Monday, 27 August 2012

Afternoon tea overview

As I have mentioned previously, my favourite British food tradition is afternoon tea. Me and Best Friend are crazy about this wonderful tradition of dressing up a bit and sitting down on a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon to enjoy elegant finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and tiny pieces of cake.

There are so many genius things about afternoon tea. First of all, the whole idea of having a nice little mid afternoon snack between breakfast and dinner. Second of all, I love the combination of having a bit of savoury things and many sweet ones. My absolute favourite thing about afternoon tea is that most places serve many tiny small pieces of cakes and pastries, so you get to have a taste of many different things. I much rather have several tiny pieces of different cakes than one big piece. But more on that later...

Funnily enough, for me the actual tea is the least important thing when having afternoon tea. All expectations I have of a great afternoon tea relate to the food. After trying afternoon tea in several places, I have come to expect several things. First of all, I am disappointed if there isn't a smoked salmon sandwich and an egg sandwich, those two are my absolute favourites. Any additional ones beyond these two are definitely a plus, but no salmon or no egg is a big no-no. The next one has to do with the scone, it has to be warm, fresh and crumbly. Also very important, the cream has to be proper clotted cream, not some sort of whipped cream or other "light" substitute. The third thing is, one big piece of cake is simply not acceptable. In my humble opinion, afternoon tea is supposed to be served with a selection of tiny cakes and pastries. Preferably something with lemon, something with berries and something with chocolate. 

In our frenzy to find the best place to have afternoon tea, me and Best Friend have sampled quite a few places. Of the places we have visited (and usually visits are preceded by thorough online research of available options), all have their pros and cons. But I have ended up with one clear favourite above all others. Of course, there are still so many places left to try, I would love to sample the afternoon tea at The Athanaeum Hotel, voted to be the best Afternoon Tea in London 2012 by the Tea Guild. Another place I'm almost ashamed I haven't managed to visit yet is the Peacocks tearoom in Ely, only a 15 minute trainride from Cambs, which has been awarded the Tea Guild's Award of Excellence many years running and has the most amazing selection of teas. Below is a mini-review of some of the places we have visited with a few pictures and my opinions and thoughts. 

Harriets Café Tearooms, Cambridge (£15.45)
Me and Best Friend have been a bit disappointed in the selection of tea rooms in our hometown. Luckily enough, Harriets recently opened a Tearoom in central Cambridge , so of course we had to sample the menu. We wanted to celebrate the Jubilee weekend by having afternoon tea, so I called ahead to make a booking for Jubilee weekend Sunday. Interestingly enough, I was told they don't take bookings for weekends, but right after telling me this, the lady on the phone kindly promised to book us a table anyways. When we arrived with Best Friend on the rainy Sunday, there was indeed a cosy little table for us, right by the window so we could watch the world go by while elegantly sipping our tea. We were both wearing pretty dresses and felt like we fit right into the atmosphere of the elegant yet cosy tearoom, where a live pianist was playing. There are two tea menus to choose from, a  regular and a somewhat extended special afternoon tea menu. Obviously, we went for the special menu. 

The service was very friendly, and we got our tea very quickly. The food was also served without major delays despite the fact that almost all tables were occupied. I chose a very interesting Lapsang Souchong tea, which is smoked over wood chips. The tea had a strong scent of smoke, and there was a distinct taste of smoke, almost with an undertone of tar. I think on it's own, it would have been very nice, but I'm not sure if it was the best choice to go with the food. And the food is, like I said, the main reason I love the afternoon tea. The sandwiches were good, not the best ones I have had, but very nice. The smoked salmon was good quality, but the chicken and cucumber sandwiches were a bit plain. The scones were very nice and crumbly, again not the best scone I have ever had, but not far from it. I also liked the fact that instead of one big scone, you got two small scones. And then the sweets. There was four different tiny sweets, an eclair, a tiny brownie, a piece of carrot cake and a piece of coffee flavoured coffe cake. The coffee cake was probably my favourite, and the carrot cake was Best Friend's favourite. We both thought Harriets is a lovely addition to the cafes in Cambridge, the afternoon tea was beautifully presented, the service was friendly, the size of the food was appropriate. We will certainly be back for more, and find it a bit scary that there is such a good tearoom right down the street from where I live.

