The last gasp of summer: a duo of foraged flower and berry ripple ice creams

The fleeting Hebridean summer has long gone, yet my store of foraged meadowsweet and elderflower cordials allow for culinary reminiscence of the few warm days we enjoyed this summer. Despite the shortening days and the decidedly autumnal nip in the air (that the midges are impervious to), I incorporated flowers and berries of summer into ice cream to help summer linger on the tongue and in my memory that bit longer.

This recipes is a bit less seasonal than I hoped and a busy August and September have entirely curtailed my ability to post and keep up with my favourite blogs.  These last two months have been exceptionally busy with many visitors, much to do around the house and garden and some work trips which together almost block booked my diary for weeks. It has been lovely to catch up with so many people and a surprise so late in the typical tourist season (we rarely get visitors in winter).

The season for meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) always seems surprisingly long to me, the last few flowers being blackened to oblivion by recent equinoctial gales. Thiperennial herb of the family Rosaceae is common here, as on much of mainland UK. it is usually found along damp roadside verges, in gardens and across swathes of boggy common grazings.

It is obvious, being relatively tall compared with much of the uncultivated grassland vegetation here and the blousy beauty of the delicate creamy fronds draw the eye from a distance, and the scent is distinctively sweet and enticing. A frequent experience while driving round the island in summer is to enjoy catching its sweet almond-like scent on the breeze while waiting at passing places for oncoming traffic to pass on our single track roads.

Meadowsweet

I provided a link to the recipe for my elderflower cordial in a previous post.  The meadowsweet recipe is essentially the same recipe, substituting the volume of elderflowers for meadowsweet flowers.

Cordials at the ready, I received an additional fortuitous gift of a few kilos of blackcurrants and redcurrants from my neighbour and the flower and ripple combination was so obviously calling out to be transformed into ice cream. I decided the blackcurrrants would best complement the elderflower and used the tart redcurrants to pair with the more syrupy meadowsweet. Both berries were turned into coulis to form the ripples.

The ice cream recipe has a traditional rich and decadent custard base, an indulgence necessary to reward time invested in foraging, cordial making and berry picking that culminated in these recipes. All the activity and effort can entirely justify the indulgence, well, that’s my view, at least…

The method for making both ice creams and coulis for the duo is the same, although less cordial is needed for the meadowsweet recipe as the flavour is more powerful.  Below I outline the ingredients for both recipes.

Elderflower and blackcurrant ripple ice cream

Ingredients:

250ml whole milk

150g sugar

500ml double cream

pinch of salt

6 large egg yolks

40ml elderflower cordial

Blackcurrant coulis:

Make a stock syrup by boiling 150g caster sugar and 120 ml water together for 3 minutes.Take 50 ml of the stock syrup and blitz it in a food processor together with 150g of blackcurrants.  Sieve and fold into the ice cream.

Meadowsweet and redcurrant ripple ice cream

Ingredients

250ml whole milk

150g sugar

500ml double cream

pinch of salt

6 large egg yolks

25ml meadowsweet cordial

Redcurrant coulis:

Make a stock syrup by boiling 150g caster sugar and 120 ml water together for 3 minutes.Take 40 ml of the stock syrup and blitz it in a food processor together with 125g of redcurrants and the juice of a lemon.  Sieve and fold into the ice cream.

To make the ice creams – Method

  • Warm the milk with 250 ml of the cream, sugar and salt in a pan.  Once warm, remove from the heat.
  • Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl and slowly pour the warm mixture over the yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the mix back into the pan.
  • Stir constantly over a medium heat with a spatula until the mix thickens to coat the spatula.
  • Pour the thickened mix through a sieve into a bowl surrounded by an ice bath (to stop the eggs in the custard cooking) and stir until cool, refrigerate then churn.

Swirl each coulis through each ice cream once churned by your ice cream maker.  Fold in at the end of churning if you are making the ice cream by hand

Despite the contrasting colours of the coulis, the ice creams look surprisingly similar in the photographs, although the distinctive flavours of each shine through – guaranteed to fox most people in a palate test!

elderflower and blackcurrant

tasty duo

medowsweet

HTC One  2 September 2013 954

Chocolate, whisky and bramble tart with bramble ripple ice cream

As a dessert for Burns Night, I wanted to avoid the obvious traditional options. Much as I love cranachan made with raspberries, it is out of season. I enjoyed the local favourite of caragheen pudding at last year’s Burns supper but this year I was looking for something, well, a bit more luxurious.

I opted for a chocolate tart, incorporating the darkest of dark chocolate (81%), a dram and to my mind that definitively Scottish wild fruit that I have adored for all of my life – brambles. Some of my freezer stock of precious brambles from last autumn’s harvest was included in the tart and was also made into a coulis, swirled through vanilla ice cream to form a bramble ripple.

