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I can be a painful person in summer. I constantly complain about the heat and happily discuss weather conditions at length. And it kind of goes without saying that Brisbane heat waves do not make for happy times in the garden. However, unlike myself, the basil is thriving and I have overwhelming amounts of this versatile herb. Thankfully it grows easily at this time of year; I planted seedlings in October in random garden bed locations (you can plant in January). If you plant basil next to tomatoes, prepare for it to be wildly successful; just like their culinary relationship. I know you’re meant to pick off the basil flowers (to encourage growth and better flavour) however, being a renegade, I leave some of them as a treat for my bees (they love it!). Basil likes sun, fertile soil and regular harvesting will ensure it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
So in combining my weather whinging with an abundance of basil, the best strategy to remain popular is to make basil semifreddo. Something a bit different with basil, perhaps not to everyones taste, however basil has a sweet, anise flavour so it makes sense. I often make semifreddo in summer and love the fact it keeps things old school…give me a metal tin over an ice cream machine any day! Semifreddo is Italian for ‘half frozen’ and is kind of like ice cream but custard based with a beautiful texture. You will never turn back. There are a few ways to infuse basil into the mixture but I find making basil sugar first works for me (awesome sprinkled over summer fruit). This semifreddo goes really well with raspberries and strawberries (our patch is but a distant memory) but I’m also thinking with chocolate. We ate it with raspberries after Peking duck pancakes for NYE dinner. The basil flavour is actually quite subtle, more of an aftertaste. Enjoy!
1 large handful of basil leaves (washed & dried)
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 organic eggs + 2 extra egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon of good vanilla extract
2 cups of pouring cream
Make the basil sugar first; pulse the basil and sugar in a food processor until the basil is very finely chopped and you end up with green sugar. You don’t want to over pulse either.
Place the basil sugar in a heatproof bowl then crack in the eggs, extra yolks and vanilla extract. Give it a whisk to combine then put the bowl over a pot of gently simmering water and continue to whisk (a real arm workout) until it’s frothy and the mixture is slightly heated through. This tends to take about 5 minutes. After you remove it from the heat, use a hand mixer or mixer to beat the mixture until it becomes pale and thick. Set aside.
Beat the pouring cream in another bowl only until very soft peaks form. Really keep an eye on this, do not let the cream become firm; this can easily happen if you’re using an electric mixer. Then carefully fold the egg mixture into the cream until combined. Pour into a metal tin or bowl and cover with foil to freeze for about 8 hours or make it the day before and freeze over night. I usually get it out of the freezer about 15-20 minutes before I eat it so it becomes softer. Serving it straight from the freezer when it’s hard will ruin the experience! :: Jem x