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Chilly Philly: Chocolate cream cheese ice cream

 Cadbury Philadelphia cream cheese ice cream

 As I’ve mentioned before, I very rarely eat cheese. I like it, but rarely buy it because it’s expensive and Brixton doesn’t have many choices to buying small amounts of cheese rather than family sized blocks so I get bored of eating the same kind quite quickly. But the one thing I never tire of is cream cheese. I’ve always got a tub in the fridge because it is delicious and versatile and goes with Ryvita like nobody’s business. Therefore it was inevitable as a cream cream obsessive that I would be lured into trying the new Cadbury’s chocolate and Philadelphia combo pretty much soon as it came out.

And I quite liked it. It made a nice change from Nutella, but I would have liked slightly more lactic tang from it and less flat sugariness, but considering how sweet all processed food is these days, I guess I should be glad there was any type of cheese taste to it at all. I had some on Ryvita (quelle surprise) and liked it with the saltiness, but found it a bit flat with digestive biscuits. I found myself with more leftover than I expected and wondered what to do with it. I thought back to the Veda Bread ice cream I made which was originally made with a cream cheese base and knew exactly what to do with that second impulse purchase tub.

Chocolate Philadelphia Ice Cream (adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop)

  • 250ml whole milk (I use Jersey)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 tub of chocolate Philadelphia (160g)
  • half a large bar of dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
  • 500ml double cream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat the milk gently in a pan, adding in the cream and the sugar and dark chocolate and stirring until everything is melted, then add in the chocolate cream cheese and keep stirring until that melts. Make sure the mixture has come back up to heat, but is in no danger of overheating or boiling and then temper the egg yolks by adding a cupful of the chocolate milk mix to them. Mix this in and add the yolks to the pan and stir until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spatula. Add in the vanilla extract, cover the bowl and place in the fridge to cool (overnight preferably).

Next day, you should have had the thickest creamiest chocolate custard you can imagine. Churn in your ice cream maker for around 30 minutes or as described in the instructions. (I have a machine, so cannot be sure if you could make this without one. Worth a go though!) Serve when ready.

And marvel at how delicious this is. The extra chocolate adds the slight bitterness and tang the original product needed to be more grown up and you definitely get a different taste to a regular chocolate ice cream from the cream cheese. This is very rich but surprisingly grown up. I definitely preferred it to the cream cheese on its own, thus proving no matter what the question is, ice cream is the answer!

Top Hats! Or make more of your marshmallows!

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My childhood was punctuated by marshmallows. One of our aunts had a particular soft spot for them and visits to her house weren’t complete without dipping into the bag of pink and white numbers in the kitchen drawer by the table, even if it was before dinner. We often toasted them in front of my granny’s open fire on the end of a proper toasting fork and tried not to burn our tongues. Guide camps were never quite complete without trying to concoct one of those exotic sounding s’mores we’d read about in American books, even though we only had some Scotbloc and an own brand Rich Tea biscuit to hand. Every party had the Northern Irish classic of Fifteens which combined digestives, marshmallows and glace cherries to heartstopping goodness. And that’s before Mister North brought me a jar of Marshmallow Fluff when he moved to England…

I think we could safely say that I like a marshmallow. Yet as an adult I never eat them. In fact I haven’t seen a packet to buy for years. The humble marshmallow has fallen out of fashion it seems. Nothing would do but to make them. How hard could it be?

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Wild food, or food to drive you wild

Last month’s Guestrant at Electrik was one of my favourites to date. Wild foraged food is something both Miss South and I have dabbled in before, but with the best will in the world, we don’t have the knowledge to go beyond the well known and well-trodden without some proper guidance.

So when I read Beth Creedon was the guest in Electrik’s kitchen for June I was rather excited… I knew how well-received her first stint at Electrik had been last year, so I signed up right away. Beth’s a bit of an expert in foraged food, and comes with good credentials and form in preparing foraged feasts. She, alongside her husband, also runs Dig, Manchester’s best local veggie box scheme. I’d met her at the recent cheese ‘chewtorial’, and her obvious knowledge and enthusiasm for foraged food was infectious.

After the disappointment of the previous month’s event with Julie Bagnolli being cancelled due to poor attendance (shame on you North West foodies… surely you’re not doing anything better on a Monday night?) this needed to be something special to put a smile back on the faces of my dining companion and I. We needn’t have feared: it was.

We arrived, wet after a sudden heavy rainshower, looking over the well-stocked bar. Once again we decided to stick to beer, rather than wine, although there’s a decent selection of both in Electrik. We joined another couple on a table – always one of the best things about pop-up & supperclub-type arrangements is meeting new folk – and snatched a quick look at the menu which was being passed around.

The menu tantalised, teased and prompted whispered questions around our table. It sounded simple and restrained, yet wonderfully exotic. What the hell is Fat Hen? Do cherries go feral only when you lose them? Was that really two desserts on the menu? We couldn’t wait to learn more… so when Beth came out of the kitchen to introduce the first course I was straining to hear every word.

