Sunday, 25 July 2010

Black and blue ripple, a bilberry smack in the mouth.



Bilberry season (August-September) is still a few weeks away but I can’t wait any longer. Bilberry pie is one of my fondest childhood food memories. When I was a kid we used to go up onto the moors or Sutton Bank to pick bilberries. It used to take the best part of a day to collect enough as the bushes were always sparsely populated with fruit and spread out over a wide area. Coupled with the fact they are so low to the ground means this inevitably becomes a long and backbreaking day – even for a small boy. You would also be guaranteed to be dyed purple from head to foot by the end of the day – always a bonus to a small child. Posh people had a clever bit of kit called a ‘scrabbler’ – basically a scoop with a toothed comb at the end which meant you could scoop up huge amounts in no time. We had sticky little fingers instead. Bilberry pie is one of those rare dishes that are actually worth going through all that hassle needed to acquire the ingredients and prepare them.

Vaguely related to the much blander blueberry it goes by many names; whortleberries, myrtle berries (from its Latin name Vaccinium myrtillus), whinberries and blaeberries (because blae is Scots Gaelic for blue - apparently). However, around here it is known as the bilberry and the local variation of the pie is called ‘mucky-mouth’ pie, for obvious reasons. The French have their own version, the ‘Tarte Aux Myrtilles’ (which sounds totally gay, but probably tastes fantastic). I may well have a go at trying to make that at some point in the not too distant future.

However, it is late July and I want my bilberry fix now! I thought about growing my own but apparently they are virtually impossible/a right pain in the arse to cultivate – to the point where nobody even tries any more (bang goes another brilliant idea). I have however, ordered some boring old blueberries in pots for the patio instead.

Luckily bilberries are big in Poland, which means that if you have a Polish shop nearby (and the chances are that you do) then you’ll be able to find the Krakus branded jars of bilberries in syrup (you can often find these in Morrisons and Waitrose as well, although they only seem to appear erratically). The Krakus ones are brilliant as they’ve done all the hard work for you and even provided syrup.

I was given a few handfuls of blackcurrants by my gran and had frozen them until I could come up with a suitable use for them. My brother bought me a rather
good book of ice cream recipes for my birthday (better than socks) and I had been reading up on various tricks and techniques. I hatched a cunning plan, bilberry & blackcurrant ripple', which it turns out, is possibly even more dastardly than triple choc. Mwahahahah…..


My recipe for bilberry & blackcurrant ripple

Ingredients:
4 egg yolks (5 if very small)
300ml semi skimmed milk
Vanilla pod
1 teaspoon of cornflour (cornstarch)

1x460g jar of Krakus bilberries in syrup
300ml of double cream

150g frozen blackcurrants (probably half this amount would be enough)
15g caster sugar
About 4 tablespoons of water
2 tablespoons of blackcurrant jam (optional)
1 tablespoon of cassis (optional)

Method:
Start off by making the blackcurrant syrup for the ripple. Place the blackcurrants in a saucepan with 3-4 tablespoons of water and 15g of caster sugar (or 10% of the weight of fruit), heat until soft and mushy (or if frozen about 10-15 minutes). I added a couple of heaped teaspoons of blackcurrant jam at this point – mainly because I happened to have some handy and it seemed like a good idea. You could also try adding a drop of cassis - but I forgot this time. Strain through a sieve into a small bowl, pressing hard with either the back of a spoon or a pestle to get every last drop of juice out. Cover with clingfilm and put aside to cool, then chill until ready to ripple.

Next make the custard, this is the bit I always have problems with and always manage to curdle it. (This custard recipe is basically nicked from the ice cream machine book.) Heat 300ml of semi skimmed milk in a saucepan with a vanilla pod if you have one (I had a couple saved in sugar from previous recipes). Bring to almost boiling point, then take off the heat and allow the vanilla to infuse for about 30 minutes. Then remove the vanilla pod and retain for future use.

