This week is Holy Week, or as I’ve decided to call it, Holy Mole Week, because yesterday saw another one of my epic gatherings at Orchard Cottage, this time for a Mexican fiesta party featuring tamales, mole sauce, black beans, salsa and for dessert: chocolate cake and ice cream.
My original plan was to do chilli chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream, but a chocolate tour in Camden with Jennifer Earle and Kavey Favelle introduced me to Artisan du Chocolate and their Lumi milk chocolate bar. Lumis are ripe limes boiled in salt water and sun-dried, giving the the chocolate a fresh tanginess. Given that my meal plan already involved lots of chilli and rich flavour from the mole sauce, I loved the idea of adding a fresh element to the cake, rather than more chilli. Plus, lime was totally fitting with the Mexican theme.
As for ice cream, I debated whether to make lime sorbet, coconut ice cream or avocado ice cream, and in the end decided to make all three, it what is now infamously known as “the trio” (a phrase I apparently kept repeating all night long, following many bottles of Prosecco – I still maintain that the phrase has a nice ring to it).
All of the ice creams in “the trio” were good, really good, but the avocado was absolutely outstanding and perfect with the cake.
I made the ice cream on Kavey’s suggestion, who did an avocado ice cream on her blog last year. I was ultimately drawn to David Lebovitz’s recipe in The Perfect Scoop for its inclusion of sour cream and lime, both of which sounded perfect for my cake. But the avocado ice cream didn’t need the cake at all (though it didn’t hurt): this ice cream totally stands on its own. It’s creamy but fresh-tasting at the same time, especially with that little hint of lime. It was so good that Patrick secretly stashed some extra avocado ice cream in the freezer so that we didn’t eat it all at once. Because we would have.
Last weekend I had a few friends over for an Orchard Cottage slumber party / food fest. Among them was Kavey of the blog Kavey Eats and her latest stack of cookbooks. One of the themes of our visits has been to trawl through these books and pick out recipes to make. Then we head to the shop and return home for a weekend of cooking and eating. It’s basically my ideal way to spend time.
Kavey and I share many mutual foodie interests, one of which is ice cream. Kavey runs a monthly blog meme called Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream (aka BSFIC), so I always like to use Kavey’s visits as an excuse to try a new ice cream recipe. It also helps that her chosen theme for this month’s BSFIC is BOOZE, which made my mission to make ice cream all the more inviting.
Convenient to my cause, one of Kavey’s cookbooks was The Icecreamists: Vice Creams, Ice Cream Recipes & Other Guilty Pleasures by Matt O’Connor. I wasn’t sure if I liked this book at first, totally based on the cover whose bright pink / black design is really hard on my eyes. Inside the book, I continued to find other aspects of the design off-putting: lots of light-coloured text on dark backgrounds and pseudo punk rock motifs. I get what they’re going for, but it doesn’t make for user-friendly reading, which is pretty crucial for recipe books.
The photographs, however, are another matter – here the dark and brooding style really works. These days, too many pictures of ice cream involve pastel colours and frilly props. Not so in The Icecreamists. I reckon a man took the pictures – indeed, his name is Anders Schonnemann - and he definitely has balls (or should that be scoops?).
Having perused the book, it was obvious which recipe needed to happen: Brown Bread and Irish Stout Ice Cream (pictured in a very manly Guinness glass, though oddly looking more like a milkshake than an ice cream – but nevermind). I’d never heard of “brown bread ice cream” before but it seems to be a “thing” in these parts. It goes back to 18th-century Victorian times and has been a popular flavour in England and Ireland ever since. The premise is this: take ice cream, and mix in crunchy caramelised bits of bread crumbs. Sounds good, right? And this version is a particular tribute to the Irish, made with brown Irish soda bread and Irish stout (Guinness in my case).
The ice cream base is a basic custard, kicked up with cinnamon and nutmeg (a LOT of nutmeg, which I loved). For the brown soda bread, I followed the recipe in Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3 which includes dark treacle for a sweet, molassesy kick – basically perfect for this ice cream. The recipe only calls for 50ml of stout, which leaves plenty left over for drinking, but also makes me question whether the stout flavour comes through, particularly with the high flavour spices. Regardless, the final result was a total win. Caramelised bread crumbs in ice cream – or in anything for that matter – might be my new favourite thing.