Brambles ready for collecting last autumn

Brambles ready for collecting last autumn

Although I nod to the traditional by including whisky in the tart, I must admit I am not a whisky lover. Even the finest malts, notably those from the islands (Islay in particular) have the whiff of TCP about them.  I am told if I persevere, I too will enjoy them one day.  Olives are often cited as an example.  During my PhD, my whisky connoisseur supervisor would arrive from Oxford and together with my other Edinburgh Uni supervisor,  we would head out with our research group of an evening to their favourite hostelry, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society members only premises in Queen Street, Edinburgh. There was much discussion about peatiness, tobacco, petrol and however else one choses to describe drinking TCP.  I was the Philistine at the bar requesting a gin and tonic.

Feeling the burn, post Burns

Yes, the duo of dyspepsia did as predicted and in truth, we could not face our lovely dessert after the haggis on Burns night – it containing yet more pastry (bit of an oversight there).

I was in danger of lethargy after haggis-eating and knowing I had proposed a 10km run, and despite the deteriorating weather, I decided to bite the bullet and get out there.  I had just walked the dogs and considered although there was a bit of a breeze, the weather window was good enough.  I elected to run around the picturesque island of Grimsay, a few miles south. The west end of the island acts as a stepping stone for the causeways that link North Uist and Benbecula. Circumnavigation of the island is a convenient 10 km.

View of Eaval from grimsay on a nice day

View of Eaval from Grimsay on a nice day

It was raining by the time I got out of the car and I could see, as is typical of these islands, that within a few minutes the situation would deteriorate quickly. Weather fronts were building to the south and banks of cloud were rolling towards me.  Nonetheless, I opted to run round the island south to north to take the worst of the weather along the exposed southern single track road first.  There were two observations that suddenly struck me about Grimsay.  I have driven but not ran around it before and it is a bit hillier than I recall.  Secondly, the south road is indeed very exposed to the elements.  I spent the next 6 km running into a pretty gusty headwind and needle-like rain with the occasional side gust that knocked me into the verge.

Once I got just over the half way mark, I got a tremendous tail wind as I turned north and the rain battered off my back, no longer in my face. Occasional gusts almost knocked me off my feet, but after feeling the burn initially, things got easier and I made it back to the car not too much over my predicted time.

Round the whole route, I only saw 2 people, both dressed in waterproofs, rushing out and hurriedly taking in washing, cowering in the squawl.  I was only passed by 5 or 6 cars, none which I recognised.  However, no doubt they had a good look and identified me as ‘That woman who is married to (we are not married) the violin-maker’ (as I have been referred to since my other half’s vocation is much more interesting than my own somewhat cryptic occupation) and questioned ‘What on earth is she doing running round here in this weather?’ Good to give people something to talk about other than the weather, at least!

Having recovered back at home, I could say that I unequivocally deserved a slice of chocolate tart with ice cream – and to watch a fun film – ‘The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists’, another gem from Aardman Animation. It is a silly sea-faring yarn, of not too competent pirates featuring a parrot that is in fact a dodo and a rather scheming Charles Darwin.  Plenty of pithy one-liners but it is easy to miss a lot of content first time round. I won’t need any encouragement to watch it again, very good fun and a change from our usual film choices.

Chocolate, whisky and bramble tart

A nod to the traditional, containing a dram, with added richness and silkiness. The ganache for this tart is sublimely super-smooth and rich.  Thank you to Michel Roux for the basis of this recipe. It is based on his chocolate and raspberry tart.

Pastry is pate sucree as used for passionfruit and orange tart.  I also elected to coat the base in melted chocolate again.  The brambles were moist from being soaked in whisky and also having been frozen, so I wanted to safeguard the pastry from sogginess.

The ice cream was vanilla, the same recipe used to accompany said passionfruit and orange tart, except this time, I made bramble coulis to swirl through it.

Chocolate tart with brambles

Ingredients

200g brambles

50 ml whisky of your choice

For the ganache:

200ml whipping cream

200g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids

25g liquid glucose

50g butter, cubed into small pieces

Method

  • Soak the brambles in the whisky for a couple of hours.
  • Make pate sucree as per outlined in my previous post, coating the pastry case with melted chocolate to seal it.
  • Strain the brambles from the whisky and arrange on the tart base.
  • Prepare the ganache: bring the cream to the boil, take it off the heat, stir in the chocolate until smooth using a balloon whisk, add the liquid glucose, then the butter, a few cubes at a time.  The glucose adds to the smoothness, as does the butter and which also gives the tart sheen.
  • Pour the ganache into the tart case and over the fruit and allow to cool for a couple of hours.
  • Put in the fridge and take out half hour or so before serving.
  • Cut the pieces with a warmed knife to get a nice clean cut through the silky-smooth ganache.  Serve with the ice cream.