In a bowl beat 4 or 5 egg yolks (I used 5 because mine were tiny, but 4 normal sized ones should be adequate) with 75g of caster sugar and about 1 level teaspoon of cornflour (even though I invested in some nice measuring spoons I stupidly forgot to level it and dumped a huge heaped teaspoon in). Beat until nice and light coloured – I think the proper term is something to do with ribbons, I dunno, what-ever! Bring the milk back up to the boil and then slowly add to the eggs, whisking all the time. Don’t use an electric whisk for this bit (like I stupidly did) or everything will be so frothy you won’t be able to see when the custard is ready and it will curdle. Now pour back into the saucepan and heat slowly, stirring constantly until the custard coats the back of your wooden spoon. Pour into a bowl and cover the surface with cling film (lay it directly onto the surface to prevent a skin forming, don’t stretch it across the bowl like a drum), set aside and when cool chill in the fridge until needed.

Because I was using bilberries from a jar in syrup I just had to sieve them. If you manage to get fresh ones then make a fruit syrup as per the instructions above for blackcurrants. One other thing that distinguishes bilberries from the lesser blueberry is that they have incredibly small and gritty little seeds. You need to sieve/strain/force the bilberries through a very fine mesh. A bog-standard sieve will not be fine enough (I discovered) and so if you are unprepared like me then you’ll need to improvise something to strain it through. The seeds are not as hard and irritating as raspberry seeds, they won’t get stuck in your teeth but they will make the texture a little bit gritty so you’ll appreciate the results more if you make the effort to properly strain them out, but it won’t be a disaster if you can’t (come to think of it you might be able to grind them in a mortar and pestle – haven’t tried it but it might be worth a go). Once the syrup is strained then cover the bowl and refrigerate until needed.

When everything is suitably chilled then whisk/beat/whip 300ml of double cream until it makes soft peaks, this will increase the overall volume of the final ice cream mixture. It is preferable to do this in a large jug or bowl with a lip so that can easily pour everything straight into your ice cream maker when the time comes. Next add the bilberry syrup and whisk some more. Finally fold in the custard and mix well, (you may have to pour your custard through a sieve if like me you curdled it) the colour will keep changing from bluish purple to pink, to blue-grey and back to purple as you mix – it’s like something out of Willy Wonka’s R&D department.

Pour the whole lot (I had about 1100ml of stuff by this point according to my measuring jug) into your ice cream maker and churn for about 15-20 minutes, it will increase in volume again so make sure you decant it into a 1.5 or 2litre container as the blackcurrant ripple will add to the volume also (I probably had twice as much blackcurrant as I actually needed and ended up not using it all – it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and goes great poured over vanilla ice cream or used as a very runny jam). To get the ripple effect, scoop a few spoons of ice cream into your container, then a couple of spoons of the blackcurrant syrup, keep alternating. Once the tub is filled then swirl the blade of a knife through the mixture a couple of times – don’t go mad or you’ll end up mixing it too much, put a lid on it and freeze. I couldn’t wait and tried it after two hours and it wasn’t firm enough, the next day it was rock solid and needed a hour in the fridge to soften up enough to scoop properly. The taste is fantastic but then I am biased because I’d eat a dead badger if it were dipped in bilberry syrup. Mmmmmmbadgery….


Update: I think the calibration/colour saturation on my monitor is out of whack as the actual colour is somewhere between these two photos (although they were taken on different days with scoops from different parts of the tub and completely different proportions of ice cream to ripple so who knows whats going on...)


Saturday, 24 July 2010

Two out of Three Ain't Bad.




I started the season with 3 proto-figs which were later joined by another 10 ‘second round’ figs. The first three have been slowly growing and ripening and I’ve been checking them everyday – until yesterday when I was so busy with stuff that I forgot. This last week it has been dull and overcast – nothing has been growing so I thought I could get away with it. However, today when I go to check there are only two, I find the other has dropped down the back of the pot and already shrivelled up. The other two fell off into my hand but I suspect they were already past their best as they seem a little flaccid. If they’d have had a few days of sun rather than slate grey skies they might have been perfect, instead they look more like Papa Smurf’s severed ‘nads. They did taste spot on though, if a little overripe.