Bettys Café Tea Rooms, York (£17.95)
The place to be seen in York is definitely Bettys Tea Room. Me and Best Friend visited on a windy and chilly Saturday afternoon, and stood in line with dozens of other tourists for over half an hour to get a table. Once we got in through the door, we were warmly greeted, and shown to a cosy table downstairs. So we didn't get to sit in the huge glass windows and be seen, but we loved the wood paneled atmospheric room downstairs.

Despite the place being absolutely packed, service was friendly and rapid. The tea arrived quickly and the wait for the food was not too long. I had a mild Yu Luo White Tea, which was very delicate, and nicely went with all the different foods. The sandwiches were nice, but the salmon sandwich was warm smoked instead of the usual cold smoked, which in my book was a bit of a disappointment. The good side was that there were four different sandwiches, salmon, chicken, ham and egg. The scones were very good. They looked a bit bland, but once again this was a reminder not to judge a scone by it's looks, the texture was creamy and crumbly just as they are supposed to be. And then the grand finale, the sweets. Three different tiny servings of lemon sponge cake, a raspberry mini tartlet and a rich chocolate cake with coffee flavour. Surprisingly, out of these three, the chocolate one was my least favourite (shocking, I know). The raspberry tartlet was very good, but the favourite was actually the lemon cake. It was really refreshing and incredibly tasty, not dry at all. All in all, this was a great place to have afternoon tea, with the long wait being the only big drawback. There is also a lovely bakery shop in the same building with the tearoom, so you can get some of the goodies to take home with you.

The Rose, Oxford (£12.50)
Oxford seems to have several great places for afternoon tea. After doing a thorough online search, me and Best Friend ended up having tea in a small cafe called The Rose, which had very good online reviews. We arrived quite early on a Saturday afternoon, and were seated immediately. The service was very friendly, but given that the place was half empty, we waited for quite a while before getting our food. However, it was definitely worth the wait. The sandwiches were very nice, and included both the smoked salmon and egg varieties, so full points for that. And the scone... it gets absolute top marks. It was the most decadently crumbly scone ever, absolutely lovely with the cream and jam. However, the sweets were the letdown of this afternoon tea, as it only consisted of a piece of cake from the cafe's selection. Good thing there was two of us, so at least we got to sample two different cakes. We went for a warm apple pie, and a chocolate almond tart, which were both good, but not exceptional. However, this was a great value for money afternoon tea experience in a pretty litte cafe which gets a huge plus for the best scone at any afternoon tea we have had.

Kettner's, London (£18.67, not available any more)
Because of the Diamond Jubilee, Kettner's celebrated with a limited time afternoon tea. So if you didn't grab the opportunity this summer, you missed your chance for afternoon tea at Kettner's. I thought I would still leave in my review of the afternoon tea experience at Kettner's so you all know what you missed. 

Me and Best Friend usually go to afternoon tea specifically for the tea (ok, well I admit, specifically for the scones and pastries) so we don't usually go for the champagne options. However, this was Kettner's so we felt like we were kind of obliged to have an aperitif before the actual tea itself. As we both love rhubarb, we ended up ordering a glass of Rhubarbellini, which was decribed as "Rhubarb liqueur, bitters and puree, topped with 
prosecco". Although the drink was nice and refreshing, it was not very rhubarb-y. However, it was a nice way to pass the time while we waited for our three tiers of goodiness to arrive. 

The tea was served in lovely glass teapots which nicely showed the colour of the tea. The china set at the tables was absolutely adorable, all cups and saucers were unique and non matching, but they all were lovely with flowers and other beautiful decorations. The tea salon at Kettner's was also very beautiful and had a relaxed atmosphere, and the service was excellent. The sandwiches were nice, the scones were not very memorable. The selection of desserts certainly warrants to be mentioned. It was a very different selection of desserts with mini Chelsea buns, trifle, rhubarb jelly with pomegranate foam, chocolate digestive and treacle tart. Not your run of the mill afternoon tea dessert selection, and I mean that in a good way. Particularly the treacle tart was delicious. 

