Treat me: Rum and raisin ice cream

This week, in between re-telling the story of the nativity (“but Mum, why was the baby Jesus a boy? Can he be a girl!”), I have been reading The Man Whose Mother Was A Pirate. In case you’re not familiar with this Margaret Mahy classic, it tells the story of a buttoned-down chap who is enticed away from his dull, everyday life by his sea-faring mother. It’s such a good read. Put it on your Christmas present list. I wouldn’t say the same for another book that was on high rotate here a couple of weeks ago – a flimsy yarn that saw the hapless Captain Pugwash in a standoff with a bunch of pirates over some chocolate smuggling. If your child makes a beeline for this at an op shop, point them in another direction.

Anyway, thinking about pirates and mulling over the December We Should Cocoa challenge, in which Choclette has sensibly chosen alcohol as the key ingredient, led to this ice cream. It’s not so alcohol-soaked that one scoop will send you off into paroxysms of piratical rumbustification, but I’d advise against giving it to children (even if their mothers are pirates).

Easy Rum And Raisin Ice Cream

Rum and raisin ice cream
No need for a fancy machine to make this ice cream – why, you could even make it in the galley of a galleon (as long as it had a freezer). If you’re not a fan of traditional Christmas puddings, this is a great do-ahead dessert. Freeze it in a large lined loaf tin (or even a cake tin), then serve slices with little tots of rum and chocolate sauce. If you are a fan of proper Christmas pudding – or even Christmas mince pies – then a dollop of this on top is a delectable alternative to brandy butter.

1/4 cup dark, smoky rum
1/2 cup raisins
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup golden syrup
500ml cream
70g dark chocolate, roughly chopped into pieces no bigger than a raisin

At least two hours before you’re ready to make the ice cream (and therefore at least eight hours before you want to eat it), put the raisins and rum in a small bowl. Cover and set aside.
When you’re ready to make it, beat the egg yolks, egg and sugar until pale and thick. Use electric beaters unless you have the arms of a sailor.
Drain the rum into the egg mixture (reserving the raisins), then add the golden syrup and beat again. Pour in the cream and beat until soft peaks form. Scatter over the raisins and chocolate and fold in. Pour into a plastic container and freeze for about six hours before eating. Makes about 1.3 litres.

Have a wonderful weekend, me hearties x

Treat me: Yoghurt Banana Fool

It’s not exactly on the scale of Grand Designs, but we’re currently planning a few changes here at chez Kitchenmaid and as a result, my office (aka the room of doom) is piled high with cookbooks destined for new homes. At least, I think they’re destined for new homes. I’m so horribly sentimental about some of them that I can’t bear to think of them languishing in op shops, unloved or (worse) discovered by the people that gave them to me to start with.

In the meantime, I negotiate my way past a pile of them every time I go to my desk. When ‘100 Dishes For Two’ fell on my toe yesterday, I decided it was fate. I was going to choose a recipe from it for this month’s Random Recipe challenge, then find it a new home. I think it was a joke present when we got married, along with ‘Cosmopolitan’s Guide For Living Together (Married Or Not)’, which I have recently regifted to a newly shacked-up friend. I was thinking I could regift ‘100 Dishes’ to her two, but on reflection I think this is the only decent recipe in it. Love may be blind, but it still has a sense of taste.

Yoghurt Banana Fool
This is very simple and surprisingly delicious. It also makes an excellent treat for breakfast, not least because you can pull it out of the fridge with a ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’ flourish. Quantities below serve two – well, what would you expect from a book called ‘100 Dishes For Two’? – but can be easily multiplied.

2 small bananas
2 Tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
25g roasted almonds, finely chopped
4 pieces of crystallised ginger, finely chopped
150g Greek yoghurt
3 squares of dark chocolate, finely chopped

Mash the bananas, caster sugar and lemon juice together in a small pot. Bring to the boil over gentle heat, then simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until the bananas are caramelised. Set aside to cool. Fold in the nuts, ginger and yoghurt, then divide between two stemmed glasses. Sprinkle the chocolate over the top and chill for at least 30 minutes, until ready to serve.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Treat me: Lemon poppy seed biscuits

Remember our neighbours with the amazing lemon tree? They have gone on holiday and their lemon tree is taunting me with its golden globes shining through the fence. It’s been so windy lately I’ve been expecting the lemons to blow over to our side of the fence, but so far it hasn’t happened. In the meantime, I’ve been accepting gifts of lemons from friends on the other side of the harbour and using them with reckless abandon.

So when Dom’s Random Recipe challenge for October asked us to use a local ingredient I figured lemons would be it. Then I stumbled – actually, properly stumbled – over local cookbook Alice In Bakingland on the dining room floor and the perfect lemony recipe leapt up at me.