Blah, blah, blah, rhubarb, rhubarb, strawberry, rhubarb…

It was my Gran’s 90th birthday this week so I decided to make her something nice. She is a big fan of rhubarb and had just brought me a bunch from her allotment (yes allotment where she goes everyday, did I mention she is 90?). There wasn’t really enough for a pie or a crumble (neither of which is particularly ‘special’ - not the way I make them anyway), plus it is hot and not really crumble weather. My gran also happens to be a phenomenal maker of crumbles, so anything I attempted would be a pathetic tribute act in comparison. In the end I decided to have a go at producing a rhubarb and strawberry ice cream. I could only manage a handful of strawberries from each of the three varieties I’m growing (Mara des Bois, Tenira and Alpine) but when combined with the rhubarb it ought to be enough. It might even turn out to be quite ‘special’.

My Rhubarb and Strawberry Ice Cream/frozen yoghurt thing





Ingredients:
140g of rhubarb (this is all I had)
14g of caster sugar
111g strawberries, plus some extra for chunks.
11g caster sugar
450g pot of rhubarb yoghurt (approx 500ml)
300ml crème fraîche
4-8 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon crème de cassis (optional)
2 tablespoons of strawberry jam (optional)
1 Vanilla pod (optional)
Runny honey to taste (optional)

Method:

I managed to scrape together a small bowl of mixed strawberries from the three varieties that I grow in my garden. They weighed in at 111g. My rule of thumb is 10% of the weight of fruit in caster sugar. I hulled and roughly chopped the strawberries and added 11g of caster sugar (lucky I have some new digital scales which allow me to be very precise). I mashed this together in a bowl, then covered with clingfilm and put in the fridge to chill.

Next chop the rhubarb into roughly 1” chunks and throw into a heavy bottom saucepan. Add 4-8 tablespoons of water (not enough to cover but enough to stop it all sticking to the bottom), 14g of caster sugar (or 10% of the weight of fruit) and 1 tablespoon of cassis (optional - I had some lying around so threw in a splash), I also added an old vanilla pod.

Gently simmer the rhubarb until it turns into a soft mush, then remove the vanilla pod (wash and save it for later) and pour into a bowl, cover and chill. I ended up leaving both fruit ‘compotes’ to chill overnight, which was handy as by the time I came to make the ice cream the next day some more strawberries were ripe enough to throw in at the end as chunks.

Once chilled, force the rhubarb mix through a fine mesh sieve with the back of a spoon or pestle into a large bowl. Similarly sieve the strawberry mix into the same bowl. Give it all a stir and check the taste. If too rhubarby then you can add some strawberry jam (pushed through the sieve to remove the seeds first) or if too tart then add some runny honey - which seems to go very well with rhubarb. I added both.

I decided to make a yoghurt based ice-cream-thing rather than a custard based ice cream as I’d just read a book that didn’t recommend giving them to very young children or the very old due to the risk of salmonella – I suspect that is mainly to cover the publishers from being sued in the unlikely event that some idiot poisons themselves but thought it would be a bit ironic to produce a killer ice cream as a 90th birthday treat. I also had a big tub of rhubarb yoghurt in the fridge so that kind of swung it.

Add one 450g pot of rhubarb yoghurt to the fruit and mix thoroughly (I was using ‘Rachel’s’ organic low fat bio-live yoghurt from Sainsbury’s because I already had it in the fridge, I am sure anything else would be fine. I am not sure why this is labelled in grams when the crème fraîche and cream are in millilitres). Next add a 300ml pot of half fat crème fraîche and mix in. You could add a few drops of red/pink colouring if you want at this point – I did.

Check the taste again, add more honey if it’s too tart. Chill for an hour then churn in your ice cream maker for about 15 minutes. I managed to scrape together another handful of strawberries from the garden which I quickly hulled and roughly chopped while the ice cream was churning. I dropped these in after the 15 minutes and let the machine churn for another 5 minutes. Pour into a container with a lid and freeze for at least 2 hours. Sorted!

