I got a big bag of watercress in the organic box this week. I don’t like watercress at the best of times, but yesterday afternoon I found myself craving a cold beverage and eager to try another green smoothie, but watercress was the only greenery I had in the house. Fruit, too, was running low – except for apples (the benefits of “Orchard Cottage”). I didn’t have many options, and so became the smoothie of randoms:
A handful of watercress
1/2 frozen banana
a few ice cubes
enough water to blend it to a fine puree in the Vitamix
Shock of the day: it was actually really damn good. I thought the watercress would overpower the smoothie but it didn’t at all. It added a subtle flavour akin to a cross between mint and parsley which worked really well with the apple. It also made my “green smoothie” properly green.
I should also note that this is my first time using apple in a smoothie: revelation. My new plan is to chop up and freeze a massive quantity of orchard apples, enough to supply me with numerous smoothies for many months to come.
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.