When it arrived the first course looked gorgeous… a perfectly turned-out layered terrine, surrounded by delicate leaves, sitting on a base of finely-sliced beetroot. We found out during the preamble that Fat Hen’s actually a kind of wild spinach-like leaf, not a plump poultry bird, so that was one mental image shattered. It, and the goats cheese in the terrine, was delicious, crowned with a sprig of chickweed. I’ve picked sorrel leaves in the woods before, and love their distinctively tart flavour. This sorrel was French, and the flavour of their leaves added piquancy. The star of the dish, though, were the little pickled dandelion buds. Wow! Revelatory stuff: these unassuming wee buds tasted like capers, and gave the whole starter an extra frission which I’d never expected. I may have to start home pickling…

With such a good starter our expectations around the table cranked up a gear. The main, with razor clams at its centrepiece, caused me some excitement (Miss South has already written on our love of these moreable molluscs) but my dining companion was somewhat nervous at the prospect of blade-like bivalves, being a little squeamish about such things. When the course was presented – a single razor clam shell laying across a bowl of chowder – this did little to allay her concerns, but she became more convinced when she tasted the contents.

The ‘hero’ shell – dressed with the flesh of several razor clams, hearty chunks of chorizo and a sprinkling of chives – capped a healthy portion of chowder. In this the razor clams were paired up with a goodly selection of smaller, more conventional clams. Accompanied by Barbakan bread, a perfect heart-shaped pat of delicious butter, and a hunk of lemon, this was simple but great fare. Salty pork and shellfish is a sure-fire winner (I’m looking at you, scallops and black pudding, as a prime example) and the rich notes of the chorizo complemented the tender pale flesh of the clams perfectly. The broth was rich and oh-so-moreable… by the time I looked up from my bowl there was a surfeit of empty shells and crockery around the table.

After that it was time for dessert #1… Beth reappeared from the depths of the kitchen to explain that yes, she couldn’t decide which dessert to serve us, so she opted for both. Hellish for us punters, you must understand, to be saddled with such an onerous task. The ‘feral’ cherries were local, but not totally wild… more like a domestic cultivar which had gone walkabout… so they were less tart than their wild cousins. Again, this looked so pretty… a cherry ‘mouse’, complete with almond ears, sat atop a cream cushion on a delightful chocolate mousse in a ramekin. Digging to the bottom of the mousse revealed macerated cherries, their sweet syrupy flavour riffing off the dark chocolate. Oh, and the finishing touches: glitter, and a sprinkling of popping candy on the plate, only added to the sense of giddy playfulness. Thumbs up!

The second sweet came shortly afterwards, and continued the local and slightly tongue-in-cheek theme, with a light hare-shaped shortbread accompanying strawberries, ice cream and praline pieces. The strawberries are Dig’s own organic offspring, grown in nearby Cheshire in polytunnels. Not sure what variety they were, but their flavour was rich and fruity, exuding summer with every mouthful. The elderflower and lime ice cream started to melt quite quickly, but the taste was divine… light and sharp citrus notes, with the elderflower rounding everything out in the background. The lavender praline was the unexpected highlight for me: I have a soft spot for lavender and its soft floral presence lent itself well to the slightly chewy sweetness of the praline. The whole dish disappeared quickly, but the flavours lingered on as a gentle reminder for some time. A fresh, light and well-balanced full stop to a really good meal.

Presentation was absolutely spot-on, food was fresh and perfectly cooked, and the theme and focus of the whole meal was bang on. A good balance of playfulness, education, quality and localism (without being too hung up on every last ingredient being utterly wild or from on our doorstep) made it a great menu. Oh, and at £25 a head, very good value considering the extra work which must’ve gone into the sourcing and preparation of the course. Couldn’t recommend it highly enough… bravo to Beth (and her sous for the night, Deanna).

Today’s Guestrant features Mary-Ellen McTague and Laurence Tottingham from Aumbry. After June’s experience I can’t wait to see what these graduates of the Fat Duck will deliver from Electrik’s modest kitchen…

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Guestrant at Electrik with Deanna Thomas*

I’ve read about Electrik Bar’s ‘Guestrant’ sessions since they started last year, but despite making mental notes to check them I’d never managed to organise it. Their most recent event, with guest chef Deanna Thomas of North Star Deli fame, tipped the balance for me. This was on Valentine’s Day, and the prospect of a night out, unencumbered by saccharine-sweet clichés, red roses and crappy piped (or worse still, dodgy live string) music provided a fine excuse for a good meal out with my partner.

For those who don’t know it, Electric Chair was one of the venerable institutions of the Manchester club scene from the 90s onwards (Mister North has fond memories of multiple occasions spent in darkened basements listening to Detroit deepness, dirty disco, Mancunian classics and rampant riddims thanks to these guys). These days the Electriks empire has perhaps mellowed and diversified with age, and they opened the unsurprisingly-named ‘Electrik’, a fine café/bar in south Manchester’s Chorlton, a couple of years ago.

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Nutella Cupcakes

This weekend was World Nutella Day (no, really) and since I have fond memories of Mister North and I sharing a jar of this hazelnut infused wonder on family holidays to Italy and then keeping the jar as a drinking glass, I thought I would have to do something to acknowledge the day. Since I had a group of friends coming round for tea and cake, cupcakes sounded just right!

There is a recipe for ‘chocolate and hazelnut cupcakes’ in The Hummingbird Cookbook, but since I really don’t like their recipes with their reliance on milk in the sponge, I decided to use this recipe which can be made gluten free as well.

Since I have no gluten issues, I didn’t have the makings for those cupcakes and decided to use the standard recipe instead, so I cannot comment on how the gluten free ones turn out. Both recipes look very easy and follow the standard method for making a cake. I followed it exactly apart from going freehand with the Nutella as I figure life was too short to measure out a 1/4 cup of it as it isn’t the most malleable consistency, and it’s unlikely anyone would complain about them being too chocolately or too hazelnutty!

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