer, but try not to boil. This step will take around 20 minutes. Make sure you stir frequently. Allow to cool and then refrigerate.

For the ice cream base, using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs for a couple of minutes until they become light and fluffy. Whisk in the ¾ cup of sugar a little at a time until completely combined. Then add the cream and whisk until blended. Here’s a secret – even though this mix will be at room temperature, chill it for an hour. Your ice cream machine will be so much happier you took the time to do so.

strawberry ice cream 2

Strawberry ice cream

Once both mixtures are sufficiently chilled, begin churning the egg mix according to your machine’s instructions. I use an ice cream add-on to my KitchenAid machine, but there’s plenty of dedicated ice cream makers out there, ranging in price from hundreds of dollars right down to $30. The trick is to keep the bowl in your freezer so that at any time you need it, it’s fully frozen. My machine will produce soft-serve ice cream in around 25 minutes, so I churn the egg mixture alone for half that time, and then while the machine is still running, add the strawberry mix. Once the required consistency is reached, add the reserved chopped strawberries and continue churning for a further minute or two. You can either eat now, or pour into a sealable, freezer-happy container for a further two to three hours, which will give you a great, scoopable consistency.

Be warned…you will never, ever bother to buy commercial strawberry ice cream again. The difference is AMAZING.

*best eaten within four days, due to the raw egg factor of this recipe. That’s if it lasts that long…

Mandy, Mandy Quite Contrary…

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It’s been tricky finding time to blog lately. Ironically, that’s because I’ve been so busy cooking and gardening and writing fiction. March was always going to be a bit of a time-buster for me – it’s tomato season where I live and wow, have I got tomatoes. This weekend alone I turned 9kg of Romas into a delicious salsa my kids won’t leave alone. Nachos are the new vegemite toast right now.

Mandy’s Garden

I’ll post that recipe soon, along with the most incredible zucchini and corn relish that I recently discovered, pickled gherkins a couple of different ways, tomato sauce, chilli sauce, red chutney, and green tomato chutney, among other goodies that have been keeping me busy. But first…the garden.

Zucchini. I’ve never grown it before this year. Why did no one tell me that one family of five probably only needs half a dozen plants at the most? I planted twenty. Yes, we’re totally zucchinied-out. I’ve been grating it raw into green salad, baking zucchini bread, zucchini slice, zucchini and haloumi fritters, zucchini muffins, and zucchini omelettes. I’ve made relish, I’ve blanched, I’ve frozen. And still, the plants keep producing…

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Zucchini, zucchni, zuchini

Beans. Climbing beans were one of the first vegetables I tried growing at home. After an aversion from being fed too many as a child, I quite like them these days. Mostly. This year I chose a different position in the garden, and while they’re growing and producing really well, they’re just not as sweet as previous years. Bummer. My chickens like them though!

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Beans! And some basil, flat leaf parsley and spring onions

Celery. Yeah, I’m one of those weird people who actually enjoys drinking celery juice. So this year, fed up with buying them every single week, I grew them against the advice that they’re kinda difficult to have in the garden. All lies. Don’t believe it. Celery is easy-peasy. I didn’t blanch them (where you try to keep the stems white by growing the plant in troughs, or cover the lower part with pipe or newspaper)—I just stuck them in the ground, watered and fed them, and watched them grow. Very nicely, thank you! Besides juicing, I’ve been drying both celery and celery leaves in my dehydrator.

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Who says celery is hard to grow?

Capsicum. Known, I believe, as peppers in other parts of the world. This is another vegetable we’ve grown before, but never in big numbers. Last year, I made a totally yummo red tomato chutney, and the secret ingredients in that were red capsicums and pickled gherkins. I’m serious! The capsicums are growing well, though not many have made it to the red stage yet as we’ve been picking and eating them green. Sooo sweet! Even Mr 6 Year Old Fussy Pants is stealing them to eat raw.

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Baby capsicum

Gherkins. So, yeah, speaking of needing pickled gherkins for my tomato chutney, I thought it would be a good idea (hahaha) to grow and pickle them myself. The packet of seeds I bought only contained 25 seeds and, because I’d left it really late in the season, I decided to plant them all, guessing only half or less would actually germinate. Yeah. Wrong again, Mandy. I now have twenty-five gherkin plants fighting for space in a very small bed, growing up and out and climbing (ie. strangling) everything they get near. Both the plants and fruit are super-prickly, which makes it hard to get near without gloves. However – my gherkins have been producing so many flowers (and then gherkins) that the bees are flocking. Swarming. Both. This makes my allergic middle child a bit nervous, but the rest of my garden very, very happy. Gherkins need picking every day, so they are a bit time consuming, but the pickling side of things is pretty easy once you’ve done it a couple of times. I have dozens of jars in the pantry, pickling away, but will wait a couple of weeks for the taste-test before posting the recipes.

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A Triffid? Close, but not quite. Gherkins taking over the world

Next up – Sweet corn (and the best ever way to cook it), chilli, cucumbers, raspberries, more strawberries, herbs, and tomatoes. Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes…