“When and how did you start cooking so much?” asked a dear friend, who has known me for a very long time. We were room / house mates in the new city, when we both started our first jobs. We had a full-fledged kitchen in the house, but the kitchen was rarely used – either to boil milk (by us) or when either of our moms were in town. Otherwise, eat out we did, day after day, without making a teeny weeny attempt to prepare our own meals. I can still rattle out the restaurants where we used to be regulars, trying out different dishes each day. Oh yes, we were definitely foodies, not the cooking but the eating kind 🙂
After the particularly long phone conversation (even by our standards) ended, when we clocked 4 hrs and 49 mins (K was quite surprised that the phone didn’t run out of charge :-P), I thought about her question. Really, what got me into cooking? Was it to impress K (and I can hear K ROTFL over this comment), so let’s move past that. Was it because I thought of the kitchen as kind of a sanctuary (no!) or found cooking therapeutic (may be!)? After much soul-searching, what I realized was that I did not want to miss out on enjoying the various dishes that I got introduced to, due to my food restrictions.
You see, apart from most animal products (I am not a vegan, I need my diary and honey), I also don’t eat eggs. That means most of the desserts are out of reach for me, and since I have a really strong sweet tooth, I figured the only way I can still have my sugar fix is if I start preparing it. For one, I know exactly what goes into making it and also, I can tailor the recipe to suit my palette. What started for desserts (specifically cakes & cookies), has moved on to other spheres as well, as much to my chagrin, I realized that there are pastas that contain eggs and I hit rock-bottom the day I realized, most ice-creams here contain eggs. Baskin-Robbins and ColdStone came to my rescue, but still…
I have tried my hand at making Indian Kulfi in the past as well as chocolate gelato and a few others. This time, I tried one of my favorite combinations – Date & Pecan Ice Cream. Making ice cream at home, without an ice cream maker is not impossible or difficult, but definitely is a laborious process. I just followed the master, David Lebovitz’s instructions here to the T and the result was almost perfect. I whisked by hand and in hindsight, I feel using a hand blender would have definitely yielded a better result. So, if you have a hand-blender definitely use that instead of whisking by hand, but I wouldn’t recommend buying one just for this.
Adding egg to the ice cream, yields a very creamy texture as egg stops water from forming water crystal. The alternative to this, I found through an article that I stumbled upon in NY Times, is corn starch. Apparently, corn starch absorbs the water, thereby preventing it from forming ice crystals and I must say, this worked pretty well for the most part. Now, without further ado, presenting Date Pecan Ice Cream. *Drum Roll*
Whole Dates – 6, Soak in warm water or milk for about an hour and cut into bite size pieces.
1.5 cup Milk (preferably, Whole / Full fat)
1 cup Evaporated Milk (If you cannot find Evaporated milk, use Half & Half instead. Or else, you can just Plain Milk instead)
1/2 cup Date Syrup (I used Lion Date Syrup from India. You can prepare your own by soaking and blending dates)
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
Boil all the above ingredients together in a sauce pan for about 5 minutes. Add a tbsp of corn starch to this mixture and boil for another 5-7 minutes. Cool this mixture in an ice bath and freeze it. Follow David’s instructions from hereon to make the ice cream.
Just before the last whisking, I added the chopped dates and Wet Pecans (recipe below, courtesy Susi’s kochen und backen), which adds a nice crunch.
1/4 cup of maple syrup
Handful of toasted and chopped Pecan
1/2 tsp salt
Heat the maple syrup and just as it starts to boil, add the pecan and salt and let it all come together. Turn the gas off and let it cool completely.
Anyway, have you ever wondered, what keeps you going, in doing whatever catches your fancy? It could be painting, writing, learning a language or pursuing some art form; but what is the motivation behind this?