Oh Summer, How glorious you are!

The ingredients for a great summer are, the sun, a braai at sunset, the distinct and clean scent of freshly cut lawn and the sounds of an afternoon thunderstorm, to name but a few. There are a whole lot more terrific things that can be added to the list, especially when you live in South Africa. One in particular are strawberries; those sweet delicate fruits which are in abundance this time of the year. Their fresh fragrance, sweet taste and bright colours are what summer is all about.

Summer is also the time for ice-cream. There are some great shop bought ones, but as with so many other things, the homemade version is so much better. Ice-cream falls into the same category as pasta and bread. If you prefer to make your own, most people with shock, would cry out “why on earth would you go through so much trouble making it, when there is a store just down the street which sells perfectly good bread and or pasta?!”

Different people will have different reasons for enjoying homemade foodstuffs. For one, it could be because they know exactly what ingredients, aka. no artificial preservative etc,  are going into it or, it could simply be that it was made with love and care. My reason, for making my own things like bread and pasta, when I find the time is for the pure joy of making it and the satisfaction of enjoying it afterwards. Before you start feeling bad for not waking up extra early every morning to put a loaf of bread in the oven before heading to the office, or using your Saturday mornings to roll out pasta, when I say I make my own bread and pasta it is literally an annual event, with the promise of doing it more often. Going back to the joy of homemade goods; there is something calming and therapeutic about the rhythmic rolling of pasta dough through a pasta machine, kneading and squeezing bread dough through your fingers and watching you ice-cream mixture slowly evolve into a dessert that you have enjoyed from when you were a child. Don’t fool yourself, as romantic as all this may sound, making these still involve a hard and long process, but the results are always worth it. The end-product not only tastes good, but you gain a sense of achievement as you just went through the effort of making something from scratch, that you could have quite easily bought.

So I have made my own bread and pasta before, but I have never attempted to make my most favourite desserts, which is ice-cream. Not that I never wanted to, but because I have always been discouraged by the fact that I do not own an ice-cream machine, until I stumbled upon David Lebovitz’s blog post, ‘How To Make Ice Cream Without a Machine’, and suddenly my hope was redeemed and the dreams of making ice-cream was back and alive more than ever. So without delay, I read the article and absorbed every bit of it. I was happy to realise that I did not need to wait until I had managed to save enough money to buy my own machine. The decision was made and I was now confident that I could take on the task, technology free; but not excluding my freezer.

In his article, David recommends two of his recipes that one could use as a first attempt. The one is his Vanilla Ice-Cream and the other, his Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt. A classic Vanilla Ice-Cream is always a winner, but with it being the season for strawberries, I could not resist the frozen yoghurt. Oh boy was it good, a sweet and refreshing dessert, just perfect to make summer a little better than it already is.

For those of us who do not have an ice-cream machine, and might not know what it actually does; my understanding of it is, that it freezes and churns the ice-cream mixture simultaneously, so as to avoid the build-up of ice crystals and ensure a smooth ice-cream. So when it is only you, without the help of this machine, you have to recreate a similar situation, using only a freezer, a whisk and some elbow grease. If you have an electric hand-held mixer, even better.

It is a lengthy process, so start early and don’t make plans for the next couple hours. The process is a bit tiresome but like a lot of other things, if you put in the effort you are almost guaranteed to have good results.

Going back to David Lebovitz and his recipe for Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt, it calls for a full cream or Greek style yoghurt, which in most cases I would have gone for, but the store was all out of the good stuff so I had no choice but to ‘down-grade’ to a, dare I say, low fat yoghurt. *shock and horror* I will admit that the end result was not bad, a little ‘icy’, with a texture more like that of a sorbet, but still enjoyable. Next time, it full fat all the way. Lastly, he suggests an optional extra of adding two teaspoons of kirsch or vodka. I am not a huge fan of alcohol flavoured desserts, so I gave this one a miss.

Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt

From David Lebovitz

450g strawberries, rinsed and hulled
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup plain yogurt (full-cream or Greek style)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

optional: 2 teaspoons vodka or kirsch

Cut the strawberries into small pieces. Add the strawberries along with the sugar into a bowl and toss together until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand for 2 hours, at room temperature, stirring every so often.

Blend the strawberries and their juice to a smooth paste. I used an electric hand-held blender here, but if you have a food processor or blender and prefer to use either one, please do. Stir in the yoghurt and lemon juice. Strain all or portion of the mixture through a sieve to remove the seeds. See note at the end.

Chill the mixture for 1 hour by placing it, in its own bowl, into another bowl (or the sink) filled with ice. Once chilled put into the freezer, after 45 minutes if it has started to freeze along the edges, remove and stir vigorously with a whisk, or electric hand-held mixer, until all the frozen bits have broken up and mixture is smooth again.

Repeat this process, by freezing for 30-45 minutes and whisking until the ice-cream (in this case frozen yoghurt) is frozen. It will be ready in 2.5-3 hours.

*I did not strain the mixture to remove the seeds, as I like their delicate crunch, but since we are using a lot of strawberries here you may end up with too many seeds in the mixture. Next time I will see what the end result is if I only strain two-thirds of the mixture, still to retain some ‘crunch’