Chocolate tartChocolate tart whole

Bramble ripple ice cream

Using the previous recipe for vanilla ice cream, make a bramble coulis and swirl this through the ice cream once it is churned by your ice cream maker.  Fold it in at the end of churning if you are making the ice cream by hand.

Bramble coulis

  • Make a stock syrup by boiling 150g caster sugar and 120 ml water together for 3 minutes.
  • Take 50 ml of the stock syrup and blitz it in a food processor together with 150g of brambles.  Add any leftover whisky-flavoured juice from the brambles added to the coulis.
  • Sieve and stir through the ice cream.

Bramble ripple ice cream

And let again the final word go to Burns:

Let other poets raise a fracas
“Bout vines, an’ wines, an’ drucken Bacchus,
An’ crabbit names an’stories wrack us,
An’ grate our lug:
I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us,
In glass or jug.

O thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch drink!
Whether thro’ wimplin worms thou jink,
Or, richly brown, ream owre the brink,
In glorious faem,
Inspire me, till I lisp an’ wink,
To sing thy name!

Robert Burns – Scotch Drink, 1785

Chocolate tart and ice cream

Festively nutty

Of all the meals I prepare over the festive period, Christmas day dinner is often the simplest, most relaxing and least taxing.  The objective of the day is to be as sedentary as possible (almost sessile if I could manage it), chill out, dogs snoring at our feet in front of the stove while we read and listen to music or the radio (glass of fizz in hand, of course).  It is quite an unusual event for us to sit down for any length of time and relax and to be honest, I never find it easy to sit still for very long.

Hence, a roast bird, in this case a free range bronze turkey was the very traditional choice.  For one thing, nothing could be easer to cook, get your prep and timing right, and there is very little to attend to until gravy is required while the bird is resting.  Ideal.  Turkey is also still something of a novelty for us since we have only been post-vegetarian for the last few years, so it still retains its annual appeal. We prepared minced meat stuffing from the venison we butchered earlier in the year, as well as chipolatas, so there was little prep required, except a few roasters and veg – what we had available in the storage and the garden.  Sadly, this is the end of our stored carrot supplies, but a fitting one.

Carving the bronze turkey - showing the contrast with the rich, dark venison stuffing.

Carving the bronze turkey – showing the contrast with the rich, dark venison stuffing.

I am not about to recount how one should go about roasting turkey and trimmings for the traditional meal on Christmas day – that has been done to death with a plethora of never-ending tips and suggestions being available about this subject everywhere you look online.

The real challenge on Christmas Day for us is not that of cooking the meal but an exercise in moderation.  We almost achieved this, although a sensible but difficult decision was taken to omit cheeseboard. What a couple of lightweights we have become!

The dogs also got the opportunity to appreciate Christmas dinner – the one day in the year when they get to eat something else other than their own food. It was very difficult to get them to sit for this photo as Darwin (at the front) kept enthusiastically swinging his paw up in a powerful left hook to indicate he was ready to receive!

Hector and Darwin's christmas meal. Please Sir, can I have some more?

Hector and Darwin’s Christmas meal. Please Sir, can we have some more?

Hazelnut Heaven

The favoured nut featured in a somewhat makeshift dessert of bits and pieces, which turned into an unintentioned Hazelnut-Fest.  The highlight was our favourite ice cream, one for which I am eternally grateful for discovering in David Leibovitz’s book ‘The Perfect Scoop’, the quintessentially Italian Gianduja – hazelnut and milk chocolate. This is the only ice cream I find difficult to stop eating.  It is super-smooth, rich, creamy sumptuous and decadent.

Gianduja Gelato

Traditional gianduja chocolates, with the same basic mix of hazelnuts and good quality milk chocolate contained in this ice cream, are made in the Piedmont region of Italy where some of the world’s most flavoursome hazelnuts are grown. Even if you don’t have an ice cream maker, if there is any ice cream worth the effort of hand churning, it is this one to re-create the lush flavours of this Italian classic. Make sure you source good quality milk chocolate with at least 30% cocoa solids.  The Co-op’s own Fairtrade milk chocolate works well and is 30%. The original recipe suggests discarding the nuts after infusing, but this is wasteful and keep them to include in a cake.

