Category: Fruits & Sweets

All manner of sweets including fruits, cakes, cookies, breads, tarts & pies

Melons in Moscato and food firsts

I remember I had a sort of foodie aha! moment as a kid, the first time I was playing around with a rind of orange. I twisted it and it squirted out this sour-bitter yet wonderfully fragrant oil at me. I didn’t know about orange zest then but I do remember wondering whether it had any uses. Along similar lines, I’ve since wondered about many things… foodwise (I use that term loosely, after all one man’s idea of food is another man’s recurring nightmare)

So who was it who first…

…looked at a snail and thought, “Mmmm, that looks like good eats!”

…looked at the truffles pigs dug out and ate and thought, “Well, if it’s good enough for the pig….”

…had the guts to try tomatoes again for the first time after they had been declared poisonous.

…thought that burning his food would make it more edible.

…thought that the inside of a yam would be good to eat (despite the itchy, outer skin).
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The Kitchn’s One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream

We tried this recipe for an ice-cream over the weekend and I don’t think I’ve been so excited about ice-cream ever! Saying this is saying a lot, because really ice-cream lists high…high on my list of favourite foods. I have been known to plead for it at the oddest times. My poor, harried husband has been known to drive me to Swenson’s at all odd hours because of ill-timed cravings for a chocolate orange swirl. It took some time before he completely understood just how deep my love affair with this delicious frozen delight really went. He also knows he needs to move very quickly once the craving has struck. I steam-roll over anything in my way.

Even so, ice-cream and I have had a love-hate relationship. I have always loved it, it kind of hates me, I think. As a child, rarely could I get away with blatantly eating it at will. Doctors threatened tonsillectomy and my mother watched me like a hawk, but I still managed to whine and whimper until my dad gave in and bought me a cone. Flash forward to adulthood and not much has changed except that the absence of parental supervision means I can eat all the ice-cream that I want. Doctors still threaten impending doom for the tonsils, but you know what? I look forward to it. Apparently, after a tonsillectomy, you-can-have-all-the-ice-cream-you-want! Heaven, is that you??

Getting back to this recipe that has me all worked up, it is so simple, yet so amazing and delicious, the person who figured it out should be given the food Pritzker or some thing like that. It is a banana ice-cream that uses…are you ready for it?…one ingredient. And no, I don’t mean bananas and one ingredient, I mean one ingredient…period, full-stop, end of ingredient list. I read about it here for the first time, though from what I read I gather that this recipe has been around for a while.  I love bananas. I love ice-cream. How did I not know about this sooner? Then, as I read on, I got a bit skeptical. How is it possible? Ice-cream is cream, sugar and ice. How could the humble banana manage to reach the exalted heights that whipped cream and sugar can reach when iced? The symphony of that frozen music surely can’t be created merely by a fruit!

So of course, I had to try this right away. I had some bananas at home. What I read told me that it would be better if the bananas were as ripe as possible, without having gotten spoiled. So I bunged all seven bananas into a paper bag to speed up the ripening process. Come Friday they had turned into beautiful black and yellow specimen, slightly squishy. So I peeled them and tossed them into the freezer. The next morning they had frozen rock hard, at which point a few of them were placed in a blender and given a whizz. At first they just kind of sat there, sort of confused about what they were supposed to do next. But slowly, with the gentle cajoling of the ‘pulse’ button, they got with the program and began to gently whirr about the blender. A few more rounds of blending turned everything into mounds of creamy looking clouds. We stopped the blender, grabbed the jar and reached in spoons and fingers. And to quote my favourite F.R.I.E.N.D.S, oh-my-god!


The resultant whipped fruit is out of this world. I was tempted, tempted to swear there and then that I would never eat bananas any other way again (but I love banana bread entirely too much.) Something almost magical happens to the frozen bananas when they are blended. The banana ice gets air whipped into it and they turn into a wonderful creamy ice-cream like concoction with the consistency of a soft-serve. Rich and creamy, you just cannot believe all it took was a couple of bananas. We squabbled like little kids over who got to finish the first batch!

Caramel for the brittle
Caramel for the brittle

I added some powdered green cardamom and a teaspoon of vanilla essence to my second batch, just to see how it would turn out. It was like adding additional icing to a cake that was already frosted. The cardamom worked very well, the vanilla essence might have been a bit of an over-kill. We also added some caramel, hardened into lovely little golden brittle to the mix, which worked superbly. My mind is racing with ideas. There are new bananas freezing as I write this and I have big plans for this lot.Some of them are going to go in with some walnuts, another lot is going to become best friends with chocolate, a home-made chunky monkey of sorts. Maybe top it with some berries…the possibilities are endless. We’ve been wondering what else might work with this treatment, maybe mangoes…or papaya? But it would have to be good, really ripe fruit. If you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, look no further for the perfect ice-cream. This is it.

