Feb 16, 2009

Baobab Ice Cream Anyone?

One of the reasons that ice cream is such a delicious food is that it can be made with so many different ingredients - from all kinds of fruit to chocolate, wine, tea, coffee and lots more. The biggest category of ingredients has to be that of fruit. Standard popular fruits such as the strawberry are great for making ice cream that's deliciously creamy; the more citrus fruits lend themselves better to making ideal, refreshing sorbets.

I'm always on the look-out for unusual fruits to try in ice cream. Last year I made strasberry ice cream, publishing the first Internet ice cream recipe ever for that fruit - not often you get to achieve a 'world first'! It was such a strong tasting, aromatic ice cream that I can't wait to get my hands on some more strasberries this year when they are in season.

My mother recently sent me a newspaper cutting about .... the Baobab. I had never heard of the word before and yet it sounds like an astonishingly unusual and also beneficial fruit. Here's what the article claims about the Baobab tree:
  • it sometimes referred to as 'the upside-down tree' because of its root-like branches
  • it can live for up to 500 years with some living as long as 2,000 years
  • it has been known to grow up to a height of as much as 98 feet
  • hollowed out baobab trees in Africa are sometimes used as shops and barns
  • the baobab fruit looks like a coconut on the outside
  • its white pulp is powdery with a cheese-like texture
  • the pulp tastes slightly sour
  • it is high in iron, potassium and anti-oxidants
  • it is native to Africa
  • it has been revered in Africa for thousands of years
  • only specially trained people are allowed to climb the baobab tree to collect its fruit
  • in some parts of East Africa it is sold as a type of sweet with a red, sugar coating

The nutritious properties of the baobab's pulp apparently make it ideal as an ingredient for cereal bars and smoothies and it is now being imported into the EU for the very first time for that purpose.

So we have a new fruit to experiment with - and enjoy. I have yet to see any baobab fruit pulp in my local supermarket but I will keep looking as I would love to try some in an ice cream recipe. As and when I do you'll hear about it on this blog .... so watch this space!

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Aug 18, 2008

Hairdressing, ICT & Ice Cream

Like most people I have to get my hair cut once in a while and this week I paid one of my regular visits to see Naomi who cuts my hair for me. She's been cutting it for a couple of years now I suppose and she's very good. She's always friendly and we usually enjoy a good chat. The other day was no exception. She was explaining how the salon had just changed its range of hair colorants and how she is getting used to using them. Apparently, it's all done by numbers and she has to try and match a client's color from the previous range to the new one. We agreed it's a bit like a recipe, having to get the right balance of ingredients so that the end result is just right. That was it ... we only had to mention the word 'recipe' and I started talking about ice cream!

After that we indulged in discussing our favorite ice cream flavors. It was the end of Naomi's working day and I was the last client there so I felt at ease developing the conversation. Katie, who had just washed my hair, then joined in the discussion. We all agreed we love ice cream yet found out that it's for very different flavors.

Same thing happened when I was ordering a new handset for the office telephone system the next day. I rang Gary who had last helped me with our telephones 3 years ago. I half expected to hear that he had moved on as is so often the case with people these days. But no ... he was still there, much to my delight for Gary is a fantastic ICT (information and communications technology) field sales consultant, knowledgeable, efficient and courteous. In a matter of minutes he had sorted my problem and I said I would write about his efficiency on my ice cream blog, but only if he told me his favorite flavor. He had little hesitation in saying 'chocolate'.

Many people I've talked to over the years have told me they like chocolate ice cream. It's amazingly popular .... and it's not difficult to understand why. If you make it with a rich custard base and use real chocolate it's absolutely delicious!

So thank you Naomi, Katie and Gary for providing me with a greater insight into people's ice cream tastes. I find I can never guess what ice cream somebody is going to say they like so I enjoy finding out whenever the opportunity crops up. I wonder who's next ? :)

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Jul 20, 2008

National Ice Cream Day 2008

It's here ... National Ice Cream Day for 2008! The third Sunday in July: this year it's 20 July.

It's a rather unusual 'Special Day' but one that more and more people are getting to know about and learning to celebrate. For some it will be a special trip to one of their favorite ice cream parlors whilst for others it will be to just stay home and make a batch of delicious homemade ice cream.

