Right now, I don't think I have the words to properly convey what it was like to launch Seven Spoons the book. My book. Please bear with me, as I try.
The launch happened in stages. Last night, some of my nearest and dearest gathered at Ben McNally Books in Toronto. (If you've never been, please go. It is an utterly charming space, straight out of Harry Potter in the best way, all wood and warm lighting. And Ben is even better.) I had to make a speech. I did so with my sons and nephews nearby — they stole the show. And, even though I had the distinct sensation of my windpipe vibrating while I spoke, looking out onto that room of people, shaking or not, I felt exceptionally lucky.
We had cheese from St. Lawrence Market with pickled strawberries, charcuterie, and chocolate chip cookies. There were a few rolls of Instax film (evidence, here), and bubbles and oysters around the corner to end the night with Nikole, Michael, and Julia. There again, that lucky feeling.
Today was a blur; interviews and tastings, and a lot of excitement. A highlight was when some readers took time out of their day to come and say hello. It is because of all of your that I have this opportunity in the first place. So, to share this day with you feels right.
Very quickly, there's something else to share — a recipe from the book, and the one I may crave the most. It's my Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream, swirled with espresso caramel and topped with candied cacao nibs. It is no secret that I love ice cream. I announced the book with one, so launching it with another lines up nicely. I'm also quite a fan of coffee. Thus, putting them together was inevitable, and condensed milk in the mixture sealed the deal. I describe it in detail below.
For now I'll sign off, with gratitude. Here's to you, with ice cream.
By the by, a few people and places have already written about Seven Spoons. If you'd like to read their thoughts, here they are:
- I spent a day cooking with Chris Nutall-Smith, talking about the book, butter tarts, and inspiration, while sipping on some Palomas. It was a good time. (The Globe and Mail)
- Ashley made the Roast Chicken with a Punchy Relish, and used lentils as the base. Brilliant. (Not Without Salt)
- Olga made the Lentil Kofta Curry, and some thoughtful words about community. (Sassy Radish)
- Julie's Bee-Stung Fried Chicken (+ her fritters!) look brilliant. (Dinner with Julie)
- ... and Julie invited me to her other site to talk music and dinner parties.As an aside, have you seen the documentary It Might Get Loud? I found it fascinating. (Rolling Spoon)
- Vy posted a detailed and thoughtful look at a whole collection of recipes. (Beyond Sweet and Savoury)
- Shelley also discussed the book as a whole, and then featured the Fattoush with Fava Beans and Labneh. (Cookbooks 365)
- My publishers invited some new-to-me bloggers to the launch last night, and I am so glad they did! Nikki and Christine were firecrackers. So fun. (Nikki the Knack and Padfoot's Library)
VIETNAMESE COFFEE ICE CREAM
Indians make something they call espresso, which I've talked about before, but it’s unlike any espresso you’d see in Italy; it’s actually closer to a Greek frappé, a bold brew of instant coffee whipped with an enthusiastic amount of sugar, and then combined with hot water and milk. The slurry magically blends, then splits, with a layer of thick foam above a rich, creamy elixir below.
I’ve been a longtime fan of that coffee, so when I was first introduced the Vietnamese version, a drink with very much the same uncompromising intensity, the same weighty, toasted, caramel flavor, this time tempered with sweetened condensed milk, I was lost. When I decided to freeze it, well then things got even better.
This is my full-stop favorite ice cream, both to make, and to eat. It is brazenly prepared without a traditional custard base, which isn’t missed in the least, and skipping that step makes it quick work to pull together. A voluptuous mix of evaporated milks and cream gets infused with ground coffee, then chilled, churned and swirled with fudge. Easy peasy, that's that, and you’re left with an ice cream worthy of any and all accolades. Have a spoon at the ready.
Makes about 1 quart
- 1 (14-ounce/400g) tin evaporated milk
- 1 (14-ounce/400g) tin sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup heavy (35%) cream
- 2 ounce (57 g) coffee beans, ground, see note
- Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- A good pinch of salt
- Espresso caramel and/or Candied Cocao Nibs, recipes follow
Combine all the ingredients, except fudge, in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, whisking often, until the mixture begins to steam. Remove from the heat and leave to steep for 20 minutes.
Using a fine-meshed sieve, or a standard sieve lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter, strain the mixture into a bowl. Cover and chill for 3 hours, but preferably overnight. Freeze the base according to your ice cream maker’s manufacturer’s directions.
Spoon 1/3 of the ice cream into a storage container. Smooth the top, and pour over a few tablespoons of caramel in long stripes. With the tip of a knife, lightly swirl the caramel into the ice cream. Layer in half of the remaining ice cream, and repeat the layers two more times, ending with a drizzle of caramel. There will be caramel left over. Set this aside. Cover the ice cream and freeze for at least 6 hours.
Serve as is, or in a sugar cone, or scattered with candied cacao nibs. Then, dive in.
Note: The coffee beans should be medium ground. Café Du Monde French Roast Chicory is the traditional choice for the hot preparation that inspired this cold one. For a milder, rounded flavor, use 2 tablespoons of instant espresso powder or 3 tablespoons instant coffee powder instead of ground beans.
Chocolate fudge can take the place of the caramel.
Masala Chai variation: Replace the coffee with 2 tablespoons black tea such as Darjeeling, a short cinnamon stick, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom and 3 peppercorns. Omit the espresso in the caramel, or omit the swirl entirely.
Makes about 2/3 cup
- 1/2 cup (106 g) dark brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon finely-ground espresso beans or espresso powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high, heat the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt, stirring until the butter is melted. Pour in heavy cream and espresso beans. Bring to a boil, whisking until smooth and the sugar is dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer, undisturbed, for 1 minute longer. Remove from the stove and stir in the vanilla. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally. If making ahead of time, cover and refrigerate until needed, then rewarm gently before using.
Note: Any leftover caramel can be used on pound cake, or plain ice cream, or stirred into a milkshake or warm milk. Those sips can be made all the more warming with a share of whisky.
CANDIED CACAO NIBS
Makes approximately 1/2 cup
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (43 g) cacao nibs
- 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
In a wide, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, warm the sugar for a minute, without stirring. Scatter the cacao nibs over the sugar, and leave the pan undisturbed until the sugar begins to melt in spots. With a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, quickly stir the cacao nibs into the liquid sugar, incorporating any unmelted sugar as you go. Once most of the sugar has coated the nibs, remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the butter. Immediately scrape the cacao nibs onto the prepared baking sheet, pressing them into an even layer with the back of the spoon or spatula. Allow to cool.
Break the cacao nibs into tiny clusters by hand. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.