The Ritz , London (£42)
The Ritz... the big kahuna, repeatedly chosen to be one of the top afternoon teas in London. Apparently, this is the one to measure all the other afternoon tea's against. And the Ritz most certainly is a very impressive setting to have afternoon tea. It is the Ritz after all. We got dressed up to the nines and hit the afternoon tea with great expectations.

The menu had a huge number of sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream and jam and a selection of pastries. To summarise my experience of the Ritz afternoon tea: Overpriced and over-hyped. If this would have been my first afternoon tea, I would most certainly have been impressed. But after having experienced what I would guess soon comes to a dozen different afternoon teas, apart from the very nice surroundings, the afternoon tea in itself was not too impressive. I'm not saying it was bad, but given the price which is pretty much double that of any other afternoon tea we have tried, it certainly left a lot to hope for. We were left with a feeling of being rushed all the time, the scones were a total disappointment and the cake trolleys circulating in the tearoom constantly overlooked our table. The selection of teas was great, as were the sandwiches. One major complaint I have is that usually you get a selection of pastries with everyone getting the same pastries, whereas here we got a total of five small pastries (for three people, why not six??) and as some of the pastries didn't look very good, we were left to try to divide the different pastries between us. Another idea which I loved in theory, but which did not work in practice at all was that the scones were not served at the same time as the sandwiches and cakes as they were served warm. In theory, they were to be served when we were ready for them (which to us meant, after finishing our sandwiches). However, the first overly eager waiter tried to bring them in after we had barely started on our sandwiches, luckily we were able to stop him at that point. A few minutes later another waiter just brought the warm scones over anyways, despite us still being merely half way through the sandwiches. So we ended up eating our scones slightly stale instead of warm. Yet another small thing that added to the sense of urgency of the afternoon tea was the rushing of the checks. I do understand that they have to prepare the tea room for the next guests, but we found it quite annoying that checks were brought to the tables already after an hour, which seems very hurried to us, especially since the reservation card says that the tea lasts from an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes. 

As much as I wanted to love the tea experience at the Ritz, I certainly have had better afternoon tea experiences in London. For the actual experience of afternoon tea, I would definitely recommend other places over the Ritz. Of course, the whole experience of afternoon tea is not just the meal itself, but the surroundings as well, which obviously were very impressive. However, as you will see below, there are other places which also offer very impressive surroundings along with a better tea experience. That is of course only in my humble opinion. And despite all my complaints, I'm glad I did get to experience tea at the Ritz as well, for an afternoon tea-o-holic such as myself, it was definitely worth experiencing.  

Chancery Court, London (£23.50)
I was googling Afternoon Tea London and somehow stumbled upon the phrase Chocolate afternoon tea. Suddenly my heart started beating faster. I clicked the link and was greeted by a picture slide show of chocolate cakes, tarts, brownies and all other sorts of goodies. Immediately, I knew that was where I was meant to be. The place where I would find happiness. I booked a table for me and Best Friend for a girl's day out with afternoon tea followed by a bit of pampering at the Purity Spa (for the record, lying down on your stomach having a massage after stuffing yourself with chocolate is not the best of ideas, note to self - next time start with the pampering and finish with massage).

Me and best friend dressed up in pretty dresses, bows in our hair and pearls around our necks and set off for the Chancery Court which is very conveniently located right next to the Holborn tube stop. We were very kindly greeted and escorted to a beautifully set table in a very impressive tea salon. Tea samples were brought to us to aid in the selection of teas, which was very convenient as you got to smell the different teas and did not only have to rely on the descriptions in the menu. I chose one of those pretty herbal teas in the form of a flower which opens up in the hot water and looks so pretty and has a very subtile flavour. The selection of sandwiches was varied and as the salmon sandwiches are my favourites, I was especially taken by the pretty little salmon rolls. The disappointing bit of the tea were the scones, which were not particularly crumbly, but admittedly much better than the ones at the Ritz. And then all madness broke loose when we hit the tables of chocolate goodies. There were macaroons, tarts, brownies, cookies, mousses, pastries, trifles, cakes, chocolate covered nuts and almonds, and even a chocolate fountain with strawberries, fruit and marshmallows for dipping. All through the tea the service was very friendly, we were repeatedly offered re-filling of our teapots and the overall atmosphere in the lounge was relaxed although very elegant. The Chancery Court is located in a beautiful building with the most astonishing courtyard. When we were leaving, we were warmly invited to come again soon. This is without a doubt my favourite afternoon tea of all the ones we have tried, and I will certainly be returning.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Beside the seaside

