Lemon and Basil Ice Cream | Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons

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Second week of Book Club, making recipes from Diana Henry’s Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons,  and I’m already really enjoying it. I knew I would. Cooking solely from one book for a whole month is almost therapeutic in a way. I normally have so many ideas or questions of ‘what shall we have for dinner tonight?’, it’s nice to have a focus. Calmer.

So this second recipe can hardly be classed as an answer to what to have for dinner. Well, maybe it can be, if that’s what you fancy, but I wouldn’t recommend this as your evening source of nourishment. This recipe is all about pleasure.



I love lemon.  Given a choice I’ll always pick lemon. I was always the weird kid that got excited when a lemon fruit pastille was next in the tube.

I had, however, never tried this intriguing combination of lemon and basil.  It sounds a really obvious pairing, but even now, I can’t think of a time that I’ve had the two together.

Made from a traditional custard base, the milk is first infused with lemon peel and basil. A HUGE amount of basil.


I started to worry that I might not like this after all. Basil can be such an overpowering scent: you only need someone to brush past a basil plant, and you can smell it from 10 metres away.  But still curious, I persevered.

Before churning, freshly squeezed lemon juice is added to the custard along with cream.


As an accompaniment, I thought some candied lemon slices would be delicious! And they’re so quick to make.



Slice a whole lemon as finely as you can. (I cheated, and put it through my magimix processer). Add the slices to a pan of boiling water for a minute or so before draining.  Then pop equal parts of sugar and water into the now empty pan, and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Lay the slices in the bubbling syrup and leave to simmer gently for one hour, until they look like beautiful pieces of stained glass. Remove them carefully, one by one, and leave to set on a piece of greaseproof paper. The result is sweet and chewy and delicious.


This is stunning. You HAVE to try this, it’s incredible.

It is intensely lemon. Deep, mellow, cooked lemon flavour from the infused milk, with the zing of fresh lemon from the juice added at the end.  The basil gives it just the most amazing perfume. An enchanting combination.


Smooth, creamy and fresh. It’s the taste of summers in Italy, in a bowl.  I will be making this all year long.


I discovered last week that I somehow ended up buying two copies of Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons.

I don’t really need two copies of this book! So for a chance to win the paperback copy, all you need to do is follow me on twitter @letseatfirst and look out for the competition details.

The winner will be chosen at random on the 30th April 2015, and notified directly on twitter. Good luck!


Date Stuffed Mackerel | Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons

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The last time I went to the Bullring Indoor Market was probably circa 1993. My nan used to love shopping there for fish, meat and huge bags of pork scratchings. I can remember taking the escalator down into the busy, dark and pungent market, feeling a little overwhelmed by bellowing traders and by how much there was to see.

The redevelopment of the Bullring area means it’s all very different to how I remember it as a child.



I’ll be honest, compared to the ultra sterile conditions of a supermarket that I’ve become accustomed to, the reality of a busy working market was a little disconcerting at first. But the range of fish on offer was fantastic. I was after mackerel.



Scanning my many, many cookbooks (138 at my last count) I suddenly realised I had two copies of Diana Henry’s Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons!! One paperback, one hardback. I can just picture myself in the shop now, analysing the cover, thinking ‘I’m sure I don’t already have that one’ – oops!


With two copies, I thought it was probably about time I cooked from them!

The mackerel would be used to make Date Stuffed Mackerel with Spicy Broth and Couscous.  A Moroccan dish, Diana Henry describes it as ‘fantastically exotic – deep, dark and spicy’.


Although I’m familiar with the sweet within savoury concept, I’m not always a fan. I can’t BEAR sultanas in the retro classic coronation chicken. So I was apprehensive at the list of stuffing ingredients including a large amount of dates,  almonds and mint.  However, I have never cooked a Diana Henry recipe and been disappointed, so I gave it a go.

I wasn’t expecting to be squeamish about handling the fish, but I was a little! I realised that I’d never actually held a whole fish before, or eaten one for that matter. And there was something about him (I’m presuming it was a ‘he’, I mean how do tell with a fish?) looking up at me, as I rinsed him under the running tap, that put me off a bit.

Stuffed and rubbed with olive oil, ginger and cinnamon, they went into the oven.


They came out looking glorious.  Crisp skin, moist flesh and they smelt AMAZING.


Served with couscous, and ladles of spicy broth: it tasted very exotic, and unlike anything that I’d tried before. Sat eating this outdoors in the sunshine, we were transported. It felt as if we were eating on holiday, in a little local restaurant somewhere off the beaten track. It was delicious.

The filling was very sweet and sticky, but I loved it! It worked superbly with the oily mackerel. Maybe I should stop picking the sultanas out of my coronation chicken from now on.


I don’t really need two copies of this book! So for a chance to win the paperback copy, all you need to do is follow me on twitter @letseatfirst and look out for the competition details.

The winner will be chosen at random on the 30th April 2015, and notified directly on twitter. Good luck!