Pistachios & the Easiest Way to Ice Cream

Roasted Pistachio Ice Cream

Are you sick of my pistachio packed posts? I don’t blame you, but really, this is a follow up on my obsessive post on Bronte pistachio paste, so bear with me and you will learn the easiest way to make ice cream, ever.

Now that I had finally experienced what a jar of pistachio paste from Bronte tastes like (bloody amazing), I seriously needed to do something about the low supply situation. A visit to my Greenacre-based Lebanese green grocer Abu Salim provided a good kilo of roasted unsalted pistachios for $15.00. I wouldn’t call us a perfectionist race, but when it comes to roasting nuts, the Lebanese are masters – they get it so right. The nuts were wonderful; the roasting concentrated and amplified their flavour brilliantly.

After shelling for an evening, thumbs sore with pain from the odd stubborn pistachio that refused to open, I ended up with a good amount to try making my paste. I was aiming for a smooth paste, and I knew my food processor was not up to the task. A quick tweet and the incredibly generous Mr Franz Scheurer was quick to donate his time and his Thermomix (what would have cost me $2000 to buy).

Roasted Pistachio Ice Cream

The Paste

I wanted to create a pistachio paste that I could use in desserts, one that could have a decent lifespan, so I decided not to follow the ingredients of my jar of Bronte pistachio paste and instead omitted the milk. The paste would last longer, and I could add milk when I needed.

To create a good paste, I blitzed the pistachios along with some glucose and created an emulsification with grape seed oil. You could use any neutral oil. I didn’t take measurements and went with feel and taste. I stopped when the pistachios tasted slightly sweet and the paste was smooth enough for me (a bit of coarse meal is fine). The consistency needs to be slightly runnier than peanut butter. I went home and mixed in some cream with a small sample to test out the flavour and the gates of heaven opened and I heard a sweet song, and a choir or angels called out to me. Seriously, it was that good.

It is worth mentioning that if you want to make pistachio paste for ice cream, you may as well add some water into the blender to make the paste smoother. That way, you wouldn’t need a Thermomix, because with that much liquid, your food processor should do the trick. If you do add water, make sure you omit it from the recipe below.

Roasted Pistachio Ice Cream

The Ice Cream

I was aiming for a custard based ice cream, but as luck would have it, Jules from The Stone Soup posted a churn-free, machine-free lemon ice cream recipe. It looked incredibly simple, and I decided to give it a go. The basic idea is that by increasing the amount of sugar, ice crystals do not form. Jules folds lemon juice and icing sugar into whipped cream and simply freezes the lot for 6 hours. I did the same, but substituted pistachio paste for the lemon juice, and added some water to dissolve the sugar. The result was a beautiful. pistachio green ice cream with the texture of semifreddo, light, airy and delicious. I urge you wholeheartedly to try making ice cream this way. It is so simple – 5 minutes and you’re done, and it tastes ridiculously good.

The Recipe (adapted from The Stone Soup’s Lemon Ice Cream)

Ingredients
300 ml whipping cream
200 grams icing sugar
4 heaped tablespoons (or to taste) of pistachio paste, prepared as mentioned above

Method
Whip the cream until soft peaks form
Mix icing sugar and pistachio paste and 1/3 cup of water until smooth (omit water if already used in paste preparation)
Fold the pistachio and sugar into the cream until evenly distributed
Whip the cream again until it gets to soft peak stage once more
Freeze for 6 hours or overnight

A Big Question Mark

Disasters and Adventures with Silver Beet

silver beet stalks with tahini

I’m guilty of murder. Okay, not actual murder, more a culinary crime. You know what it’s like. You get an idea for a recipe and in your head it sounds brilliant. But when you execute your plan, the end result is so bloody awful that you feel you may get jail time for your misdeeds. Has this ever happened to you?

Well, it happens to me, and quite often. Last week, for example, I attempted a new approach to silver beet rolls. I had it all planned out. The stuffing would be burghul flavoured with lemon olive oil, raisins and pine nuts. The rolls would be piled and dolloped with thick ribbons of creamy labna. I imagined the velvety textures contrasting with the crisp bite of the roasted pine nuts. I imagined the balance of flavours, sweet, sour, earthy and the heady aroma of lemon and spice. I subsequently imagined myself at a ceremony where Lebanese president Michael Suleiman was granting me the Order of the Cedar for my contribution to and innovation in Lebanese cuisine. The crowd was cheering, and I was shaking the congratulatory hands of my numerous fans.

Unfortunately, the creation was a total disaster. No cheering crowd for me. I was devastated. I wanted to silver beet myself silly.