Lemon and poppy seed biscuits
Alice In Bakingland is the first book from one-time New Zealand’s Hottest Home Baker finalist and self-taught baking whiz Alice Arndell. It’s such a sweet book – I’ve described it to friends as a Pinterest cookbook because everything is so pretty (that’s also to do with the great photos by Murray Lloyd). But it’s also extremely useful, with lots of useful, everyday sorts of recipes alongside the glamour ones and a whole batch of handy hints. I’m forever indebted to Alice for sharing the information that one cup of plain flour equals one cup of high grade less two tablespoons. I’m also very grateful for her allowing me to reproduce this lovely recipe here.

2 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
finely grated zest of two lemons (I actually double this to make it super lemony)
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
180g cold butter, cubed
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Put the flour, salt, sugars, lemon zest and poppy seeds into a food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg and egg yolk, and process until the mixture clumps.
Tip the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and squeeze together. Form into a log that’s about 5cm diameter, wrap well and chill for at least two hours, until the dough is very firm.
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 180C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Slice the dough into 1/2 cm rounds and put on the prepared trays. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges just start to brown. Cool on a wire rack. Makes about 36.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Salted and spiced bread ribbons

Remember what I said about not judging a cookbook by its cover? About two days later I went to the library and had my head turned by a very pretty collection of Elizabeth David recipes. Oops.

This lovely book, put together by her literary trustee and former editor Jill Norman, mixes the genius of Mrs David with some great photos. It’s not as readable in bed as the little paperbacks, but it’s very inspiring. I happened across this bread recipe, which I’d never seen before, and whipped it up the other night.

Salted and spiced bread ribbons
If you’re not schooled in the way Mrs David wrote her recipes can seem a bit inpenetrable, so I’ve rewritten it in a more modern style. This is very easy, comparatively quick to make and impresses non-breadmakers no end.

500g bread flour
2 tsp dried yeast
2 tsp salt
450ml milk, plus another tablespoon or so
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp whole cumin, caraway or fennel seeds (or a mixture of all of them), plus a few extra tablespoons for sprinkling
flaky salt

Put the milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat until blood heat.
Put the flour, yeast and salt into a large bowl and mix well, then pour in the milk and butter. Mix to form a soft dough, then cover the bowl and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled – about an hour.
Heat the oven to 200C.
Tip the dough onto a floured surface and knock down, then knead in the 3 Tbsp seeds. Divide the dough into two and put on a large piece of baking paper. Roll each portion of dough into a rough rectangle, about 2cm thick, then slice through vertically, creating long strips about 2cm wide. Transfer the strips (using the baking paper) to two baking trays. Brush with milk, then sprinkle with the reserved seeds and some flaky salt. Set aside to rise again for about 15 minutes, then bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.
Best eaten while still warm.

The psychology of cookbook covers

You might think making a cookbook stand out from all the other millions on the shelves is just a matter of putting something – or someone – pretty on the cover and letting the image do the talking. But my book designer friend has told me that there’s much, much more to it than that.

Take, for example, Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat. This is my favourite of all Nigella’s books, perhaps because it doesn’t rely on pouty photographs of the author to get its point across. The cover is restrained, the illustrations few. The author photo is incredible, but it’s restricted to the inside back cover, just like that of a novel.

Eight books, 11 TV series and one iPhone app later, it’s all about Nigella’s beautiful face. It’s no great surprise – if I looked like that I’d be splashing my face about the place too – but it’s also about brand recognition.

Apparently, this rule applies to a lot of cookbooks. The general rule of thumb seems to be that if the author is young(ish), female and attractive, she’s on the cover before you can say nice buns. The same is true for both sexes if the author has any kind of TV presence.

Such as…. Annabel, selling the dream from her slice of Kiwi paradise in Wanaka…

… and perennially cheerful St Jamie, who has been on the cover of all his books right from the start.

Then there’s the issue of different covers for different markets and different editions. This is the US cover of Yotam Ottolenghi’s second book, Plenty…

… and this is the UK version (which is what we ended up with in New Zealand). Which do you prefer?

If you’re on the wrong side of 25, not naturally photogenic, or have spent a little too much time sampling your own wares, then your best hope is to put something luscious on the cover.

Or perhaps you should trust in the fact that some people will look past the cover and just check out how decent the index is (honestly – bad indexes are SO frustrating!)

What’s the prettiest cookbook cover you’ve seen recently? I’m quite keen on this one, particularly because the end papers are really gorgeous. Oh, and the food looks good too. What are the chances of that?!