going back to canada on a journey through the past

I had this pair of Chuck Taylors that lasted me four years, not bad since I wore them a lot and lived up a hill in Wellington, which wears out a shoe swift-fast. Towards the end of their existence, one had a large hole in the bottom and the tread had been buffed down to the thickness of a wonton wrapper, except for the bits where holes had emerged in the sole. So…I cut out some bubble wrap and slid it inside the shoes. And wore them for at least another 6 months. At the same time, I was also buying, like…gelatine leaves and shallots and cloth-aged cheddar. Priorities?

And yet there were things that even with this food-first shoes-later mindset, that still seemed out of my reach. Like maple syrup. That Canadian elixir. I’m pretty sure that if you look at it in the supermarket, then look away, then look back again, the price tag magically becomes more expensive. In all these years I’ve only ever bought one bottle of it, then been too nervous to even take off the lid in case I wasted a droplet (what with its street value rivalling that of most hard drugs).
Then I was given a bottle of maple syrup for my birthday by my late grandad’s wife, and it was an exciting new opportunity for me. To have some maple syrup. Simple as that. I should have known that someone whose chocolate eclairs I always admired as a child would give such an astute gift.
Ice cream is basically always on my mind so it was an easy decision to showcase the incredible flavour of maple syrup in that format. Nigella Lawson has a whole chapter about ice cream in her book Forever Summer (one day I will too! But it will be an even bigger chapter than hers) and within its pages is a recipe for Honey Semifreddo. It’s a quickly whipped up mixture of egg yolks, cream and honey, frozen once and then cut into slices. Amazingly good as that sounds, I thought I’d switch the honey for maple syrup and go forward from there.
Even though it’s pretty common, I’ve never made ice cream like this before – I tend to take the frozen custard path instead. This semifreddo however, was so exquisitely light-textured and quick to make that I might have to reconsider my methods.
Maple Syrup Semifreddo

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer

1 egg
4 egg yolks (nice, free range eggs please)
100g real maple syrup
300 mls cream

Place the egg, yolks, and maple syrup in a good-sized bowl, and sit that bowl over a small pot of simmering water. Whisk the mixture thoroughly and constantly until it is thick, creamy and aerated – this won’t take a hugely long time. Set it aside, then in another bowl whisk the cream till thick and floppy but not completely whipped. Carefully fold it into the maple syrup mixture, and pour it into a 1-litre loaf tin, either lined with glad-wrap or plain if it’s a silicon one, and freeze till solid. Dip in hot water before turning out (for some reason it took a while to dislodge) and cut into slices.
The only problem with ice cream is that it’s hard to photograph – it’s all melting in front of you which makes composition and focussing a bit of a non-event. Eating it however is ridiculously easy. As I said, the texture of this is wonderful – light, creamy and not really rich at all. The maple syrup whisked through provides the most incredible flavour – elegantly sweet and smoky. A few walnuts folded through wouldn’t have gone amiss but its uninterrupted cold creaminess was perfect as is with nothing more than an extra drizzle of sticky maple syrup.
Maybe one day, when I’ve gotten all awesomely rich from writing a cookbook, I’ll be able to live like the Canadians on the “Canucks Amuck” episode of Angry Beavers, who crack open cans of cool refreshing maple syrup to quench their thirst. One day!

Title via: Canada’s other fine export, Neil Young and his song Journey Through the Past. I was fortunate enough to see him live at Big Day Out in January 2009, wild Canadian beavers could not have kept me from that performance.
Music lately:
Dam Native, Behold My Koolstyle from Kaupapa Driven Rhymes Uplifted…Aotearoa music for the ages. I love mellow melodies like this in hiphop, and I like that it’s so clearly about this place, not of course that all NZ music should be – imagine the awkwardness of every local act trying to create the kiwi equivalent of, say, Down In Albion.
Remote Control, Beastie Boys, from Hello Nasty. I like the Beastie Boys and all, really like some of their songs but this song is in a fantasy baseball league of its own. The bombastic beats, the fuzzyiness, the ambiguity of the chorus, it just slays me. This was one of those songs I heard on the radio late at night and I had no idea how to find out who sung it or where to find it…
Next time: Dubious. Might crack out the slow cooker, it’s definitely cold enough…on the other hand I really want to make more maple syrupy stuff while I have the chance…

15 thoughts on “going back to canada on a journey through the past

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am fairly drooling at the thought of your ice cream. I must give you a recipe I used to make a life time ago, with Kahlua. Ask your mother, I am sure she will remember it, was a high days and holidays kind of recipe.
    I must admit to having maple (flavoured) syrup on my porridge every morning. But the real stuff?
    I can dream. hugs Nana.