One consoling factor was that I was left with many silver beet stalks. To avoid further disasters, I resorted to the fool proof Lebanese classic, silver beet stalks in tahini. Tahini is the Lebanese culinary cure-all. If disaster befalls the Lebanese, we reach for tahini. Let me see; we’ve got chickpeas with tahini, eggplants with tahini, snails with tahini, fish with tahini, falafel with tahini, shawarma with tahini, molasses with tahini, kibbeh with tahini, eggs with tahini, cake with tahini. And of course, silver beet stalks with tahini.

This is a super easy dish and is a prime example of how necessity is truly the mother of invention. After making silver beet rolls stuffed with rice, the Lebanese cook is left with a large stack of silver beet stalks. Waste is avoided. The default setting of “smother the whole thing with tahini sauce” is applied. The end result is delicious.

So don’t underestimate this dish because of its simplicity. It really is wonderful, and its creator should have been bestowed the Order of the Cedar. To prepare, cut the cleaned stalks into squares, boil or steam them until just tender and mix into tahini sauce (tahini, lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt and some water for thinning). Sprinkle with roasted or fried pine nuts, drizzle a bit of olive oil and enjoy a disaster free dish.

Share your kitchen disasters. Leave a comment and tell me how horribly you have failed.

Kibbeh with Star Anise Caramelised Onions

You’ve gotta love it when an idea comes together. It’s even better when it’s an idea so simple that it seems crazy that no one has already thought of it.

I once read the following formula:
Modern Art = I could have done that + Yeah, but you didn’t

I’m not saying I’m a modern culinary artist in any way, but there’s a pleasure I find in invention, and I sense joy when I manage to create something new, simple and delicious.

This is my version of kibbeh, and to be honest, it’s bloody awesome. Kibbeh is a family of dishes considered as Lebanon’s national culinary emblem where the common factor is that burghul, spices and onions are mixed with a binding agent. This binding agent could be anything but most commonly you’d see minced lamb or goat, pumpkin or lentils.

The two most famous incarnations of kibbeh are nayyeh and kbeb (or mikliyyeh). Nayyeh is the raw version, a silken beauty doused with olive oil and eaten with loads of fresh mint and raw onions. Kbeb are the torpedo shaped kibbeh, hollow but filled with fried mince, onions and pine nuts and then deep-fried. Imagine how good that tastes.

My kibbeh is derived from the latter, and it simply aims to bring out the best aspects of the kbeb: a crisp exterior, a generous filling of the sweetest, star anise caramelised onions and an abundance of fried pine nuts. It’s kibbeh on steroids, with all the flavours amplified ten-fold. This goes down on my list of top 10 favourites. You’ve got to try it!

Kibbeh Recipe

Ingredients

Shell

  • 0.5 kilo finely minced lamb, beef or goat meat (twice minced)
  • 180 grams fine burghul
  • 1 pureed or finely grated onion
  • 2 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • salt – use your judgement

Filling

  • 6 large onions, sliced
  • 4 star anise, in a muslin bag
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup fried pine nuts

Method

  • In a frying pan, add all the filling ingredients except pine nuts and caramalise on a low heat. It will take around 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and make sure the onions don’t burn
  • Remove from heat and add pine nuts
  • Mix all the shell ingredients
  • Flatten some of the shell mix between your palms until it’s evenly thin
  • Use a cup you like the shape of and line it with the meat.
  • Use the method outlined in the photo below (from my pumpkin kibbeh post) for a fully manual kibbeh experience, or rill the meat with filling and cover the bottom with another piece of flattened shell, ensuring the bottom adheres to the rest of the kibbeh.
  • Deep fry until golden

Bronte Pistachio Croissants

Bronte Pistachio Paste&  Croissants

Over the past few years, there’s been a major shift in my thinking when it comes to food. I had traditionally thought that ingredients are divided to two categories, the ordinary and the extra-ordinary. Cabbage, for instance fell into the “ordinary” category, whereas saffron was obviously extra-ordinary. The extra-ordinary ingredients came across as an elitist bunch. They seemed picky, always demanding a light hand, a purity in approach, always wanting to be at center stage, the stars of the show. Lobsters screamed to be poached gently and to be flavoured only with a small amount of herb butter. Oysters cried out to be eaten “au naturelles”.  Truffles were appalled if they were mixed with too many other ingredients – shaving them simply over scrambled eggs was best. I obeyed their demands and followed a respectful, minimalist approach with these extra-ordinaries, and as correct as that approach remains, I now realise that I was giving these guys the royal treatment for the wrong reason.