Ingredients

185g hazelnuts

250ml whole milk

500ml double cream

150g sugar

1/4 tsp coarse sea salt

115g milk chocolate, chopped

5 large egg yolks

1/8 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  • Toast the hazelnuts in the oven at 170C for 10-12 minutes, let them cool and rub off most of the papery skins with a tea towel.
  • Blitz them in a food processor until quite finely ground.
  • Warm the milk with 250 ml of the cream, sugar and salt in a pan.  Once warm, remove from the heat and add the hazelnuts.
  • Cover and let the nuts infuse in the mixture for at least an hour (I sometimes leave this for several hours to intensify the flavours).
  • Chop the milk chocolate and put in a bowl.  Heat the remaining 250ml of cream until almost boiling and pour over the chocolate, stir until it melts into the cream. Set a sieve over the top of the bowl.
  • Pour the hazelnut-infused milk through a sieve into a pan, squeezing the nuts to extract all the flavour. Re-warm this mixture.
  • Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl and slowly pour the warm hazelnut mixture over the yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the mix back into the pan.
  • Stir constantly over a medium heat with a spatula until the mix thickens to coat the spatula.
  • Pour the thickened mix through the sieve and onto the cream and milk chocolate mix, add the vanilla.

Cool over ice and refrigerate before churning either by hand or using an ice cream maker.

For the ultimate hazelnut overdose, I served the gianduja ice cream with my home-made muscovado and hazelnut meringues and Frangelico, hazelnut and cranberry biscotti (recipes will be subject of future post).  I added a Lindors hazelnut praline chocolate on the side and accompanied the whole indulgence with Frangelico hazelnut liqueur.  OTT hazelnut heaven.

Hazelnut paradise

Hazelnut paradise – gianduja ice cream and assorted hazelnut accompaniments.

Rosewater delectation: Pistachio and rosewater meringues with Turkish delight ice cream

I adore floral flavourings; elderflower, lavender, orange blossom and jasmine, but my favourite of all is rosewater. Rosewater has a long and illustrious culinary history. It is a stalwart of Middle Eastern and North African cooking, also featuring in Indian cuisine. When used with restraint, rosewater gives a characteristic flavour and alluring fragrance that takes you straight to the edge of the Med.

Rosewater is the leftover liquid or hydrosol remaining when rose petals and water are distilled together for the purpose of making rose oil, so it is a bi-product. It is also relatively cheap and easy to obtain from delis or wholefood shops and has a reasonably long shelf life, so it is always handy to keep in the store cupboard and a little goes a long way.

Bulgaria produces an estimated 85% of the world’s rose oil and hence is also a key producer of rosewater. I was lucky enough to visit this beautiful country a couple of years ago.  It was a conservation trip to look at how the Bulgarian government manages areas of high conservation value in national parks and other protected sites in Bulgaria, focussing on the Stara Planina in the Balkan Mountains, central Bulgaria, particularly the Central Balkan National Park. The beech, oak and hornbeam forests are stunning, as are the high alpine meadows.  These habitats hold impressive numbers of rare species of invertebrates, higher plants and fungi and I was fortunate to see a diverse range of each.

Coincidentally, driving south from the Balkan Mountains, we travelled through the Rose Valley. This valley is world famous for growing roses and for centuries has been the centre for rose oil production in Bulgaria. We stopped near the town of Kazanlak, centre of the rose oil industry and walked through the rose fields at the peak time for harvesting, early in June.

Bulgarian rosefields in full bloom

Bulgarian rosefields in full bloom

The intoxicating scent of the beautiful pink damask roses was everywhere. Honeybees covered the flowers, pollen baskets full, contributing to honey production, another industry that had formed a common sense symbiosis with rose oil production.

Rosewater is a versatile flavour and can be used in savoury and sweet dishes.  It is more aromatic and flavoursome uncooked, but still retains the essence of its aroma and character if cooked.

I have been including rosewater in numerous recipes recently, experimenting in order to get the flavour balance right.  Having some good quality Turkish delight in the house (rose flavour, of course),  I decided I wanted to make Turkish delight ice cream, one of my favourite flavours, but always such a rare find in all but the most comprehensively stocked gelaterias.

My expectation was that this would need careful addition of a little rosewater to the cream, as the Turkish delight was pretty pungent with rose flavour.  To balance this, and again having a look through Ottolenghi, I found the perfect accompaniment – pistachio meringues, a hint of rosewater included.

This is also a thrifty strategy since ice cream uses copious amounts of egg yolks and meringues egg whites, so the recipes marry economically too. The pairing of a cooked and uncooked rosewater sweet treat commenced.