I can't believe it's Friday again. Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy about the fact that weekend is upon us. But I have had such an unproductive week, I've been working from home as I've been suffering from strange flash headaches, and when they hit, I need to lie down and close my eyes. Thankfully they usually pass really quickly, but I would love to know where they came from. And what to do to make them go away. So far, apart from lying really still, the only other thing that helps is exercise. As long as I'm doing sports, they stay away. But there is only so much sports you can squeeze into a day, especially after a ten day holiday during which I did practically no exercise at all, so have to try to keep the rest of my body from breaking down on me. Well, next week should be better as I'm going to the Lake District to enjoy what I'm sure will be fabulous British fall weather, and one or two full English breakfasts. 
Approaching Suomenlinna on the ferry.
Ok, well onto the theme of today. The sea. When I was back home in Finland for my summer holiday, I had a whole afternoon all by myself in Helsinki and there is only one thing to do on a sunny summer afternoon in Helsinki. Stop by heaven, aka. the amazing big grocery department at the Stockmann department store (very appropriately named Delicatessen), get some picnic food (which could be anything but for me has to be chicken Cesar salad, Karelian pastries and donuts), and hop on the ferry to Suomenlinna. Suomenlinna is a group of islands outside of Helsinki, formerly a sea fortress and currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a popular picnic- and hanging out spot, located a short, 15 minute, ferry ride from central Helsinki. There are plenty of things to see if you go there for the first time, old buildings, fortifications, museums, old cannons, stuff like that. However, if you have visited countless times, you just want to go to the more secluded regions, sit down on the rocks by the sea and stare out on the horizon. 
Sitting on the rocks and staring out at sea.
In the summer Suomenlinna can get crazy like any other popular tourist attraction, but I was lucky that it wasn't too busy although I went out on a Friday evening. The first year students have just started their studies at universities across Helsinki, so there were big groups of students picnic-ing and enjoying a drink or two. It's one of those really traditional things people do when school starts. Watching the big groups students wearing overalls brought back warm memories from my own student days. In Finland, university students often wear overalls when having university related social outings. The colour of your overalls reflects your place of study or the student union you belong to. When I was studying at the university of technology, I was wearing the Swedish speaking student's burgundy overalls with yellow print, and when I was studying at the department of genetics, I was wearing a dark blue overall with white print. Given the activities that used to go on at those parties, having protective wear was actually not a bad idea.
View from the Southern part of Susisaari (Wolf island)
towards Downtown Helsinki (in the background)
My Friday quickie today is also sea inspired. I made a really amazing omelette with salmon and prawns. I've been craving prawns like crazy lately, and have had them for three days running now. And smoked salmon in an omelette is great for flavour, not to mention for good fats as well. After working out in the morning, I also like to have a bit of salt in my breakfast, so the salmon is perfect for that as well. Anyways, this is of course not the most exciting recipe ever, but it turned out so great I wanted to share it with you.

Sea inspired omelette (serves 1):
1 tsp virgin coconut oil
1 medium onion
1 cup spinach
2 eggs
1 slice smoked salmon
50 g king prawns

The howto:
Finely chop the onion, and sauteé in the coconut oil. Add spinach, and cook until spinach is wilted. Use a fork to mix the eggs, and pour on top of the onions and spinach. Let cook for a minute or so, add sliced salmon and prawns on top. Cook for about five minutes, until the underside has set but the top side is still soft. Fold over and slide onto a plate.