Dolittle…

I have been communing with nature this week, one way or another. I discovered that my raised bed had been plundered and that all of my radishes had been dug up and chewed – despite the bird netting. This was obviously the same bunch of mice that the cat had been bringing home for tea most nights this week, and the same crew responsible for leaving half eaten strawberries scattered over the lawn. The galling thing is that they are half eaten – what’s wrong with my bloody strawberries? If you don’t like ‘em, then stop nicking 'em. Then I realised that they had been abandoned in the most exposed part of the garden in what appeared to be a straight line between the strawberries and the fence. I began to suspect that the owls had been picking the mice off as they lugged the huge strawbs across the lawn in a sort of fruity convoy. They were obviously so pleased with their haul that they had become careless and their lackadaisical attitude to security and overwatch had been their undoing. Oblivious to the possibility of ‘death from above’ their little convoy had been picked off one by one. This was all rather sad, so I now leave a couple of reject strawbs under the bushes near the entrance to their hole so they don’t have to cross no man’s land to pinch my good strawberries.

It was one of those mornings where you think it’s going to thunder any minute but it never does. The air was thick and damp and just doing the simplest thing made you burst out into a sweat. I was a bit distracted with something and was startled by the appearance of a neighbour peering over the hedge asking; ‘how do you get them to do that?’
‘How do I get who to do what?’ I said suspiciously.
Apparently I had 5 or 6 painted ladies sitting on my head licking the sweat from my hair. It turns out they were butterflies, which is probably for the best otherwise this could have turned into another interminable anecdote about the jungle. As soon as I straightened up they took off in a cloud of fluttering orange and brown.

I didn’t get a photo of the painted ladies who went all shy and fluttered away, so here’s a pic one of the 30 tortoiseshells that spend their afternoon sunbathing on the walls of the house. They don’t care who photographs them – slags.


Monday, 5 July 2010

Weapon of mass distraction...


And it came to pass that after three and forty years in the wilderness I did buy an Ice cream maker – and saw that it was good. When word spread of my ability to turn ‘that which wasn’t ice cream’ into ‘ice cream’ the great unwashed masses were humbled and did beseech me to render unto them some triple-choc. It was decided by the counsel of elders that I would be required to feed thousands (okay a handful of relatives, but crucially that included at least two voracious nieces). A feast was expected and tribute was required to be paid, a triple-choc-tastic tribute.

The following is an amalgamation/composite/collage of about 8 different recipes I came across while Googling ‘chocolate ice cream’. No one recipe seemed quite right, either being too big or too small, in American cup measurements (I have some measuring cups but like the reassurance of precise measurements in grams.) or using odd ingredients that I had never heard of like ‘half and half’ or ‘Dutch process cocoa’. In the end the only cocoa I could find in this country that expressly stated that it was ‘Dutched’ was Green & Blacks organic cocoa powder. As it was my birthday I decided to splash out and ordered a selection of chocolate goodies from their website – mainly in the interests of maintaining recipe integrity you understand, but also because I’d never tried posh high % cocoa stuff and was curious. I have long suspected that my tastes were pretty unsophisticated and that I wouldn’t be able to handle ‘proper chocolate’. I was wrong, its brilliant and that means I am clever and sophisticated.

I had to order it online because it is impossible to buy stuff like that in shops around here. The supermarket gods have decreed that those of us who live in the ‘forbidden zone’, do not deserve nice things and have to be satisfied with crates of Kestrel Lager and microwave pies. Anyone who asks for mange-tout is taken out back by the bins to be torn apart by feral children and pit bulls. This is also why I am growing my own mange-tout this year.

