The Art of Making Gelato, by Morgan Morano

Books
The Art of Making Gelato, by Morgan Morano

Funny things, books about ice cream …

They only get used for a few weeks a year, at least in Britain, and here we are, in the middle of those few weeks, besieged by glowering clouds and wildly fluctuating temperatures.

Enough to make me to think seriously about turning the central heating back on rather than breaking out the ice cream maker.

But get over this unseasonal seasonality we must, and this book is a great help in doing just that.

I tend to judge ice cream based recipe books on two criteria – do they tell me how to make the stuff in the first place, and are there enough recipes with a bit of a twist to make me want to try a few?

Really, it’s that simple – some clear guidance on the mechanics of making ice cream, and a bunch of recipes that stretch beyond a really good vanilla, which, of course, is the absolute pinnacle of ice cream making, but I’m sure you get my drift.

Morgan Morano’s The Art of Making Gelato: 50 Flavors to Make at Home does just that, with a step-by-step run down of the mechanics of the operation, and fifty recipes, including a whole chapter on various combinations of nuts, a recipe for chocolate and red chilli pepper, kiwi, banana (not sure about that …) and a good clutch of sorbets.

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At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen, by Amy Chaplin

Books
At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen, by Amy Chaplin

So, when I first came across At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen a few weeks ago, I flicked through it and found page after page of stunning photos.

A great start.

But then I started to skim read it and it didn’t feel good … too worthy, too healthy, too much quinoa.

I put it aside for a while, and then started to remember little bits and pieces about it. One Saturday afternoon, I found myself decanting half-used bags of seeds, grains, sugars into that collection of glass jars I had kicking around because one day they’d become ‘useful’.

Where did that come from?  I then remembered a small nudge in the shape of a photo of a beautifully arranged store cupboard about half way through this book, everything easily visible, to hand and well-preserved in Kilner jars and the like, in stark contrast to my bomb site of a cupboard, strewn as it is with things tipping out from improperly sealed bags and no sense of organisation in sight.

OK, so there might be something to this book. I started to read it properly.

A few disclaimers first.

This is not my thing.

Really, it isn’t. I don’t ‘do’ lifestyle lite type books, and I get more than a little annoyed with substitutions like homemade nut milk for, well, milk.

I’m totally open to trying new things, but I don’t keep fifty different types of pulse on the go at any one time. I am not one of those people who think that a store cupboard is perfectly well stocked without a dozen eggs in it. I have to strongly disagree with Chaplin on that one, I’m afraid. I’m not meticulous about choosing a baking soda with a low aluminum content.

I mention all this because I was in a bad mood when I started to read this book, and I think that the book itself had a lot to do with that bad mood. We just didn’t get on.

But, and this is a massive ‘but’, I came to first grudgingly accept it, then slowly to like it in that ‘yeah, I like it, but I’m not going to damn well ADMIT that yet’ way, and now – I’m free! — I love it.

It’s excellent. I had to battle past what I wrongly interpreted as pseudo hippy crap, but battle I did, and beneath I found a book with warmth and belief, a book packed with solid tips and advice, and a series of first-rate recipes.

Yes, I’m going to have to substitute a little to bring some of these recipes back into the realms of the easily do-able (I’m not wasting my time steeping almonds in water to make milk when I can get that from a cow), but I’ll live with that.

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Zaap Thai Street Food, Leeds

Eating out
Zaap Thai Street Food, Leeds

Well, I wasn’t expecting that.

A Thursday night, a lovely warm evening in Leeds, and a packed Thai restaurant that looked like it should be in the back streets of Bangkok, a chaotic place packed with people and life, Thai signs everywhere in a jumble of gaudy colours, and an open plan kitchen crewed by a group of Thai chefs flinging noodles around in woks.

Zaap Thai Street Food is brilliant. An assault on every single sense.

The food is – and I’m going to nail my colours to the mast here – the best Thai food I’ve had in Leeds, the UK, or anywhere outside of the street carts in Thailand that Zaap seeks to replicate. It’s very, very good, and the most authentic Thai food I’ve yet encountered that hasn’t actually been in Thailand.

In Thailand, street food is an art, and there are small carts that expand into micro restaurants on every street corner. Spend any time at all in Thailand, and you quickly realise that these little street restaurants, nothing more than a stove on wheels and a collection of ramshackle tables, offer up the finest food imaginable, for pennies. The range and diversity of dishes is astonishing, and the quality of dishes difficult to comprehend.

This is the sort of experience that Zaap seeks to bring to Leeds, and they do it very well. The menu is a sheet of A3 on which orders are scrawled, tables come loaded with chopsticks, there are a couple of Tuk Tuks dotted around, some converted into booths. Everything is a bit cramped to purposely heighten the bustle and the excitement of it all.

And it works. It has atmosphere, and it’s tremendous fun.

And of the food? More…

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Beef Rendang

Food & drink
Rosemary Brissenden’s beef rendang, a classic Indonesian Sumatran dry curry

Hype cycles are the invention of  a big American technology consultancy firm who use them to show the way very new types of technology move from ‘stupid idea, it’ll never work’ right through to general acceptance as something that just ‘is’.

A hype cycle is basically a graph that plots a line that rises very steeply to a place called The Peak of Inflated Expectations, before crashing dramatically into The Trough of Disillusionment, and rising gently again through the long Slope of Enlightenment, before levelling off on to the Plateau of Productivity.

I’ve always liked this model. It’s simple and elegant.

It demonstrates very clearly how new things come along, wrapped in hyperbole and excitement, that are going to change everything, how people get hacked off with them very quickly, but then slowly work out what to actually do with them. All technology, all innovation, follows this simple model. It provides a superb way of understanding trends, and the inevitability of fashion.

640px-Hype-Cycle-GeneralHype-Cycle-General” by NeedCokeNowOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

You can apply this model to food, and particularly to food fads … pulled pork, for example … stuck right in the Trough of Disillusionment (seriously, the damned stuff is everywhere). Craft beer? Riding the crest of the Peak of Inflated Expectations. I’d push proper, shorter measure coffee and real espresso out onto the Slope of Enlightenment, if I must.

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Peri peri sauce

Food & drink
Peri peri, or piri piri sauce

What are friends for, eh?

Well, sometimes, they’re useful for helpfully pointing out that your lovingly crafted peri peri sauce looks like a medical sample, suggesting that you might want to get that checked out at the special clinic, and then bombarding you with inappropriate You Tube clips, including the Manic Street Preacher’s Slash and Burn.

Be assured, this is not a very, very alarming medical emergency.

This is a bottle of peri peri (or piri piri – it seems not to matter) sauce. Incidentally, the bottle came from the local uber-trendy homeware shop, and whilst I concede that it does look like it might be at home in a laboratory, it’s an excellent vessel for storing dressings, sauces, etc, in an oh-so-hip way. I’m not bitter about the whole sauce/sample incident, honestly.

So, this peri peri sauce. There’s a fair amount of conjecture about what constitutes a good peri peri, but the constant theme is an absolute shit load of chillies, something tart, such as lemon, vinegar or both, and a bit of sugar to balance it all out. And there’s the rub – it’s all about balance, about adjusting those mammoth key flavours until they line up just how you want them. Easy.

There isn’t a lot to this.

You just need a blender.

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