We did manage (only barely just) to save enough to fill a small box and put it in the freezer, only to see if it froze and kept as well as I had read it would. I have to say It managed fairly well. But I very much preferred the version that came out of the blender as opposed to the re-frozen one. Somehow, though the frozen version tastes pretty good, the fact you are eating only bananas becomes more obvious here. Still, at the end of it, I was never more happy to have my skepticism turned on its ear. This is a delicious and amazing one-ingredient miracle. You will love it. Your children may insist on having their bananas only this way in the summers. You have to try it to believe it.

Simplest banana ice-cream

Software required: Bananas, peeled and frozen solid
Hardware required: a blender
Introduce one to the other and watch them make sweet music!

Strawberry-Ollalieberry Jam

Having acquired the berries, there were still lingering questions in my mind. How does the complete novice start with making jam? It is a bit scary to think that tasks that women of the past easily performed now have to be assiduously read about on the Internet by the 21st century person. Accompanying all instructions to jam-making are dire warnings about canning and storage, hot water and cold plates. It is enough to scare off the most easy-going person. Well, I’m here to tell you that the whole process is absolutely as easy as reaching out and picking the berry off the tree. Put all those people screaming about contamination on mute. Also ignore anyone who tells you that you need tons of specialised equipment. All that you really need is a large stockpot, some very clean Bell jars, a pair of very clean and hefty tongs and a clean ladle. Make sure your hands are clean and that you don’t touch the clean stuff with messy hands, and you’re in business.

Since ollalies are not the most well-known of berries, it is hard to find a recipe with them. I read in several places that they can be used wherever blackberries are specified. However, it is even harder when you are looking for something coupling strawberries with them. So I decided to loosely follow this recipe for easy jam off the Food Network, from Ina Garten. This would be a bit of a trial and error since there is some science to the proportions of fruit, sugar and acid used to make jam. At worst I figured I’d end up with lots of fruit syrup. Not what I was looking for but given how good the berries tasted it would still taste good. When life gives you fruit, messing with its natural perfect state without knowing exactly what you’re doing must come with some punishment. So I steeled myself to possible failure and decided to forge ahead.

Amey found me some wide mouth Bell jars at the local Safeway. It really is a pity how in the city of San Francisco, they do not sell these individually. The size of the apartments here is hardly going to encourage bulk canning and storage. Yet the smallest amount of jars available are fifteen. But I had committed to serious jam making and if my math and understanding of the process was correct, at least three to four jars were required. Having gotten the jars home without mishap, we proceeded to wash them clean in soapy water. Then I boiled some water in my largest pot and placed the jars, lids and all in the boiling water for ten minutes. Taking them out, careful not to touch the mouth or inside of the jar, I placed them on a tray and put them in the oven to dry out.

That truly is the only possible aggravating portion of jam making. From there on, it’s all downhill. You cut wash the fruit and clean it. Hull the strawberries and clean out any leftover stems from the ollalieberries. Mix them altogether and then measure them out to see exactly how much fruit you have. Ina’s recipe had about 3 1/4 pints of fruit to 3 cups of sugar. I had about that much fruit, plus a few more cups. But three cups of sugar had already made me nervous. Chalk it up to the ingrained mass of worries we all become around sugar. So I didn’t increase the quantity of sugar. I put ollalieberries in whole, halved the strawberries, tossed in a cup of sugar and set the bowl aside so that all three could get to know each other a bit better.

This recipe instructs you to use half a green apple. This provides the pectin for the party, the natural sugar found in apples that allows for the jammifying of things. It’s one of the reasons I like the recipe. No futzing around with pectin powders in sachets allowing it to stay as basic as possible. So half an apple, duly peeled and sliced, joined the rest of the fruit. I squashed the fruit a bit with my hands (let me tell you it is strangely therapeutic squishing berries under your fingers, an instant calmer), but not too thoroughly, then poured the entire thing into a deep pan to boil away and become this magic deep red nectar of the gods.

Strawberry-Ollalieberry Jam
Adapted from an Ina Garten recipe off Food Network

Strawberries – 2 pints
Ollalieberries – 2 pints
Apple – 3/4, peeled and sliced (I used a Granny Smith)
Sugar – 3 cups
Orange Liqueur – 3 tsp
Lemon juice – 1/2 lemon

