Yesterday was my birthday and to celebrate, the man and I originally intended to visit Roka. At the last minute though, we decided to face up to the fact – we really can’t afford to fork out £150 for a meal right now. Of course, we could have done it ‘on the cheap’ but then I’m an all or nothing kind of woman so I decided – we would feast, but we would feast at home. I would cook my own birthday meal. Some people might despair at the thought of spending part of their birthday in the kitchen but, in case you hadn’t noticed, I like to cook.
I decided to go with an Iranian theme to the meal. Persia in Peckham is my favourite cook book at the moment and its author, Sally Butcher runs the shop – Persepolis, just down the road. When I reviewed the shop last year, she e-mailed me and invited me down for some tea and a chat. I needed some ingredients so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take her up on the offer.
Sally is just as friendly and funny as she comes across in her book (which she kindly signed for me). She also enthusiastically answered my questions about her recipes and gave me a few tips on getting the best from the exotic ingredients. I’ve decided to tell you about the dessert first as it was just so incredibly delicious and I’m really not even a dessert person.
I must admit I actually stuffed it up the first time. In the recipe, Sally warns that if you let the eggy creamy mixture get too hot while thickening, it will scramble. She is absolutely right. I suggest not wandering off with a glass of wine for a chat at this point. Also, because this method doesn’t use an ice cream maker, I was left with a few ice crystals but it was great nonetheless. You could try taking it out of the freezer and whisking it up more often and then re-freezing if you can be bothered.
You may all be earl grey ice cream veterans but I’m pretty sure this was my first time. I drink it, I’ve smoked duck with it but I’ve never ice creamed it. Loved it. I also cannot imagine any better accompaniment than these chickpea sweets. Sally does provide a recipe for them in the book but I had to draw the line somewhere and just bought them from her shop instead (they are widely available in Iranian shops apparently). Like most Iranian sweets, they are fairly dry but this works perfectly with the ice cream. Made from Iranian chickpea flour (using roasted chickpeas, not raw ones as with gram flour), they are delicately scented with saffron, pistachio and cardamom and just melt in the mouth. I think I may be addicted.
A sprinkle of chopped pistachios on top and it was a refreshing yet indulgent way to end the meal. I’ll write about the stuffed, barbecued lamb soon. For now I shall just tell you that after the meal (ourselves stuffed and contented), we curled up on the sofa – astounded to find the film Persepolis was on the telly. A fitting end to a truly gluttonous birthday, it really was like my own little Persia in Peckham.
P.S – anyone mentions anything about the absence of rounded corners on the pictures and there will be trouble…you know who you are. I’m just over it, k?! Alright, and I can’t be bothered any more. Oh yes, and Food Stories is getting a new look – I’ve had the painters and decorators in and the brand spanking new site will be up at the beginning of May – sans rounded corners and cowboy html. Times, they are a changin…
Earl Grey Ice Cream with Chickpea Shortbread/Sweets (from Persia in Peckham by Sally Butcher)
150ml strong earl grey tea (I used 2 teabags)
150ml each full fat milk and single cream
1 strip lemon peel
3 egg yolks
110g caster sugar
150ml whipping cream
– put the tea, single cream and milk into a pan with the lemon peel and bring to a simmer.
– whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they thicken and pale.
– remove the milk mixture from the heat (discard the lemon peel), then whisk it into the egg mix.
– put the whole lot back onto a gentle heat until it thickens. On no account should you let this boil, otherwise the eggs with scramble. Set it aside to cool with a dampened circle of greaseproof paper on the top, to stop a skin forming.
– when cool, pour into a freezer-proof container – cover it and freeze until half frozen. At this point, scoop it into a bowl, then whisk up the whipping cream and fold it into the ice cream. Put it back into the freezer until it is of ice cream consistency.
(this recipe doesn’t have the saffron like the shop bought ones – I’m guessing the main difference will be the colour).
50g caster sugar
110g Iranian chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
50g unsalted butter
Crushed nibbed pistachios
– Sift the dry ingredients together on a flat, clean surface, then work in the butter with the tips of your fingers.
– When the mixture starts holding together, roll it into little chickpea shapes (or make into whatever shape you fancy) and put them on a sheet of grease-proof paper on a baking tray. Bake for about 10 minutes at gas 2/150C and allow to cool. Sprinkle with the crushed pistachio.