These days, my approach is no longer ruled by classism. The world of food has stopped being an empire with a select few in the ruling class and has become a world of food communism where all ingredients are of the same culinary value – a classless food society where ingredients are treated equally, regardless of race or creed.

These are the facts. A truffle is no better than a potato. A prawn is no lesser a crustacean than a lobster. Saffron is no more amazing than pepper. Each of these ingredients has its place and they are all equally important. What drives us to value ingredients differently is economics – supply and demand. Obviously, truffles are in less supply than potatoes so they demand a higher price. Saffron’s monetary value is in the intense labour it needs and the landmass it requires for cultivation. As supply decreases or remains steady, high demand shifts an ingredient from the “ordinary” to the “extra-ordinary”, price-wise that is. Back in the day, sugar was one of those amazing products, highly sought after and very expensive due to the difficulty in production. Obviously, sugar is now a cheap commodity, its status is less extra-ordinary though its culinary value remains constant.

Bronte Pistachio Paste Croissants

The Pistachio Paste

Nowadays, when I judge an ingredient, I judge it based on its individual quality. Such is the case of this pistachio paste. It is a paste of Bronte pistachios, one that will make you want to believe in reincarnation, simply for another chance of coming back to Earth and having some more. Sicily is Italy’s only pistachio growing region, and the town of Bronte is where some of Sicily’s best pistachios come from. The pistachios’ distinctive flavour comes from Bronte’s mineral rich soil and distinctive climate. The pistachio trees are harvested once every two years. The work needs to be done manually due to the difficult terrain. The quality of these pistachios, coupled with the relatively small and labour intensive yield makes them a niche product, and so, high demand meets low supply and prices skyrocket.

I read about Bronte pistachio paste in David Lebovitz’s blog in 2007. I craved it ever since, but Sydney doesn’t stock any. As luck would have it, Oday, a young Lebanese boy involved in the Australian Youth Food Movement went to Terra Madre, and being the wonderful adopted younger brother that he is, he indulged me upon his return with a jar of the good stuff.

What Does it Taste Like?

I wanted to make pistachio gelato, as per David L’s recipe, but the moment I opened the jar I knew I wouldn’t be able to. The intoxicating scent of pistachios, followed by a spoonful of a most ethereal delight confirmed my initial resolve. Imagine if Nutella were made with some of the world’s best hazelnuts and finest chocolate. Now imagine Bronte pistachios instead of hazelnuts and milk instead of chocolate, and you might get a glimpse of how this beauty tastes like. Not trying to be elitist, but this paste is best enjoyed pure, by the spoonful, letting the creaminess melt in your mouth and coat your taste buds, eyes closed, the aroma of roasted pistachios filling your nose. Of course, if I had 20 jars, I’d be making pistachio gelati, face masks, body scrubs, you name it. But with only 1 in hand, I allowed myself an attempt at pistachio croissants, using only 2 tablespoons of pistachio paste.

The Croissants

Invited as a guest to a pastry class at Patisse in Waterloo, I recently learned the art of croissant making. Pastry chef Vincent Gadan, ex Guillaume, is an excellent teacher and a joy to spend 4 hours with. The class covered basic French pastry – pains au chocolate, brioches, frangiapane tarts and croissants – and we went home with a bundle of raw pastry, including the pastry I used for the croissants. The croissants I made at home turned out to be fantastic and the pistachio paste matched them exceedingly well. There are so many croissants recipes out there that I won’t put one up. I believe after my class with Vincent that pastry is one of those things that you should learn from a teacher rather than from a cook book. You need to feel the pastry, know how pliable and how thin it should be before you try making it. Otherwise, the results won’t be as great as they would otherwise be.

The Obligatory Middle-Eastern Pride

It was the Arabs, of course, that took the pistachio tree to Sicily. The Sicilian word for pistachios, frastuca, is still a clear relative to the Arabic fustuq also meaning pistachios.

Food and Music

Here’s a bit of a lazy weekend post for you. Hopefully something that will introduce you to something new and amazing.
I’ve put together some of my favourite songs, and paired them up with food I would feel like eating when I listen to them.
I’ve added a link to all the songs, so have a listen and enjoy. Let me know what your favourite songs are, and what you think you’d pair them up with.

EDIT: Stupid Grooveshark has lost the links I set up for the songs. If you want to listen, forget clicking the links (apart from the Al Shayyaleen link, which is on youtube) and instead go to Grooveshark.com and look the songs up.