20 g (1/3 cup) brown Irish soda bread (or other brown bread)
50 ml (1/4 cup) Guinness or other stout
30 g (1/2 cup) brown Irish soda bread
30 g (1/4 cup) dark brown (muscovado) sugar
Pour the milk, spices and cream into a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to steam but not boil.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl until smooth. Add the sugar and whisk until slightly fluffy. Gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking continuously to prevent the eggs scrambling. Return the mixture to the saucepan and place over a low heat, stirring frequently until the custard thinly coats the back of a wooden spoon. Do not allow to boil.
Add the crumbled soda bread and mix with a stick blender, then pour the mixture back into the bowl and set aside for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooled to room temperature. For more rapid chilling, half-fill a sink with cold water and ice and place the bowl in it for 20 minutes. Never put the hot mixture straight into the fridge.
Once cooled, boil the stout until it is reduced by about half and add to the custard. Cover the mixture and refrigerate, ideally overnight but at least for 6 hours, until thoroughly chilled (at least 4°C/40°F). Pour the chilled mixture into an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions (you can also make this without an ice cream maker).
Meanwhile, prepare the caramelised crumbs. Combine the crumbled soda bread and sugar and spread over a shallow baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place under a medium-hot grill, stirring frequently, until the breadcrumbs are softly caramelised. Allow to cool a little.
Fold most of the toasted bread mixture into the ice cream, then use a spoon or spatula to scrape the ice cream into a freezer-proof container with a lid. Freeze until it reaches the correct scooping texture (at least 2 hours).
Decorate each portion with a few of the remaining caramelised bread crumbs before serving.
Orchard Cottage is living up to its name at the moment. When I look out the window, all I see are a bundle of trees, branches dripping with ripe and ready apples. The mind reels with how to use them all.
Well, here’s an invention I came up with last weekend: apple pie ice cream, though I should really call it “apple crumble ice cream” because crumble topping is what I ended up using for the “pastry effect”. And indeed, that pastry aspect is essential – after all, one of the best bits of apple pie is buttery pastry. I would have used pre-baked shortcrust pastry, but I happened to have crumble topping stashed in my freezer and was feeling lazy, so I toasted that the oven for 10 minutes and went to town.
The crumble topping worked amazingly well, retaining its crispy texture even after being swirled into the ice cream. That said, I do want to try this again with proper pastry, something a little softer with more chew. Crumbled up cookies or biscuits could also work in a pinch.
As for the apples, those get stewed up with some spices – I use cinnamon and nutmeg – plus the magic ingredient, stem ginger, which gives it a spice kick and adds a further bit of texture to the whole mixture, which gets cooked up in a pan until the apples just start to fall apart. Depending on the size of your apples, you might not need all of the apple mixture, which is ok because you can serve the leftovers with the ice cream itself.
The ice cream base is a basic vanilla custard adapted from David Lebovitz‘s The Perfect Scoop. I toyed with adding cinnamon to the custard, too, but in the end decided to keep it simple and allow more of a contrast between the ice cream and spiced apples. I’m glad I did this.
One point that requires some finesse is the swirl. I’d be tempted to let the ice cream custard freeze for 30 minutes or so before swirling the apple in. Fresh out of the churn, the ice cream is still a bit soft, which makes for less of a swirl and more of a mix-in. Still, it’s good all the same.
Feel free to bump up the spices or add any additional spices that sing of apple pie to you (a bit of all spice might not go amiss).
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
¾ cup (150g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp butter
3 cooking apples (e.g. Bramleys), peeled and cut into 1cm pieces
100g stem ginger, diced
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
a few gratings of fresh nutmeg
a splash of rum
½ cup crumble topping, cooked and crumbled pie crust, or crushed biscuits/cookies of your choice
Heat the milk, 1 cup of the cream, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.
While that’s infusing, prepare the apples: melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat then add the apples, stem ginger, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook on medium heat until the apples start falling apart, but you still have some texture of the whole apple remaining. Taste it – you may need to add more sugar depending on the size of your apples. Add the rum if you like and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
Move on to the ice cream: Set a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the remaining cream into the bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Gradually pour the infused milk mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape this back into the saucepan and return to a low heat.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.
