If this blistering heat in the Zambezi Valley forces Mikey, our leonine Mastif/St.Bernard, to take refuge in our cool concrete bath at 7.30 in the morning, imagine what it does in the kitchen? The kitchen without windows, or a fan. The kitchen where we have to clothe our old deep freeze in a soaking wet towel to assist it with evaporative cooling.
Imagine, then, what it does to fresh cream and milk? Or ice cream? I found out firsthand when I was prepping a Sunday lunch for 19 visitors last weekend. Our garden is loaded with strawberries right now, therefore turning them into ice cream–a dessert our taste buds and hot bodies cry out for in search of momentary reprieve–seemed a perfect ending to a Moroccan-inspired menu. I settled upon making a strawberry, rosemary and black pepper ice cream, crafted out of a highly concentrated coulis using a technique I learned in my recent tutorial at Tongabezi Lodge. I planned to serve the ice cream with fresh strawberries and meringues.
As it turned out, making the coulis for the first time ever was a cakewalk compared to making the custard base for the ice cream, something I’d made many times before. I started by separating the whites and yolks of a vast quantity of eggs, the latter of which I hoped to whisk into a vast quantity of cream and milk. But while warming up what-I-thought-was “fresh” creamy milk, it suddenly curdled. The heat had got to one of the bottles somewhere between the store and our fridge in just over a day.
I was unaware of this until I started whisking the milk into the beaten egg yolks. Instead of thickening the mixture it turned it into chalky water. [Expletive … EXPLETIVE!] I was loathe to throw it out because I hated to waste so much, but in truth I had used up most of the ingredients. I had neither an accessible vehicle nor the inclination to drive into steamy Livingstone, so I had to find a way to fix it.
“Just make a plan,” that overused southern African truism, is what I did. It’s what I’ve done since I arrived here early last year. Picture this: the first time I tried to use Chris’s electric hand mixer, buried in a dust-covered basket under a kitchen counter, mud wasps had turned the holes for the beater paddles into two towers of high-rise condos. The squatters had left by the time I wanted to use the mixer, so we poked the mud out of each hole with a stick, and it worked again like new. It still does.
Back to the chalky water that never improved, even after I added my thick and sticky strawberry coulis. The mixture kept slopping over the sides of the ice cream tub, pleading with me to turn it into a smoothie and start over. Furious, I shoved it into the freezer and went for a swim.
It was in the pool (not the bathtub, sorry Archimedes but Mikey’s in it) that I had my epiphany: freeze the mixture overnight; in the morning remove and allow it to melt a little before pushing a whizzer stick (or fork) through the container to break down the (iceberg-size) crystals; whiz as many fresh strawberries into the ice cream mixture as will fit without spilling; refreeze until solid.
Eureka! It worked. In fact, it was one of the tastiest ice creams I’ve ever made. Whizzing in fresh strawberries halfway through the freezing process made the ice cream less sweet than usual, which really lifted the sugary meringue’s role in the dessert. Keep a look out for the recipe for Strawberry, Rosemary & Black Pepper Ice Cream with Meringues in a future blog post.