Only Skin

Who: Joanna Newsom
What: No one really knows what this song is about, and it is possibly telling several stories in a lengthy 17 minutes, but the imagery it conjures is stunning. Joanna Newsom is possibly my favourite musician. I’ve seen all her Sydney concerts without fail. I’m still undecided about her latest album, but her older stuff is amazing.
Food: Mussels and white wine broth, a roast chicken with garlic roasted potatoes, peaches and cream
Excerpt:
While the river was twisting and braiding, the bait bobbed
And the string sobbed, as it cut through the hustling breeze
And I watched how the water was kneading so neatly
Gone treacly
Nearly slowed to a stop in this heat

Breathless

Who: Nick Cave
What: A world full of life and movement, all because of the one he loves.
Food: Fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and olive oil
Excerpt:
I listen to my juddering bones
The blood in my veins and the wind in my lungs
And I am breathless without you

Lover You Should’ve Come Over

Who: Jeff Buckley
What: It’s a dark winter afternoon. He is all alone in the corner of his bedroom with the window open. The rain is pouring in and he is waiting for his love who never shows up.
Food: Pedro Ximenez braised beef shin with soft, buttery polenta and a mushroom ragout
Excerpt:
Maybe I’m too young
To keep good love from going wrong
But tonight, you’re on my mind so
You never know

Al Shayyaleen

Who: Rima Khocheich
What: This one is cover of an old Egyptian song. Though the words may not make sense, the oriental jazz feel along can make this one a favourite. It’s about two men who carry luggage into a train, where one is convincing the other to keep going despite the difficulty of the job and the bad pay.
Dish: Falafel. And Foul Medammas: beans and chickpeas with cumin, garlic and lemon juice garnished with loads of chopped parsley and drowned in olive oil
Excerpt (translated):
If what you carry on your back weighs you down, remember, free man, it is lighter than the burden of having to beg

Green Grass

Who: Tom Waits or if Tom Waits is too rough for you, Cibelle http://tinysong.com/lC2w
What: A dead man singing to his lover who comes to visit his grave
Food: Rosemary and sea salt flat bread
Excerpt:
Lay your head where my heart used to be
Hold the earth above me
Lay down on the green grass
Remember that you loved me

Between the Bars

Who: Eliott Smith or Madeleine Peyroux’s cover
What: A man consoling his loved one over a drink
Food: Bitter chocolate fondue with real vanilla ice cream
Excerpt:
People you’ve been before
That you don’t want around anymore
They push and shove and won’t bend to your will
I’ll keep them still

For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her

Who: Simon & Garfunkle
What: A song about a dream
Food: Smoked eel with blini and horseradish cream
Excerpt:
And when you ran to me
Your cheeks flushed with the night
We walked on frosted fields
Of juniper and lamplight

Have a good weekend everyone!

Eton War – A Lebanese Take on a Traditional Mess

A celebration of what is truly good about Summer, Eton Mess is the ultimate expression of the season in a jumbled mess of ripe, intensely red fruit and richly satisfying milkiness. Strawberries and cream with crunchy meringues in between. It doesn’t get much better than that.

This one however, is not an Eton Mess, but rather a Lebanese take on British tradition. And since the Lebanese are prone to turning a mess into something much more serious, I’ve decided to call this invention an Eton War.

In my opinion, the ingredient that replaces cream in this recipe is going to become one of the hottest items in the kitchen’s repertoire in the years to come, once western chefs are switched on to it – at which point, sadly, it will stop being thought of as a traditional Middle-Eastern ingredient, and the world will think it’s a molecular gastronomist’s invention. The ingredient is called natef, and it rocks. It is made by boiling soapwort which extracts its saponin content, and then by whipping the liquid which foams up into a cloud of whiteness. The foam is neutral in flavour and can be given sweetness by using a heavy sugar syrup. This is gently added to the mixture as you continue whipping, like you would with an Italian meringue. The mixture becomes glossy and velvety as the sugar syrup is added. The texture that results is unlike anything you’ve ever tried. It’s thicker and silkier than cream, more luscious and truly unique. A sweet, delicious shaving cream is the closest description I can give you.

To continue with the theme, I macerated the strawberries in orange blossom water and used pistachio meringues – pistachios are traditionally paired with natef in a dessert called karabij halabiyyeh. The result is different to an Eton Mess, but equally as crave inducing.

Soapwort can be found at traditional Chinese herbalists. For more detail on natef, including step-by-step instructions on how to perform this miraculous transformation, read Anissa Helou’s post here.

Bloody Obsessions – Porteno’s Morcilla

I went to Porteño a month ago. I am still dreaming about the morcilla with roast capsicum. It is one bloody amazing sausage. Go there. Eat it. I beg you. Get there early though.

w: http://www.porteno.com.au
a: 358 Cleveland Street Surry Hills NSW 2010

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