Pistachio and rosewater meringues

This recipe is from Ottolenghi, his first book.  The Ottolenghi outlets in London are famous for their meringues, so after looking at the images, and anticipating capturing some of my favourite flavours within, there was no point in resisting…

The first thing the recipe states is that a good free-standing mixer is essential.  Following the demise of my 1960’s Kenwood Chef, I was without such a gadget.  I didn’t have much choice but to get on with it using my handheld mixer, which was pretty awkward, but worked.

The recipe suggests dolloping the meringue onto the plate of crushed pistachios and rolling it around.  This sounded like something you would need to be well practised at to master, and I didn’t even attempt it as I could only imagine how inelegant it might look.  I opted for the safer option of sprinkling / throwing the pistachios on / at the meringue after spooning them onto a baking sheet!

I cut the recipe ingredients by half.  I thought the quantities were excessive (10 egg whites) and by halving, I could neatly use almost all of the egg whites left over from making the ice cream. This made about 12 moderately large meringues.

Heat the oven to 200oC initially

Turn down to 110oC for meringues

Ingredients

300g caster sugar

150g egg whites (about 5 large eggs)

1 tsp rosewater

30g finely chopped pistachios

Method

  • Place the sugar on a baking sheet lined with parchment and heat in the oven for about 8 minutes until hot and dissolving at the edges.
  • When the sugar is almost ready, on high speed,  mix the egg whites until they start to froth, about 1 minute.
  • Pour the hot sugar slowly over the egg whites.  Once all the sugar is added, add the rosewater.
  • Whisk on high speed for 10 minutes or until the mix is cold.
  • The mix should be stiff and silky.  Taste to check flavour and add more rosewater, to taste.
  • Turn the oven down to 110oC and line a baking sheet with parchment paper, sticking it in place with a bit of meringue mix.
  • Dollop the meringue onto the paper.  Yotam recommends the size of an apple, mine were a bit smaller, about apricot size. They expand a lot during cooking so leave enough space between them.
  • Crush the pistachios using a food processor and sprinkle over the meringue.
  • Place in the oven for about 2 hours.

The meringues should be firm outside and a bit soft in the middle.  They will keep for a few days in an airtight container.

Pistachio and rosewater meringues

Pistachio and rosewater meringues

Turkish delight ice cream

After much deliberation, last Christmas we gave a present to selves of an ice cream maker.  The Cuisinart professional model we have has a built-in compressor, so is pretty straightforward to use and no need to freeze the bowl beforehand.  You can make this recipe without an ice cream maker, it just requires regular hand churning of the mix as it sets, which can be a time-consuming commitment.

Cuisinart ice cream maker

Cuisinart ice cream maker

The Man Named Sous would not mind me saying that he is pretty obsessed with ice cream. I must admit, I was fairly ambivalent to most and pretty selective about what flavours I consume and from where.  Home made ice cream is a revelation and extremely decadent. It should be accompanied by some sort of portion limiter and health warning as it contains shocking amounts of egg yolks, fat (in the form of cream) and sugar.  Oh well, everything in moderation, you only live once, and other similar excuses for indulging oneself.

For this recipe, I used a basic custard as I would for many other ice creams.  I favour the recipe and methods used in ‘The Perfect Scoop’ by David Lebovitz, so have adapted from that. Surprisingly, this marvellous book does not have a recipe for Turkish delight ice cream or my other all time favourite flavour pistachio (to be visited another time).

Makes about 1 litre.

Ingredients

250 ml whole milk

150g caster sugar

500 ml double cream (!)

pinch of salt

6 large egg yolks

1 tsp rosewater

natural red food dye (optional)

8 pieces of Turkish delight, cut into small chunks

A little icing sugar

Method

  • Warm milk, sugar and 250 ml of cream and salt in a pan and remove from heat once sugar has dissolved.
  • Pour the remaining 250 ml of cream into a large bowl and set a sieve over the top.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks.  Slowly pour the warm mixture onto the egg yolks then scrape back into the pan.
  • Stir constantly over a medium heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.
  • Pour the mix through the sieve onto the cream add the rosewater and a couple of drops of natural red food dye (if using) and leave to cool and refrigerate.
  • Once chilled, churn in an ice cream maker for about 45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, chop up the Turkish delight and roll the small pieces in some icing sugar to coat them so they don’t clump as you add them to the ice cream. Fold the pieces into the ice cream when it is ready, just before you freeze it.

The meringues and ice cream worked well together and would probably have been enhanced by the addition of fruit.  Mango, plum, peaches or strawberries would work, either fresh or in a coulis.

Next aim is to make my own Turkish delight.

Turkish delight ice cream with pistachio and rosewater meringues

Turkish delight ice cream with pistachio and rosewater meringues