Tag Archives: food

churning your own ice cream!

Having my own ice cream machine has given me much more flexibility when making different types of ice creams and frozen ices. Without the machine, the method of hand stirring and still freezing ice cream was very time-consuming with some recipes. Home-made ice cream without all the additives is a big plus. Children love to cook and I know that making their own ice cream will be a big hit with them… it was with mine!

Rock salt and ice used in the freezing process of ice cream

Some years ago I decided to buy my first ice cream machine and the only one I could find at the time was the type requiring rock salt and ice which you had to layer around the inside container of the machine, chilling and freezing the mixture inside while being churned … at least the churn was electric and not hand-cranked!

Crushing and layering the ice was a bit of a hassle plus keeping an eye on the salt and ice levels (living in a hot climate) posed another challenge. Over time, excitement and enthusiasm of making home-made ice cream began to melt away (pun intended) and the machine ended up in the store-room gathering dust…eventually given away.

Churning the ice-cream with an electric paddle helps break up the ice crystals and incorporates air, resulting in a lighter and smoother ice cream

When traveling, visiting kitchen shops are always high on my list… so it wasn’t  long before I had a new ice cream machine wrapped snugly inside my suitcase… bound for Bahrain .

The freeze bowl type with the  electric churn is the most popular and the one I use, light in weight and taking up very little space on my kitchen worktop. The bowl houses a special liquid freezing solution (hurray no ice and salt) insulated inside its walls which then needs to be placed for a minimum of 10  hours (depending on model) in the freezer before use. Before buying you might want to check that your freezer, especially drawer types can accommodate the size of the bowl.

Make sure when drying the bowl that you use a lint free cloth,  taking care to dry all the little nooks, if they get blocked with ice the motor head will not attach properly, plus chipping the ice away may damage your bowl.

Tip:  After making a batch of ice cream I always return the bowl (washed and dried) back to the freezer compartment where it is stored all the time, making it always available for use.

The larger and more expensive ice cream machines contain their own freezer unit and work independently. The big advantage is that they can churn out one batch of ice cream after another. Heavy and taking up a much bigger space on a kitchen worktop.

Other uses: Need to chill a bottle of wine fast…use the freeze bowl!

Pumpkin Ice Cream coming up …!

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what’s the scoop!

four scoops

Pulling four ice cream scoops from my kitchen drawer…straight away it was obvious which ones were “dishwasher safe”.  It is something that I usually check before washing but I guess we are all guilty of throwing utensils into the dishwasher only to discover on emptying… “oh hell” did I really put that in there! The photograph speaks for itself.


Making that perfect scoop of ice cream requires a spoon- shaped metal head with a handle that can be held comfortably with a firm grip…that is if you want the perfect scoop! Many a dessert spoon I am sure will have been bent trying to dig scoops of hard ice cream out of it’s container. Each of the four ice cream scoops being different, two mechanical scoops (half-globe shape) with a leaver, one simple ice cream scoop and one that has a handle which can be filled with warm water.

do I really need an ice-cream scoop?

Well, I like having a utensil made specifically for the job and yes sometimes I do want that perfect scoop of ice cream.

scoop number one: The mechanical scoop (half-globe) has a leaver at the side which moves a blade across the scoop’s  interior that helps eject the ice cream ball successfully. Actually I never bought this scoop with ice cream in mind…it was potatoes! Great for serving up nice creamy mounds of mashed potato.

great for serving mounds of mashed potato

scoop number two: The leaver is positioned on top of the handle and when pressed pushes up a metal leaver on the scoops interior, which helps to eject the ball of ice cream. This scoop was not very successful when used on a soft ice cream because the leaver got stuck in the ice-cream itself and you ended up trying to shake it off instead. Works better with a firmer ice cream. Even though it was dishwasher safe, I had to wash it manually because the metal leaver inside the scoop had to be pressed up to wash underneath it properly.

can be used to portion out even sized fish cakes

scoop number three: A plain metal scoop, no leaver and no filling of water. To use this scoop I would  dip it into a mug full of warm water, giving it a wipe with kitchen paper before dragging the warmed scoop over the surface of the ice cream, it worked… but then along came scoop number 4!

the interior of the ice cream scoop with red handle is very pitted…into the bin it goes!

scoop number four:  This has a handle covered with a rubber grip which can be filled with hot water (no more dipping and wiping) which transfers heat to the top of the scoop, this aids in forming nice rolls or balls of ice cream when dragged along the surface. The ice cream does not stick to the warm scoop.

my favourite ice cream scoop is number four and one that I use all the time… but there is an ice cream scoop which has an anti-freeze liquid sealed inside and is non stick which is supposed to be really good. Maybe I need to up-grade!

before that perfect scoop!

