Our #2 teenage son is our resident party animal. He's the socialite in the family. He's the networker, the friend to everyone, the guy who loves to be at the centre of whatever is going on, the chap who will, almost certainly, run a bar at some time in his life - I can picture him now ...
So of course when January comes around and it's his birthday, there is nothing more guaranteed than it's PARTY TIME.
And how do you celebrate your birthday when you're 13 years old? Well, it goes like this -
- You invite 8 of your friends to come over at the weekend (would have been more, but numbers limited by spaces in the car).
- We drive to a big, sandy place in the desert to do Paintballing. Not me ... or my lovely husband, by the way - sounds like a hideous way to spend a couple of hot and sweaty hours to me - but when you're 13, I guess it's pretty heavenly ... camouflage overalls, guns, targets, getting splattered with paint - a real life video game.
- Our roles were those of taxi drivers and suppliers of copious amounts of water and the ubiquitous birthday party Pringles. Essential, I'd like to believe.
- And then, when it's not possible to get any hotter or sweatier we pile into the car and head back to our house. I drove the sweet-smelling girls. Think I got lucky there.
- Then there was pizza in the garden. Finn had put in a special request for homemade pizza made in our 'we still haven't completely got the hang of it' new, wood-buring Pizza Oven. The learning curve over the last couple of months had been steep -
- Attempt 1 - Put WAY too much wood on the fire and created a furnace that pretty much smoked out the neighbourhood. It took ages to calm down and by the time we could actually use the oven, we'd all fallen out of love with the pizza thing.
- Attempt 2 - Fire was better. Took several attempts to manage to get the rolled out dough to look at all like a pizza and then it stuck to the peel (technical term for the big 'spade' that you stick into the hot bit). Pretty ugly pizzas it has to be said.
- Attempt 3 - Discovered semolina was the cure for sticking dough ... a triumph ... but now struggled to get my rolling-out pace to keep up with the speed of the oven. When the pizza is cooked in 45 seconds, there's a fair degree of pressure. And then I ran out of dough when we'd only just got into our rhythm. AAAaaaaaaahhhh
- Attempt 4 (Party Day) - Armed with a bumper bag of semolina and bowls and bowls of fermenting pizza dough, we were in good shape. New strategy this time - roll out the dough in advance and use every baking sheet in the kitchen to pre-prepare the bases and cook them on these as well. It's a much calmer pizza experience but feels a bit disappointing not to be sliding the pizzas in and out of the oven (with a dramatic flourish) using the pizza spade. That's half the fun - a baking sheet and oven gloves just doesn't cut it. But phew - discover that cooking the pizzas on the baking sheets makes them stay soggy on the bottom so adopt a half and half approach .... cook them initially on the baking sheet, then remove from the oven, slide the pizza onto the peel and return to the oven - with a dramatic flourish - to complete the crisping up process. Not sure that Pizza Express will be adopting this process but for now, everyone is happy.
- And after pizza must come cake ... and candles ... and singing. You know how it works by now. There was Easy Chocolate Fudge Sauce too and vanilla ice cream. It would be rude not to.
One of #2 teenage son's loveliest, oldest friends has a lot of food allergies, once of which is egg. Birthday cake is tricky for her and, I imagine, is almost always off-limits. So, in the spirit of not wanting her to miss out on the sugar overload I made her some Chocolate Fudge Cookies (they're egg free you know) and whipped up some of my Super Healthy Ice Cream - egg free, refined sugar-free and completely delicious. It turned out to be the big hit of the party.
So here's what I've learned about this Super Healthy Ice Cream -
- The key ingredient is frozen bananas, blitzed in a high-speed blender or small food processor. You would imagine that the banana would just deteriorate into small, solid chips as it is blitzed but as it gets more and more broken down, it becomes the most amazing, velvety smooth 'ice cream'.
- Freeze your bananas overnight. They need to be rock hard or the ice cream will be sloppy. In an ideal world you'd peel them, slice them and freeze them on a tray lined with baking parchment (then pack into a bag or box when they are fully frozen). To be honest, most of the time, I throw the bananas into the freezer with the skins still on and deal with taking them off when I come to use them. Once the frozen banana has been out of the freezer for 3 or 4 minutes the skin will come off easily - perhaps with a bit of help from a sharp knife.
- Depending on the power of your blender/food processor you may need to cut the bananas up a bit to make the blitzing less tough on the motor.
- You will need to keep stopping the machine and scraping down the inside of the bowl to ensure that all the bits get blended. Blitz, scrape, blitz, scrape. And repeat until you have the required consistency.
- If I'm feeling impatient, I sometimes add a splash of liquid to get things moving a bit faster - coconut water is good or milk (of any type - cow's, soy, almond, rice ...).
- The ice cream tastes fairly obviously of banana. The riper the banana, the stronger the flavour - but depending on the strength of the other flavours that you add, the banana does become a back note rather than the main event.
- The riper the banana, also the sweeter the ice cream is. Depending on your taste and which other ingredients you are adding you may choose to also add a drizzle of maple syrup (or similar to slightly 'up' the sweetness).
- 1 medium banana = enough ice cream for one person. Scale it up to create as much ice cream as you'll need but I would recommend not making it in batches any bigger than 3 bananas at a time.
- This is a last minute dessert. You need to work quickly and you need to be ready to serve as soon as it is done. Re-freezing is OK-ish but you end up with a slightly gritty texture, like when you re-freeze regular melted ice cream.
- The range of flavours is only limited by your imagination. My favourites are Chocolate, Mango & Lime, Mixed Berry - in that order. I'll be trying Peanut Butter next.
- Toppings and garnishes are the key to making it look as pretty as a picture. Fresh fruits would be great or cacao nibs or freeze dried raspberries or toasted nuts or coconut. The list is endless.
And here's why you're going to be trying this out for sure -
- It's ridiculous that something tasting this good can be so healthy too. The chocolate ice cream particularly, tastes highly indulgent and just like the most gorgeous real McCoy.
- Egg free, dairy free, refined sugar free. Feel free to shout it from the roof tops - "I LOVE THIS SUPER HEALTHY ICE CREAM" ...
- Ice cream for breakfast can now be a 'thing'.
- Keep a supply of frozen bananas and fruits in the freezer and you've got a fab dessert always ready to go.
Convinced? Race you to the kitchen ....Print