– Wash the fruit. Hull and cut the strawberries in half. Toss the ollalies in whole.
– Add one cups of sugar to the mixed berries in a large bowl. Set aside for ten minutes.
– Peel and finely slice the apple.
– Gently squeeze the berries to release the juices then place into a deep bottom pan at medium high. Add the rest of the sugar and orange liqueur
– When the mixture comes to a boil, add the apple and lemon juice. Stir the mixture often and keep it at a rolling boil.
– Skim and remove the foam that forms on the top as much as you can. Keep boiling the mixture until it thickens. This can take anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes.
– Once the mixture has thickened considerably, give it the frozen plate test. Place a few drops on a plate and place in the freezer for a minute. If the syrup on the frozen plate doesn’t run when you tilt the plate, you have the desired consistency.
– Move off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature before storing. This jam can then be canned per your jar manufacturers’ instructions or, it can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Cook’s notes:
My first jam-making experiment was a resounding success according to my very happy husband, who was thrilled to eat several crackers with the freshly made jam, making a crumby mess. It is almost as if the essential fruitiness of the berries multiplies exponentially as it conentrates and you reap this glorious nectar. The jam hits you with a sweetness immediately followed by tartness that lingers in your mouth and you immediately reach for another bite. There is a goodness in it that cannot be denied.

This quantity of fruit yielded two and half jars of jam. I proceeded with canning the almost full jars. You leave some room on top to allow for the expansion and cooling of air. Using a very clean ladle to dollop out quantities of jam into the prepped jars, I was careful to clean the few spill ups with fresh paper towels, never using the same one twice. Then placing the lids and tightly screwing on the rings, I used the tongs to place the full jars for a bath in a pot of boiling water for a scant five minutes. Fishing them out of the water (narrowly avoiding an accident that might have turned my kitchen into ending scenes from The Amityville Horror), I placed them on clean paper towels to cool. Everything was as sterilised as is possible in a kitchen environment.  As the jars cooled there were two faint pops. I have to say there is nothing as satisfying hearing that lid pop. It means all your mucking about with the jars was accurately done. I’m reasonably sure that these jars would have lasted to winter but had no opportunity of testing it with this batch. Between my co-workers and Amey, we have gone through two jars of jam. I wish I’d made more. I love to cook for people but there is nothing as gratifying as watching someone whose eyes light up when they taste jam that you made. That childhood bliss is written all over their face. I was struck by how many people told me only their grandparents actually made jam. Not only is it unbelievably easy to make, it is extremely economical when made in large quantities. Also, no store bought jam in the world tastes like the one you make at home. The aromatherapy of cooking jam is an unbeatable added benefit. At least two neighbours stopped by to ask what was cooking and I didn’t even know them (city dweller, so that’s no surprise), but I do now. I wish I’d made more to share but that is a mistake that can easily be remedied. I will certainly make more jam before the summer fruit season is over. If you are wondering about jam, I encourage you to try it. This is so easy that the idiom ‘easy as pie’ should really read ‘ easy as jam’.

Kickpleat’s Cinnamon-Banana bread with walnuts, raisins & butterscotch chips

4th of July. Independence day here in the United States, day of siege for those of us who happen to live anywhere within a few blocks radius of the Bay. For it is the day hordes of people descend upon the city. Some are tourists involved in long weekend travelling, others just live around the city and decide that is the day they want to visit. It’s the day when city inhabitants head out while the ones from without try to get in.

Amey and I learnt our lesson about this day the year we first moved to our apartment. We had flown out of the country and hit upon the brilliant plan of arriving back on 4th of July. The airport was like a circus with none of the fun and excitement. Getting a cab was next to impossible; the moment they heard our address, cab drivers suddenly dug their tires into the tarmac and refused to budge. As we threatened to melt into sad little puddles in the July heat, a tough old lady with green hair and a moustache took pity on our wilting forms with matching duct taped luggage and decided to drive us home, with dire warnings about how much this was going to cost us with the traffic. We could see the fog slowly inching into the city over the western hills as the cab slowly headed north at about the same pace.

An hour later we were still five blocks away. As the fireworks lit up the twilit sky, jet lag was starting to hit us both badly. But every car in front of us, behind us, next to us, was frozen in place while idiots scrambled with their cameras trying to photograph flashes of light created by distant firecrackers. As the driver’s yelled profanities reached levels that were starting to shock even my well-seasoned husband, we decided the best course of action was to get out and start to walk before some of surrounded ‘happy’ people started to hurl beer bottles at us. Just as the last firecracker lit the sky, we grabbed our luggage out of the trunk, took a deep breath and headed homeward, only to find ourselves thoroughly thwarted. From the swells that flooded towards us, it seemed like all of humanity was in San Francisco watching the fireworks. I was walked into, trod upon, and thoroughly bruised. A guy in green shorts and very questionable breath nearly shattered my eardrum with a ‘Merry Cracker day’. Amey was nearly strangled when he was given a bear hug by some girl wearing star spangled tights and a neon green tank top. We nearly lost an arm several times when out-of-breath and judgment impaired morons kept mistaking our bags for ‘something to sit on’. Bruised, bloody and heartily sorry to be alive, we finally made it to our building thirty minutes later. Amey was missing a contact lens, I was missing a slipper and my mind, at least two-and-a-half handles were broken. But-we-made-it-home, ostensibly all together. As we fell asleep on the carpet, we could hear the people and traffic outside and swore we’d never be out on July 4 as long as we lived in this apartment.

