Q How does one dress up a plain tub of vanilla ice-cream when guests come unannounced and you want to serve a nice dessert, but you don't have many dessert-type ingredients?
A All you need is an open mind and a daring raid of your pantry, fridge and liquor stash.
Think simple but refined.
Minimalism is often the best approach - a light dusting of matcha green tea powder or a good cocoa powder such as Valrhona, or even malted-milk powder such as Horlicks, which is excellent on dark chocolate ice cream too.
Douse your scoop of vanilla with a hot espresso to make affogato, a classic Italian combination, and while you're at it, why not splash in some rum, brandy or coffee liqueur?
A little booze also helps to convert cupboard jams and spreads into sophisticated sauces.
Mix two tablespoons of good marmalade with two tablespoons mandarin orange juice and one tablespoon Campari for a sharp orange sauce, or make a lime version with lime marmalade, lime juice and lemon vodka.
Raspberry jam, lemon juice and raspberry or citrus vodka is another delicious combo, as is plum or cherry jam spiked with Japanese umeshu plum liqueur.
You can even quickly boil down canned applesauce with some red or white wine and a cinnamon stick until thick and fragrant.
For a killer chocolate sauce, whisk just enough hot water into a couple of spoonfuls of cocoa powder to make a flowing paste, then stir in an equal volume of Nutella. Yum!
For a more decadent topping, chop a couple of your favourite peanut-caramel chocolate bars into small bits, and stir together with an equal weight of milk or cream over low heat until blended and smooth. For even more decadence, whisk in some peanut butter for good measure.
Christopher Tan is a writer and food consultant.