The verdict:
Overall, I'm not a huge fan of coconut oil, the flavour is a bit too coconut-ty for me. Also, I know it's all the health rage right now, and I know it's good for frying as it's thermostabile, but I do worry a bit about the saturated fat content. Anyways, I have decided to vary my fats, so that I use a bit of butter, a bit of coconut oil, some olive oil and some rapeseed oil, figuring I should get a bit of the goodness of everything and hopefully spread out the possible unhealthy effects. However, I think coconut oil goes really well with prawns, which is why I used it for this omelette. And the combination of flavours really was spot on with the onions, coconut oil, prawns and the salty yummy smoked salmon. And for once I managed to cook the omelette to perfection, not dry at all. The secret is to get the omelette off the heat at least three minutes before you think it's done. I'm happy I still have a slice of salmon and some prawns left for tomorrow, I think my sea omelette will make a reappearance tomorrow morning after my Saturday morning workout.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Love at first sight

There is something I really want to share with you all. Because, between friends, you share these things. And it finally happened to me. I'm in love, there's no doubt about it. It took 32 years, but I finally experienced love at first sight. Well actually, when I'm thinking about it, I guess this has been a long time coming. It started on Pinterest. I had never heard of Crockpots before I started craving pulled pork. When I was browsing for recipes, I kept stumbling on this mysterious Crockpot thing. I had to look it up. Slow cooker. Yes, I had heard about them, seen them on the home shopping networks... And laughed at them. Warm food when you get home from work. How uncool, definitely something for middle aged spinsters, right? Ok, well, I guess I'm officially a middle aged spinster. But I don't care, yesterday I marched into John Lewis and got me one of those magic pots. And now that baby is purring away with a big hunk of meat inside... And the smell in my tiny little hole of an apartment has been tormenting me for hours. Definitely not a device for those wanting to lose weight. Because I've eaten everything I could get my hands on while sniffing the heavenly scents of onions, white wine, vinegar and meat. There is another hour left to go before my juicy and tender pulled pork is done bathing in it's hot bubbling jacuzzi, but I have to admit I have already sneaked a taste or two. And it sure is tender, it almost falls to pieces at the sight of a fork. I have pinned so many recipes to try out. I guess my diet will be slightly meat heavy the next few weeks months. Which should be better than chocolate heavy, which it has been for the last few weeks. And boy am I feeling it, I have gained so much fat I am having trouble moving around. I really have to go cold turkey on all goodies before I explode. Whoever says chocolate is not an addictive drug should be shot. 

To try to get my mind off goodies for a bit, let me just tell you about something else that has been occupying my thoughts lately. I went to BodyPump the other day, and it was not my usual instructor as I'm trying out another gym as I'm thinking about changing. Anyways, I have been doing Pump on and off for the last ten years or so, and even if I don't know all of the releases very well, I usually recognise the tracks when I hear them, at least I should know the music. However, this time we did a bicep track that I just couldn't place. And after class I really wanted to look it up, as I liked the song a lot. However, doing almost five minutes of bicep curls resulted in my brain blocking out every aspect of the song, all I could remember was the pain. So, I spent half a day going through old releases to find the track. It was kind of like that feeling when you have a song going on in your head, and you just can't get rid of it. Except this time I couldn't even remember which song it was! It was driving me crazy. Anyways, this is the song in case you were wondering. Been listening to it on repeat for half a day now. I think I have been musing about this previously, but it's so strange how some songs you would never think much of if you just heard them become absolutely spell-binding when you come across them when doing sports. I have a long list of my favourite Combat and Pump tracks which I use as my running playlist. There are a few tracks that always get me to pick up speed, no matter how tired I am, they just have that something that will keep you going. Such as this one, or this (my favourite Muay Thai ever, and my Combat instructor always delivers it with such amazing energy!!). And I really should go out for a run, haven't been since the one unlucky run I did during my holiday which ended up giving me a blister the size of a small continent on my right foot. I had blood smeared all over my foot, socks and absorbed into my running shoes. Goes without saying, those running shoes went to where running shoes go to die.