A few years later and July 4th comes around last weekend. The traffic started building up with bumper-to-bumper vehicles by 3 pm. Mothers yelled. Kids cried. Cars blared Michael Jackson through the stereo, loud enough to make the glass in my windows look like jelly. I looked out (at a safe distance from the glass of course) at the sea of people and was fervently grateful for not having left home. The fog meant it was a cool day so Amey and I celebrated in the warm embrace of an enchanting banana bread.

This is the kind of bread that is so comforting, it is magic. It can make all your woes disappear. First there is the fact that it smells like heaven when it is baking in the oven. Seriously, if Napolean or Hitler had a whiff of this bread in their day, they may have given up all ideas of world domination. This bread could bring about world peace. In the very least it brought our neighbours who we barely know knocking on our door. It smells like your favourite childhood bed is ready and waiting. It smells of misty dreams. And then, there is the way it tastes. Of bananas and fresh cinnamon, of cheery comfort. I’m sure it would bring searing warmth to cold days. It bought us an hour and a half of reigning peace, divorced from blaring car horns and yelling tourists. It brought us freedom from care.

Cinnamon-Banana bread with walnuts, raisins & butterscotch chips
adapted from a recipe via Everybody likes Sandwiches

Makes one medium loaf

Bananas – 3, very ripe.
Eggs – 2
Unbleached all-purpose flour – 1 ½ cups
Agave Nectar – 3/4 cup
Baking Soda – 1 tsp
Cinnamon – 2 tsp, ground
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Butterscotch chips – 1/2 cup
Walnuts – 1/2 cup, broken into pieces
Raisins – 1/2 cup
About a 1/4 tsp of sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon for sprinkling over

– Preheat your oven to 375°F and lightly butter a loaf pan.
– Mash the bananas well. Add eggs and stir in briskly to combine with the mashed banana.
– Add flour, agave nectar, baking soda, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir well to combine.
– Fold in the butterscotch chips, walnut pieces and most of the raisins, reserving a few
– Pour the mixture into the prepped loaf pan.
– Top with an even sprinkling of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and the saved raisins.
– Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.

Cook’s notes:
I love nuts in sweets, and bananas and walnuts are a match made in my dream paradise. In fact, this is what they would serve there on demand all day. I was curious about the recipe having no fat of any kind whatsoever but there was no cause for concern. The bread turned out rich and delicious. It has a dense, soft crumb that breaks apart with the slightest pressure and fills you with a warm and fuzzy feeling all over. The warming tones of the cinnamon weave themselves through the other ingredients to create a richly spiced, out-of-this-world bread. I replaced the sugar with agave nectar and butterscotch chips for the chocolate the original recipe calls for. I didn’t miss the sugar at all and the butterscotch chips simply disappeared into the cake, leaving behind their caramelly hints. The whole thing comes together in ten or fifteen minutes and after that the oven does the work. Bake this on a weary day and you will feel your spirits rise with the bread. It gave us our Independence Day.

Fruit & Nut Bread Pudding with a jammy glaze

It is one of the strange realities of life. When we’re young, we can’t wait to grow up. And then the older we get, the younger we want to be. There is apparently, that subtle tipping of the scales when we turn thirty. Not that I hate being my age right now, but I believe eighteen was my ideal year. I would have been quite happy being that for the rest of my life. Not older, not younger. My Goldilocks version of just right. I didn’t really have a crisis of any kind at thirty. I faced it like I face any other birthday. Just another day. Friends tell me that’s just ridiculous, how can I not have freaked out?? I don’t know but I’m thankful, also a bit worried. Maybe the freaking bit just skipped thirty and is lurking about, waiting for me at my fortieth check post.

My husband doesn’t seem to care about age at all. The only time I can tell he misses his childhood is when I hear him tell me about it in that “wasn’t that just the best story you ever heard” fashion. I think he looks for it in his own way. For the longest time, he only cooked what he ate back home as a kid. I’m all for nostalgia but I had to stop his culinary visits. There is only so many times that I can eat rajma (indian beans) and rice. And when they started popping up again and again and again and (!!!), it was time to blow the whistle, which I did….only to have him start to cook his second-favourite dish repeatedly. It was touch-and-go whether he’d evolve into an all-rounder there for a while, but the ingredients he saw everywhere in California got to him, and he started experimenting with new stuff. Nevertheless, he still loves to visit his childhood through his food.

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