A Triple Choc Ice Cream recipe (or a dastardly plot to take over the world – you decide)

Ingredients:
5 egg yolks
600ml cream
300ml whole milk
170g chocolate
50g cocoa powder
180g sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
Vanilla pod
2 tbsp sugar + 2tbsp water

This made enough to fill a 1 litre tub almost to the brim (I was expecting it to be more, but no matter how much I pour into the machine only about 1 litre ever seems to come out the other end). Obviously you can make less just keep the proportions relative.

Method:

Warm half of the cream (300ml) with the cocoa powder in a medium saucepan, whisking to thoroughly blend the cocoa.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer at a very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.

Remove from the heat and add the 170g of chocolate, stirring until smooth. I used Green & Blacks 72% Cook’s Chocolate, but then I have apparently just become a chocolate snob – I‘m sure any other dark chocolate will be equally as good. The nice thing about this stuff though is that each square is exactly 5g so you don’t need to mess about weighing things as long as you can count.

Next, stir in the remaining 300ml cream. At this point it looks like the most fantastic thing you’ve ever seen and it’s virtually impossible not to plunge your head straight into the bowl and woof down the lot. However you must resist this temptation and instead pour the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan as thoroughly as possible. I recently bought a fantastic silicone spatula which is absolutely brilliant at getting every last drop of stuff out of bowls etc, the downside of this is there is never even a speck of residue left and so no excuse to lick the bowl. You’ll also need to put a sieve on top of the bowl in readiness for the next stage.

In the still slightly chocolaty saucepan warm the milk, ½ the sugar (90g), vanilla pod (if you have one) and pinch of salt.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and the other half of the sugar (90g).

Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks and milk back into the saucepan. Stir the mixture constantly over the medium heat (this is where the heatproof silicone spatula is ideal), scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula or back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat before the custard curdles (this is the second time I’ve messed that up – just can’t get the hang of it). Pour the custard through the sieve and stir it into the chocolate mixture until smooth. Rescue your vanilla pod to re-use another day. If you haven’t got a vanilla pod then you can add a few drops of vanilla essence/extract at this point.

Several of the recipes I found told me to do the following step, but I am not sure if it really worked for me or if the result made any difference to the finished product. However I’ve included it here if you want to give it a try – it didn’t seem to do any harm. Put 2 tablespoons of sugar in a small saucepan with 2 teaspoons of water, turn the heat to high, and melt the sugar until it is dark brown. (I used castor sugar and it didn’t go brown so ended up chucking in some dark Muscovado sugar as well.) Once brown add the sugar to the chocolate mixture, mixing it in thoroughly with a whisk. Mine seemed to crystallise into a solid lump almost immediately and despite the reassurance of the recipes that had said ‘not to worry, any crystallised sugar will melt into the chocolate’ I could still hear and feel chunks of it clunking around the bowl. I think these were either dissolved during chilling or were broken up in the ice cream maker as they were not evident in the end product. If only I’d had the foresight to issue a ‘product recall’ I could have had the whole lot to myself. Doh!

Stir the whole thing until cool over an ice bath or bowl of cold water if like me you haven't the patience to try and get hundreds of ice cubes out of those stupid little rubber trays. Cover with clingfilm that is pushed down onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming then chill thoroughly in the fridge (anything from a couple of hours to overnight). Once chilled freeze it in your ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions. Add chocolate chips to the machine 5 minutes before the end. I used about 8 squares of the Green & Blacks Cook’s Chocolate, roughly chopped. I was worried that this would leave bitter little bombs of unsweetened chocolate that would detract or adulterate the flavour. However, I needn’t have worried as they didn’t affect the overall sweetness and were only noticeable in terms of adding a little bite to the texture it was definitely worth including them. The mix is pretty soft when it comes out of the machine so needs decanting into a suitable container and freezing for at least two hours. Because there are no additives to make it ‘soft scoop straight from frozen’, you’ll need to plan ahead and put it into the fridge for about an hour before you want to serve it. I left mine for about 1 ½ hours and it was still pretty resistant to being scooped in my flashy retro mechanical scoop thing, so you may find you need to give it a bit more time depending on how cold your fridge is

I should make clear that I am not a massive chocolate ice cream fan but this really did taste fantastic. It reminded me of the velvety smooth hot chocolate I used to order in the CAFÈ DE L'ÒPERA in Barcelona – highly recommended if you ever find yourself in Barca btw.