Well, talk about going off on a tangent. So back to the love of my life now. Porky loin, bubbling away for eight hours in white wine and vinegar. Actually, I would have loved to make traditional pulled pork, but all recipes I found had loads of sugar, both in the form of actual sugar as well as various barbecue sauces or soda and as I have ingested about ten years worth of sugar in the last few weeks, I came up with my own version of slow cooked pork.
My precious!!
First ever slow cooked pork loin (serves 5-6):
1.25 kg pork loin
salt, pepper, chilli flakes, dijon mustard
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup honey vinegar or cider vinegar (I used half and half)
1 tbsp agave syrup
three onions
The howto:
Rub the meat with salt, pepper, chilli and mustard. Place in crock pot, pour liquids and syrup on top, slice onions and place on top of pork. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove pork, shred the meat. Not very hard to do as it almost fell apart by itself! Add the shredded meat back into the pot and mix with the juices and onions. Serve with baked sweet potatoes or in a sandwich with some mayo and mustard. Or like I did, in sweet peppers to keep it low carb. Which was pointless as I followed up the meal with chocolate. I'm hopeless, and I will repent. Some day. Maybe.
My big (c)hunk-o-meat
The verdict:
I realise me and the Crockpot are still in the honeymoon phase, so my review of this food might not be totally unbiased. But oh my how wonderful the pork turned out. Juicy and oh so tender. It's actually kind of funny that I have been craving pork for so long, as I actually don't even like pork in general. Well, apart from bacon. But bacon should be it's own food group anyways. I had a hard time stopping myself from snacking on the meat all through the evening, had to put most of it into the freezer. I have a feeling this is the start of something beautiful between me and my Crockpot. Talk about having inappropriate feelings towards inanimate objects. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Rhubarb ice

Today's entry will not be so much about the recipe (as it's not really a recipe, and I'm basically re-using something I already blogged about, and some aspects of it weren't very successful), but I'm using it as an excuse to write about something I think is quite awe inspiring. That something is my Mum's garden. Well, actually it's my Mum's partner Veikko's garden, as it is primarily Veikko who takes care of it. My Mum and Veikko live in a house in the countryside in South Finland, and they have a huge garden with plum trees, several types of berry bushes and a huge vegetable garden. 

The vegetable garden. In the front rows there are several
types of lettuce, parsley and dill. Next beans and beet root,
and in the back plenty of potatoes. To the left Jerusalem
artichoke and plum trees in the back.
Red gooseberries
I'm always in awe walking in the garden. And my Mum and Veikko get a huge amount of produce from the garden which they freeze and use through the winter. Veikko makes his own compost for the vegetable garden, which is probably one of the secrets why it keeps producing so much vegetables and herbs every year. And I was lucky to be in Finland  around the time when things start to get ripe, so I got some wonderful pictures. 

Courgette. I wish I could have cooked the
courgette flowers... always wanted to do that.
Black currants
Oregano. Delicious and pretty.
The vegetable garden is huge and the main vegetable is potato. In addition there are beets, Jerusalem artichokes, several kinds of lettuce, several types of beans, herbs, tomatoes, courgette, spinach, raspberries, gooseberries, black currants and rhubarb. And probably a few other things I'm forgetting about. I definitely want a garden like that when I grow up. Although then I would need a gardener as well, as I certainly don't have the patience to plant, weed, compost, harvest and all the other things you need to do to keep your garden flowering and produce harvested and stored. Well, since I want a house keeper, a driver and a maid in my home when I am a proper grown up, I guess throwing in a gardener in the mix wouldn't be impossible. I will of course be living in a ten bedroom mansion which is complete with stables, paddocks and huge grounds to ride around on. I will be wearing a huge flowing dress and someone has invented a time machine to go back in time a hundred years or so. Ok, I need to stop watching costume dramas and get back to reality to my tinier than a shoebox studio, which has been hotter than hell the last few days.

