Monday 21 June 2010

Full of Beans

The sunrise on the Summer Solstice is grey and damp. "Tsuyu", the Japanese rainy season, in full swing. After the breakfast rush and getting the kids off to school with "Obento" lunch boxes, we set about our own tasks for the day.

I am packing my kiln at the moment, but the weather is affecting my work cycle. Because I do not bisque fire my pottery, and apply the glazes raw, the pots must be bone dry. A difficult task when it is humid one moment, drizzling the next! (The leak in the studio roof doesn't help much either!) There are sometimes breaks of sun for just a few hours though, so last week I managed to get the pots outside to dry properly.

The kiln shelves are cleaned and coated with a fresh layer of kiln wash. I lay them out to dry on bamboo poles that I harvested in winter with the boys. I lash bamboo poles to the old pipes, from the gas kiln I had in Nanai many years ago, to span across to the edge of the garden terrace. The boys use the pipes for a soccer goal, so I dismantled the structure at the end of the day. Raising the pots up into the air away from the damp grass helps them dry faster, but that is not the main reason for this contraption.

The last thing that I need is pussy foot prints in broken pottery shards. The four kittens we currently have cavorting about the garden are full of beans, but not yet big enough to venture up to the terrace. Most of the time they spend occupying my shoes.

Mid afternoon the rain began, big fat drops sent to reconnoitre at first, then an onslaught of cats and dogs, followed by a persistent skirmish of drizzle. If one drop of rain lands on the raw glaze it will lift away from the clay leaving a crawling scar in the finished glaze surface. There is twenty metres of open ground between the studio and the kiln shed.... Packing the kiln will have to wait until tomorrow.

After cleaning up and taking a coffee break with Mika, the kids start arriving home from school. Homework and dinner preparations begin in earnest. We have the first batch of string beans from the garden to add to the main course, but today I have a special treat in store...because last Sunday was Fathers Day! The family surprised me with an Ice Cream Maker!

I am using it for the first time, so I decided to stick with basics; Vanilla. I just happen to have some Vanilla pods in the cupboard (as one does!), so here it goes.


200 ml Milk
200 ml Cream
Half a Vanilla Bean
1 Whole Egg
2 Egg Yolks
80 grams Sugar

Split the Vanilla Bean down the centre and scrape out the seeds with the point of a knife. Mix the cream, milk and Vanilla pods and seeds together in a saucepan and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Blend the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl till ivory coloured and creamy. Pour half the simmered mixture into the bowl and continue blending, then return the whole mixture to the saucepan and heat gently till thickened like custard. Chill this mixture in the fridge and remove the bean pods before placing in the Ice Cream Maker.

Serve with a sprig of fresh mint.

Without a doubt, this is the best Ice Cream I have ever had. The family, especially the kids, agree, and now, like the kittens, the coffee, the ice cream and the garden, we're all full of beans.


  1. I am eager to make your ice cream but don't know how much sugar is required. 80 gms or 8 og. Don't have any idea what og would be. Maybe a typo or just a measurement I'm not familiar with. Thanks, Gay

  2. Thank you Gay,

    That was actually neither a typo nor a mystical measurement (though I like the idea!). I didn't realize that the typeface I'm using makes the zero look like a lower case "o", and having written the blog and checked it, my brain already knew that it was a zero, so I never noticed the potential for confusion.

    I have fixed it and will take care to abbreviate no more!

    Happy Ice Cream making!

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  4. I have just noticed the same potential problem with "ooml" for liquid measurements! That's "200 millilitres" not "2 oomls"!

    As we say in Japanese, "You have removed the scales from my eyes". Thank you, Gay. Just goes to prove that we must learn to see, not merely look.