In the end and after all that work, I only managed to eat one scoop before the lot was set upon by the ravenous horde (did I mention it was my birthday?). Judging by the fact that every female in the room immediately shut up and went all swoony I suspect you could take over the world with a truck load of
this stuff. I may just have come up with a rather cunning plan…mwahahahahah!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

'makes me happy, makes me cold…’



A long time ago I realised that the only way to be sure of getting anything decent for my birthday was to buy it myself. However, I think that I may have spent too long in the sun this week and gone a bit 'Tropo', because I seem to have bought myself an ice cream maker (a Cuisinart ICE30BCU, to be specific).

Like all good presents this came as a bit of surprise because I am not really much of an ice cream person. I don’t like that ultra sickly, soft scoop, swirly-whirly stuff that passes for ice cream in most supermarkets.

When I was a kid growing up in the North East of England in the 70’s there seemed to be only a handful of ice cream flavours available. 'Bog standard' vanilla came in either the form of nicotine yellow scoops, or the peroxide-blonde Mr Whippy-style squirts (made possible thanks to the tinkering of apprentice arch villain Margaret Thatcher in her pre-politics role of evil Frankenstein-food scientist.)

To me the best thing about ice cream vans was not the (rather unlikely) prospect of getting a 99. No. For me it was the smell of the vans themselves. The exhaust fumes from whatever the freezer/compressor units were powered by were intoxicating to me (presumably destroying millions of brain cells with every sniff – which would certainly explain a lot). To this day I still associate that smell with a treat, but on the other hand I can’t remember the year 1992 – let’s hope nothing important happened then.

There was an odd regional variation on the traditional cornet in my part of the world. The ice cream shops in Redcar (Redcar, Redcar by the sea… it’s the place for you, it’s the place for me…) used to sell the famous ‘Lemon Top’. This was essentially a Mr Whippy style cornet with a blob of frozen lemon curd on top. These were minutely more expensive than a regular cone and therefore off limits to my brother and I, and so became the rarest and most sought after treat imaginable to us. The criteria required for you to qualify for an upgrade to a Lemon Top in my family was extreme. Nothing short of treading on a jellyfish or 3rd degree sunburn would suffice otherwise you’d be stuck with an Orange Mivvi or a Zoom.

Very occasionally, on family holidays further afield - usually in the south of England, we would come across an ice cream van or shop that sold square cornets with bricks of what was cryptically called ‘Cornish’ ice Cream. This was far superior to the bog standard sold elsewhere and may even have been introduced to some actual vanilla at some point in its manufacture, unfortunately these encounters were rare.

My Gran always had some blocks of chocolate and strawberry ice cream in her freezer but these always tasted exactly like the brown or pink bits recovered from a block of Neapolitan. In fact the more I think about it, the more I am beginning to suspect that is exactly what she must've done – bought a load of Neapolitan and painstakingly divided it up into containers of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry to give us the illusion of choice. Even as a small child I knew this was inferior and synthetic stuff and only good enough for making ‘floats’ (dropping a couple of depth charge scoops of ice cream into a jug of lemonade).

At some point in the late 70’s, or early 80’s, mint choc chip arrived and we almost exploded from a combination of excitement and massive tooth decay.
From the mid to late 70’s our family holidays ventured further afield and we spent our summers camping in France. I suspect this is where I developed a taste for French Tarts – ooooer! Certainly the French Glaces were a revelation, sophisticated and subtle with the added bonus that you could expect to finish a cone with the same number of teeth as when you started. Glace au citron, Melon and Pistache were my particular favourites and I suspect that it was the repressed memories of these long forgotten delights that may have been working on my subconscious and prompted my, possibly rash, decision to splurge on an Ice cream maker.
In a pathetic attempt to recapture a much misspent youth, I have begun experimenting to try and recreate those long forgotten ice cream flavours (of course I realise now that I could have just hopped onto a ferry and bought a van-load of the real thing in any Hypermarket in Calais, which would probably have been cheaper, but where’s the fun in that?)