Plums were nowhere near ripe yet.
Tomatoes need a bit more time as well.
Beans just waiting to be picked and frozen.
I haven't had potatoes in a long time, as they aren't a part of my nutrition plan. However, after all the chocolate, cookies, bread and other horrible unhealthy foods I had already ingested, I thought I might as well get my potato fix as well. So me and Mum has a feast of new potatoes straight from the earth, boiled with a lot of dill and eaten with pickled herring and smoked salmon. True fast food, and what a wonderful taste of summer. If you have never had pickled herring, pick up some on your next trip to Finland, Sweden (or Ikea). I know it doesn't sound too appetising, but it's brilliant. Especially on a hot summer's day after sweating too much, to replenish some of that lost sodium. It's also a brilliant hangover food. Traditionally served in the morning after parties which have run all the way through to the next morning, such as First of May brunch. 

Potatoes and garlic pickled herring.
Summery fast food.
Ok, so like I said before, this isn't really a recipe, it's an extension of the three ingredient ice cream I blogged about earlier. However, the rhubarb custard is nice as a pudding on it's own as well, you don't need to make it into ice cream. In that case, you probably want to add some sugar. 
Someone else was interested in the rhubarb too.

Rhubarb ice cream (serves 6):

For the rhubarb custard
4-5 big stalks of rhubarb
1 cup (ish) of water
1-2 tbsp sugar (I used caster sugar but would have used brown sugar if I would have had some available)
2 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp potato starch (I guess corn starch would do as well)

For the ice cream
1 can (395g) condensed milk
250 ml (1 cup) strawberry flavoured heavy cream (or regular cream if you live in a country which hasn't discovered the joys of flavoured creams, add strawberry extract if you happen to have some)
2 tbsp vanilla sugar or vanilla extract

The howto: Chop the rhubarb into a cooking pot, add water sugar and cardamom. Bring to a boil and let cook for about 5 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft. Mix the potato starch with a tablespoon or two of water, take the pot off the heat, pour in the potato starch in a thin stream while stirring so that no lumps form. Put back onto the stove, and bring to a boil (only until you see the first bubble forming). Let cool. If you feel like the custard isn't thickening at all when you add the potato starch, you can add some more, but beware that the custard will get a bit thicker when you bring it to a boil the second time.

Rhubarb custard.
For the ice cream, mix all ingredients and use a hand held whisk to whip until fluffy and forming stiff peaks. 

Mix rhubarb custard and ice cream mix, freeze over night. I had a strange problem where about a quarter of the ice cream mix just disappeared while waiting for it to freeze. I'm sure there is something wrong with my Mum's freezer...

The verdict:
Let's start with the good news. The ice cream was delicious. The combination of strawberry and rhubarb is a classic, and I love the simple ice cream recipe which doesn't require an ice cream maker. Then the bad news... *Someone* was being quite a blonde, thinking it would be a good idea to combine a water based custard (which obviously freezes to hard ice) with ice cream (which is soft and fluffy and stays soft even when frozen). I didn't even mix the custard and ice cream properly, but just dotted the rhubarb cream into the ice cream thinking I would get nice swirls of rhubarb in the ice cream. Well in theory yes, there were swirls of rhubarb, but it was impossible to scoop the ice cream out as the rhubarb swirls were hard as rock. So to be able to scoop out the ice cream, you had to let it soften for quite a while in room temperature. At which point the actual "ice cream" was quite soggy and the rhubarb still ice cold. I think the solution to this would be to thoroughly mix the ice cream with the rhubarb custard so that the entire mixture would be rather homogeneous. I think I have to try that out at some point. Although after my ten day binge eating holiday, I'm not quite sure when I will be allowed to eat ice cream again. I have probably shifted the excess weight by Christmas... Which is not the greatest of ice cream seasons. I guess the other alternative would be to freeze the ice cream mixture and refrigerate the rhubarb custard, and serve scoops of the ice cream with rhubarb custard poured on top. 

As I said earlier, you can also serve the rhubarb custard on it's own after completely cooled. It's a nice, refreshing summer pudding. Nice with a bit of whipped cream. Or fresh raspberries or strawberries, if you want to be healthy. You can also serve the rhubarb custard with your main course, it goes very well with barbecued salmon. However, you might want to reduce the sugar a bit, and add a teaspoon of salt.