If you've never made your own ice cream before, now's the time to try. It's great fun and both children and adults alike can get involved and if you have an electric ice cream maker it doesn't take very long either. You can make a gelato (soft scoop) ice cream or choose from a whole range of sorbets; alternatively you can opt to make one of the more traditional custard/cream base ice creams such as vanilla ice cream or strawberry ice cream.

When you've made your ice cream it doesn't end there .... you can serve it in an ice cream cone or as an ice cream sundae or even go for the big one and try a Knickerbocker Glory (as in the photo).

Once you've made and eaten your ice cream you can then sit down and relax - and know that on this special day you have really played your part. So go to it and enjoy!

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Jun 15, 2008

Country Estate Strawberries & Late Night Ice Cream

Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy strawberries and ice cream - together or separately - and I have two nice little 'country' stories on these topics I'd like to share with you.

Strawberries At An Irish Ancestral Home
Ballywalter Park (N. Ireland) is the ancestral home of the Mulholland family (Lord Dunleath). Beautiful interiors and an intriguing history draw many visitors (by appointment only) but the estate offers another strong attraction, especially in the summer months - strawberries. Top restaurants and supermarket chains take delivery of a large proportion of the estate's strawberries but from mid/late June to early August there is the opportunity to 'pick your own strawberries'. Strawberries are so important to Ballywalter Park that the current owners have compiled "The Ballywalter Park Strawberry Cook Book". At present, the book is only available from the estate's 'pick your own shop' but if it comes available online I will let you know. Sounds mouth watering!

Late Night Ice Cream & A Grand Party In The Country
Recently a friend of mine was invited to a "very grand" marquee party in Cumbria close to the Scottish Border. It was a combined celebration of birthdays - 19th, 21st and a 50th - so the age group of the "party goers" was quite broad. For the party's theme the hosts chose "Snow and Ice". Bearing in mind this was an early summer event, such a theme was a bold idea. However, the hosts did their homework well and delivered an apparently fabulous party enjoyed by all. The marquee resembled a winter garden and there were even statues (human ones) posing as if in a winter setting. To cap it all - and this is what really appealed to me - an ice cream truck appeared around midnight serving ice cream cones for all the guests! As my friend said "I guess no-one is ever too young or too old for ice cream".

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Apr 7, 2008

The Story Of The Long Distance Strasberries

Strasberry - no, it's not a misprint and yes it is a real fruit. I recently read about this unusual and rare variety of strawberry and jumped headlong into a 'quest' to find out more and, moreover, to get hold of some strasberries and use them in an ice cream recipe.

It took just under a week from the start of my 'quest' to having a strasberry ice cream batched in my ice cream maker. It was not the easiest of tasks. Here's why:
  1. The only place to get strasberries currently in the UK is Waitrose in London.
  2. Strasberries are only being sold by them at selected stores and for a limited period.
  3. When I rang one of their London branches I was told they had sold out of strasberries.
  4. Undaunted by this I enlisted the help of a close friend, a resident of central London, who kindly offered to pursue the matter further.
  5. My friend, Mary, then managed to enlist the help of someone else - friendly Waitrose store assistant Neil who said that some more strasberries might be coming in and would reserve some for her to go in, buy and collect.
  6. Having trekked down to the store and bought the strasberries, Mary then had to get them to me - via post!
  7. They arrived by Special Delivery with our postman fully intrigued by what was in the box. It was leaking strasberry juice! He didn't seem to mind though - his comment was that the smell was wonderful!
  8. I immediately unwrapped the strasberry juice-soaked package to find the strasberries still amazingly in tact and placed them in the refrigerator whilst I got ready to make ice cream.
  9. Half an hour later, using my own strawberry ice cream recipe as a basis, I was busy making my own strasberry ice cream.
  10. The result .... a truly delicious and unique ice cream.

I photographed every step of the ice cream making process so that I had evidence of what I'd done and how different the strasberries looked compared to normal strawberries and full details of my 'strasberry experience' are now live on ice-cream-recipes.com - see:

The Strasberry
My recipe for Strasberry Ice Cream
My Strasberry Photographs

All published and live today 7 April 2008. It's a date I can easily remember as it's Jackie Chan's birthday - one of my son's heroes (and one of mine too!). I've already written about Jackie enjoying chocolate ice cream so it couldn't be a better publishing date.

Having checked extensively on Google, it appears that mine is the very first strasberry ice cream recipe ever published on the Internet. A genuine 'World First'. I'm delighted!

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