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!

crostini with lemon ricotta, fresh basil, black pepper and drizzled with a vanilla infused olive oil

Crostini means “little toasts” in Italian… so topping my “little toasts” with a creamy lemon ricotta cheese, adding a few twists of black pepper, some basil and adding a little sweetness with a drizzle of vanilla infused olive oil gives these “little toasts” a bit of panache.


  • 1 cup of home-made ricotta cheese (click for recipe)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed (optional)
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • sea salt
  • 1  stick of french bread cut into slices (1cm thick)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half (optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, finely sliced
  • vanilla infused olive oil or plain olive oil
How to make:

Combine the ricotta cheese, garlic and lemon zest in a small bowl, season with sea salt to taste. This can be prepared some hours in advance and stored in the refrigerator until needed.

Preheat the grill to high and lightly toast french bread slices on both sides until golden brown. Rub the cut side of garlic over one side of each piece of toasted bread. When cooled spread the prepared ricotta cheese on top of each piece of crostini. Season with a few twists of black pepper, drizzle over some vanilla olive oil and scatter over fresh basil on top and serve.

Try using fresh mint instead of basil and drizzle some walnut oil over the crostini instead of  vanilla oil for a different variation.
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