The theme of this month's We Should Cocoa, hosted by Choclette at the Chocolate Log Blog, is strawberries. No problem - strawberries are one of my all time favourite foods, I can eat them by the bucketload. I should be able to come up with an awesome cake or other yummy baked item including chocolate and strawberries.
Except I can't eat it because, as you'll know if you read my previous post, I had a wisdom tooth extracted this week and am on a mushy food diet for a few days.
So I've cheated a little bit. I've still made something awesome with chocolate and strawberries, but it's not a cake. And in fact it reminds me of two really good holidays I've had to Spain and Italy, so it was worth cheating a bit just for the lovely rosy-tinted nostalgic feeling that eating this gave me.
When I was fourteen I went on an exchange trip to Granada in southern Spain. The mother of the girl I stayed with was a fabulous cook, and one of the things she made us was macerated strawberries. We had them for breakfast, eaten greedily from a large bowl with a spoon and sometimes even piled on top of buttered toast (is that weird? I don't care). Ever since, macerated strawberries have reminded me of that trip and of Lola's beautiful meals. You don't need a recipe for this one. All you do is take a punnet of strawberries, hull and halve/quarter them depending on size, throw them into a bowl and sprinkle over 2 tbsp caster sugar and 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Leave it for a few hours. The sugar and acid will draw out the liquid from the strawberries and turn it slightly syrupy, and the strawberries will taste sweeter, riper and more gorgeous than any strawberries you've had before. And I PROMISE it will not taste of vinegar. Trust me.
For the ice cream, you'll need a recipe. And an ice cream machine. I have neither the funds nor the space for an expensive one with a built-in freezer, so instead I have this little Kenwood thing which cost under £20 from Amazon, and as long as I remember to put it in the freezer the day before I want the ice cream, it does the job perfectly.
Now officially you're supposed to make a "proper" creme anglaise style custard for the ice cream, which involves heating it over a very low flame and stirring it for ages and ages till it thickens, while trying not to let it curdle. Sorry but life is just too short. So I use a little bit of cornflour which will stabilise the custard and stop it from curdling, so you can turn the heat up a bit and it'll thicken a lot quicker. Which leaves you with more time to spend learning to play Johnny B Goode on the guitar (if you're me, that is).
You will need:
300ml milk (semi-skimmed or whole is fine)
70g caster sugar
4 egg yolks (make meringues with the leftover egg whites!)
2 tsp GOOD vanilla extract
300ml pot of double or whipping cream (some pots are 287ml which is fine)
1 heaped tsp cornflour
70g plain chocolate
Heat the milk and vanilla in a saucepan till it just comes to a boil. Meanwhile whisk the sugar, egg yolks and cornflour in a bowl. Pour on the boiling milk - a little bit first to temper the eggs so they don't scramble, whisk it in, then pour on the rest and whisk it all together. Pour the whole thing back into the saucepan over a lowish heat and keep stirring till it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Pour the custard back into the bowl and stand it in a sink filled with cold water (with ice cubes if you have some) to cool it down quickly. Then chill it in the fridge for at least 4 hours or even until the next day. This lets the flavours develop.
When you're ready to make the ice cream, pour the cream into the custard and mix it all together. Churn this in your ice cream machine. Meanwhile melt the plain chocolate. When the ice cream is looking like it's almost ready, pour the chocolate in a slow, steady stream through the hole in the ice cream machine lid. When it hits the ice cream it will set almost immediately, and little bits of chocolate will work their way through the whole mixture. Lovely. When it's all looking nicely mixed together, transfer the ice cream into a container and put it in the freezer for a few hours before devouring.
My husband is a very discerning ice cream connoisseur and he gave this a very definite thumbs up. Ice cream is something that's more expensive to make at home but worth the extra money and effort because it's just a million times nicer than anything you buy in the shops.
Looking forward to seeing the other strawberry-related entries this month... and hopefully in a few days I'll be baking properly again.