Until my lemon tree starts producing actual lemons I shall consider this a work in progress. Here is my first attempt at lemon ice cream or Glace au citron using shop bought lemons.
Ingredients:
5 lemons
450ml milk
5 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
450ml double cream
Vanilla pod
Pinch of salt
Makes enough to just about fill a 1litre tub.

Zest and juice 5 lemons, being careful not to get any of the bitter white pith mixed up with your zest. Retain the zest and put the juice into the fridge to chill.

In a saucepan heat the milk. If you want to make a more ‘grown up’ version and are planning to add zest to your ice cream maker in the last five minutes of churning or to use some as a garnish then you’ll want to save about a tablespoon of the zest for use later on.

Add all the remaining lemon zest to the milk. If you have half a vanilla pod that was saved from another project, then add that as well (or a couple of drops of vanilla extract).

Add the caster sugar (or vanilla sugar, see note below) and stir to dissolve. Bring the milk to almost boiling point stirring constantly, then take the pan off the heat and set aside for 15 minutes to infuse.

Strain the milk through a sieve to remove the zest and vanilla pod (wash the used vanilla pod under the tap then dry on kitchen towel – it’s still got plenty of flavour in it. Keep your used vanilla pods in a jar with a lid, cover with caster sugar – this way you can re-use the pods several times and you get to make vanilla sugar as a by product which you can then use in baking etc.)

In a mixing bowl beat the 5 egg yolks together with a pinch of salt. Whisk in a small amount of the warm infused milk to ‘temper’ the eggs. Pour the egg mixture back into the milk and cook over a medium heat. Ideally it would be easiest to use a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, but I haven’t got one so used a small saucepan inside a larger saucepan of simmering water. Heat the custard for about 10 minutes, until it just coats the back of a wooden spoon (when you draw your fingernail across the spoon and it leaves a clean trail you know it’s ready). Take the pan off the heat as it is in imminent danger of curdling (because of all the lemon zesty acid). I left mine a nanosecond too long and it did curdle but the subsequent straining seemed to help reincorporate it and the finished ice cream wasn’t adversely affected by this little drama.

Strain the custard through a sieve into another bowl and immediately cover with cling film – don’t stretch it across the top like a drum - but push it down into the bowl making sure the plastic is in direct contact with the surface of the custard preventing any air from reaching it and thus forming a skin. Set the bowl aside to cool, then put in the fridge to chill for as long as possible at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.

Once chilled strain the custard into either a large jug or bowl with a lip (it helps to have something that makes it easier to pour the mixture into the ice cream maker). Mix in the double cream (you could whisk it up a bit first to give it some frothy extra volume) and add the lemon juice to taste, I found about 6-7 tablespoons was about right for me, but you may want it sweeter. At this point you can either start pouring the mix straight into your ice cream maker or chill it in the fridge again for another hour. Mix according to your ice cream makers instructions – add the lemon zest about 5 minutes before the end if you want it zesty (or leave it out if you want it more child friendly and not all bitty). Decant the soft ice cream into a suitable container and then into the freezer for a couple of hours, remember to transfer to the fridge an hour before you want to serve to give it a chance to soften up (not having all the scientific evil additives this stuff goes like concrete in the freezer so it needs some pre-planning and foresight to make sure it's a suitable consistency to scoop into fancy balls).
The end result was fantastic, very luxurious, creamy and refreshingly lemony. However it wasn’t quite what I was looking for, it didn’t quite match up to my battered 30 year old memories of French campsite Glace au citron.


I think this recipe was a little richer and sweeter than the French stuff, which was more subtle and closer to the sorbet end of the icy spectrum. I suspect I will come back to this recipe with a few tweaks.