  2. Hannah says:

    Okay, I'm a squidgy bit lame. I maybe thought that your title was a reference to the song from the Dreamworks movie Anastasia, though I quickly worked out that that song is “journey TO the past”. Still, I now have the entire soundtrack to that movie running through my head…

    You know, it wasn't until I had my first house-sitting gig last year that I realised a) how expensive maple syrup is and b) how lucky I was to have grown up in a household where we always had a bottle of the real stuff on hand. I still can't stomach the fake kind 😀

    So hurrah for the golden elixir entering your kitchen! Might I also say how happy I am to see an ice-cream recipe amenable to the workings of us ice-cream-maker-less beings?


  3. millie mirepoix says:

    Hooray for maple syrup – what a great birthday present!! I can totally relate to spending money on food (and kitchen utensils) whilst scrimping on normal expenses like shoes, socks. It's how I got through my student years, my flatmates probably thought I was pretty weird but hey, I think you had your priorities right! I already like drizzling maple syrup on ice cream so this recipe really appeals to me. Mmm!


  4. Laura @ Hungry and Frozen says:

    Nana: I'll definitely have to ask Mum about that, there must be some high or holy day coming up soon 😉 XX

    Hannah: Don't worry, I had Bedknobs and Broomsticks in my head all weekend, you're not alone. And I don't own an ice cream maker so all of my recipes are good to go! Just stir them for a bit once they're mostly frozen, and make sure to let it soften a bit before you serve. Machinery schmachinery.

    Boffcat: THOUSANDS. No, I mean, it can vary, but I've seen a small bottle on sale for $40…no kidding. Usually $10+ for a very small bottle.

    Millie Mirepoix: Hooray for solidarity 🙂


  5. Plum Kitchen says:

    This post made me smile, my husband has commented on more than many occasions we could save time & just have my wages sent directly to a couple of local food stores rather than bothering with our bank account….I am going to try the semifreddo this weekend for my mum, alas no maple syrup in my pantry but I do have a jar of fancy pants Wild Thyme honey (a gift!) that could be rather delicious, thanks for the inspiration:)


  6. Jacey says:

    Journey Through the Past….
    I think you may just have provided the inspiration for the theme song to our primary school production this term!!!! We've been searching for a song to link everything together (what really is a journey through the past…)
    Awesome post (yum maple syrup!!!) but mostly, thanks for the song idea!


  7. Psychgrad says:

    Maple syrup is getting more and more expensive in Canada too. It is so dependent on having good weather for sap.

    Not sure where all these beavers you're talking about are…I know they're a national symbol, but I've only seen one in my life.


  8. Esme says:

    Your ice cream looks delicious-being Canadian I must say there is nothing quite like maple syrup-I will never order pancakes in a restaurant unless the maple syrup is real. As a child we would have field trips to the sugar bush-and eat maple sryup poured hot on snow in tins.


  9. Kay says:

    Just returned from School Camp Number 2 and your muesli was a hit with the camp adults on both editions.

    Who'd have thought that your maple syrup blog could have flushed out so many Canadians?

    I have been gifted some home-grown walnuts that are yearning for maple syrup. Can't for the life of me find a nut-cracker so have attacked them with the heavy end of a knife-sharpener. It takes a certain skill to crack the shell and not the nut… which I have yet to acquire, but the failures are just as edible as the successes.


  10. Foodycat says:

    I think the maple syrup is a great idea. Every time I look at that recipe I am sceptical about unrelieved honey – and when I tried a honey semifreddo recently, it was right on the end of my sweetness tolerance. Somehow maple syrup has more dimensions to it.


  11. lynz.odyssey says:

    Looks divine Laura. Have had two food finds myself this last week – Chia bread from Baker's Delight and Ginger honey. OMG, the honey is devine, and am imagining ginger honey ice cream with lumps of crystalised ginger as we speak. The brand I found over here is Capilano Honey – google them and weep. I checked for ginger honey in NZ and NZ Health Naturally puts out a Manuka and ginger honey for $22 a jar, so move over maple syrup for pricing. Food for thought lol. :):)


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