In my experience when dealing with any frozen hard ice cream it requires some softening first and this should be done slowly in the refrigerator, anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size of ice cream container. The aim is to soften it enough to scoop and serve.


vanilla infused olive oil

the vanilla bean

The vanilla bean is the fruit of a special orchid family of which there are thousands of varieties, but only one variety (vanilla plantifolia) bears anything edible. It is an expensive spice due to a labor-intensive and time-consuming process.

the maturing process

The vanilla orchid starts to flower around three years after planting. The flowers need to be pollinated so that the orchid can produce fruit, this is usually done by hand. The fruit which looks like a long green bean takes about two months to grow and a further eight months to mature before the green beans (also called a pod) are hand-picked for the next stage of the process. In order for the vanilla bean to develop its distinctive flavour and aroma, the hand-picked vanilla bean has to under go months of curing and drying before it can be used. By then the vanilla bean will have shrunk in size and have turned dark brown in colour. Cutting along the length of the vanilla bean reveals thousands of minute seeds which are used extensively in cooking. The three most common types are the Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla bean, Mexican vanilla bean and the Tahitian vanilla bean. Indonesia and India also grow orchids that produce vanilla beans.


I have a little stash of used glass bottles that I refuse to throw out because they look cute or I just like the shape (once they had some nice oils in them) and they look great when filled with your own infused oils. Most of these little bottles will hold about half or one cup of oil, so by infusing smaller amounts of oil at a time keeps everything tasting fresh. Putting the bottles into the dishwasher and running the hot cycle makes sure that they are really clean and sterilized before using.

“No”…my camera sensor does not need a cleaning…it’s the minute seeds of the vanilla bean floating in the olive oil.

How to make vanilla infused olive oil

Fill a small bottle ( mine was 1/2 cup) with a good quality olive oil which I prefer to use, extra virgin oil has a stronger taste which competes with the flavour of the vanilla.

Run the tip of a sharp knife down the length of the vanilla bean to reveal all those minute seeds and pop the whole vanilla bean (or cut in half to fit the bottle) into the glass bottle. Close and give the bottle a gentle shake which will release some of the seeds into the oil.

Store the bottle in a cool dark place for about a week to two weeks, (depends on the strength of the vanilla bean used) remembering to give the bottle a gentle shake every other day to help with the infusing process. Do taste the oil after a week or so and if you are happy with the flavour you can start using it.  Remember…good things are worth waiting for!

This vanilla infused olive oil is a real store cupboard treat and one that I like to have a little supply at hand. The oil adds a hint of vanilla and sweetness  to my finished dishes, for example…drizzled over some crostini with lemon ricotta or a seafood risotto are one of my many culinary uses.

Look out for more vanilla flavour!

The Vegetable Peeler

2 vegetable peelers, swivel type

The vegetable peeler is an essential kitchen tool that makes peeling of vegetables and fruits much easier. I like to have at least 3 peelers in my kitchen… somehow on the odd occasion they make their way (unnoticed) into the rubbish bin with the discard peels. The annoying thing is, I only seem to discover this the next time I want to peel something.

A vegetable peeler with a really sharp blade is an essential cooks tool, it should be comfortable to hold, remove the bare minimum of peel (thus hanging on to more precious vitamins), resulting in less wastage. How many of you keep a peeler with a blunt blade? You struggle when peeling your vegetables and fruit and swear that you will go out and buy a new one.

The swivel peeler is a favorite and great for peeling easy cucumber ribbons for salads and  garnishes. Have you ever need soft butter fast?  Take the rock hard butter from the fridge and using the vegetable peeler, shave the butter onto a plate, the butter will soften in minutes. Using your vegetable peeler to sharpen pencils… well I can’t say I recommend that.

 Do you have any tips or other uses for your vegetable peeler?

a blog around my kitchen

My Comfortable Chair

The kitchen is the heart and hub of our home and it’s the place where I spend a good part of each day. Nestled in the corner of the kitchen there is a comfortable chair where I can relax and unwind with a nice cup of coffee and a good cooking magazine.

I was thinking that I seriously need to  sort some of the “stuff”that seems to have multiplied in my kitchen over the years. Drawers and cupboards filled to capacity  with cooking tools, bakeware, dish ware and of course, food. I know I use most of this “stuff” but can I let some of it go…… let’s see! Will keep you posted.


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