Strain the custard into the heavy cream, add the vanilla extract and stir to combine. Leave to come to room temperature (you can speed this up by using an ice bath). Put this along with the cooked apple and crumble topping and leave to chill thoroughly.
Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When done, swirl in the cooked apple and crumble topping (use your discretion here – you may not need all of the cooked apple – I added about a heaping ½ full to mine). Put everything into a freezer proof container and give it a couple hours to freeze thoroughly before digging in.
The other source of memory burn: this blackcurrant swirl ice cream.
Amongst my my guests that weekend were Rachel Demuth, owner of Demuths Restaurant and Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath, who put in a request for blackcurrant ice cream. Blackcurrants are one of those British fruits that I’ve never quite got my head around (the exception being Cassis, a blackberry liqueur that works wonders with Rosé). I think I associate it with Ribena, which I’m not particularly fond of.
Anyway, I like a challenge. I had some difficulty finding blackcurrants – we’re well past their season – but found some frozen ones at The Organic Farm Shop, where I also acquired the necessary milk, cream and eggs (I’m not sure why, but the farm shop’s dairy makes The Best ice cream – I think it has something to do with their super rich cream that’s almost as thick as yoghurt, and their wonderfully creamy yellow egg yolks).
To make the ice cream, I adapted the recipe for Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream in the forever useful David Lebovitz book, The Perfect Scoop. Rachel lent a hand by advising on the blackcurrants, which she cooked on the stove with some sugar until they just started to burst. We swirled this in just after churning, though in retrospect I think I’d let the ice cream freeze a bit before mixing in the blackcurrants, just to amplify the “swirl” effect even more.
So I think this ice cream has made me a black currant convert. They’re super tart, which I LOVE, especially when combined with the rich creamy sweetness of the ice cream. This recipe also has me wanting to try more “swirl” ice creams with this season’s found fruit: blackberries and elderberries I’m thinking. Stay tuned.
It’s been ages since I’ve been out for Indian, and this was some of the tastiest, freshest and most interesting Indian food I’ve had in a long time: masala dosa, sambar, chutney, homemade paneer, peshwari naan and some new discoveries such as masala vada and khadi. (Rachel Demuth’s blog has a full recap of the evening with some amazing recipes).
One of the meal’s highlights came at the very end, and made me feel super glad I saved room to enjoy dessert: mango chilli sorbet. Tart, refreshing and with just a touch of heat from the chilli, this type of dessert is my favourite way to end a meal.
I’ve tried making mango sorbet at home but have never managed to make it taste like the mango sorbets and ice creams you get in Indian restaurants. So I picked Helen’s brain after the supper club, and she told me her secret: Kesar mangos! This yellowish variety of mango is popular in India and is what gives the mango-sorbet-of-my-dreams its characteristic flavour.
Fresh Kesar mangos are not easy to find in the UK, but tinned Kesar mangos are. And so, Helen’s parting gift to me was a big ol’ tin of pureed Kesar Mangos, offered on the condition that I make mango sorbet at home and write about it. So here I am.
The tinned Kesar mangos did not disappoint. They’re already sweetened (ingredients: mango, sugar, citric acid – nothing scary), so all I needed to do was blitz it in the Vitamix with some lime juice and ginger juice, mix in a finely diced red chilli, then churn in the ice cream maker. Pretty awesome.
The result was everything I hoped for. Arguably, I could have chopped my chillies a tad finer as they were detectable as “bits” in the sorbet, but this effect sort of grew on me – I liked the texture, and the sensation, like little pockets of heat encased in frozen mango awesomeness.
A refreshing sorbet, recipe courtesy of Helen Lawrence from The Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath. Kesar mangoes are the best in this, but if you can’t find fresh ones, use tinned (omit the honey and sugar if the tinned mangoes are sweetened). To make ginger juice, grate fresh ginger and then use your hands to squeeze squeeze out the juice.
85g light soft brown sugar
2 ripe mangoes, peeled & stoned (or 1 850g tin of sweetened Kesar Mangos)
3 tablespoons ginger juice
1 red chilli, deseeded & chopped
Place the mangoes, ginger juice, chilli, lime juice and honey into a blender and puree until absolutely smooth. Add the sugar and buzz again until mixed.
Transfer the puree into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturers instructions. Freeze.
When ready to eat, take the sorbet out of the freezer about ten minutes or so before you’re ready to eat it – this will make it much easier to scoop!