ice cream

Damson ice cream

This time last year our damson trees were groaning under the weight of their fruit. We picked kilos and kilos. The best damsons (like the best blackberries) are always the ones out of easy reach, so last year I spent a fair amount of time perched high on a ladder on the back of a flatbed truck. I wouldn’t have wanted a visit from a health and safety advisor, shall we say. This year, this is pretty much it:

From four trees I managed to get just under 600g. I am glad I don’t rely on my damsons trees to provide the rent.

This situation called for something special. I could have gone for stewed damsons, pickled damsons, or even a small bottle of damson vodka. But it strikes me that these are all for years of plenty, and this is not a year of plenty. One of my favourite things is stewed damsons and custard. So why not damson ice cream? Which, after all, is frozen stewed damsons and custard.

Oh my, it is delicious. It intensifies the punchiness of the damson but offers that lovely creaminess of the custard. It is not one for the children, well not my children anyway. Which, perhaps, make it all the more special – just me and my tub of damson ice cream ( I am debating whether I should tell Mr OC about its presence in the freezer).

500g damsons
100g granulated or caster sugar

4 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
375ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Put the damsons and 100g sugar in a pan and place over a medium heat. Bring up to a gentle boil and simmer for about five minutes until all of the damsons have burst their skins and there is plenty of juice in the pan. Leave to cool slightly.

When cool enough to handle safely, strain the damsons through a sieve to get rid of the skin and stones. You end up with the most beautiful purply red puree.

Make the custard by whisking the egg yolks and caster sugar together until light, thick and smooth. The whisks should leave a trail as you lift them out of the mixture.

Put the cream and vanilla extract into a saucepan and scald by bringing it up to just under boiling point, you should see the surface shimmer slightly. Pour this over the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time. Return the custard to the pan and stir over a gentle to medium heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Take the custard off the heat and continue to stir for a minute or two to bring the temperature of it down. Add the damson puree to the custard and leave it to cool.

Now, either use an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions or place the custard into a plastic container and fit a lid. Place in the freezer for about half an hour. Take out and then beat well, either with a fork or in a processor. Return to the freezer and repeat the freezing and beating process another two times.

Eat greedily and celebrate the few damsons that you may have. Please do tell me if you are lucky enough to have a damson tree that is heaving with damsons so that I can be terribly envious.

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Chocolate and Mint Arctic Roll

This is my entry for this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge.  This month’s challenge is to make a swiss roll or roulade.  Well, you have already witnessed my roulade attempt for last week’s Sunday lunch.  Well, this was this week’s Sunday dessert.  My two girls have fallen in love with mint choc chip ice cream and I keep having to buy tubs from the supermarket to sate their appetite. I have wanted to make mint ice cream for a while.  The mint in our garden is in its prime, a month earlier than usual.  It is also rampant so finding another use for it is a big bonus.

I have always wondered how you got the mint flavour in there – do you infuse the cream or infuse a sugar syrup? (Obviously, if you are a commercial ice cream seller you use mint flavouring and you don’t go in for this infusing malarkey). I googled mint ice cream and found that you can infuse the cream or you can infuse a sugar syrup.  I decided to go with the former.

My first attempt was a disaster.  I decided that to get the green colour you probably needed to chop the leaves and the stalks.  I forgot that mint turns brown when bruised and the cream turned a mucky brown colour on top – not very appetising.

So, the second time round I removed the leaves from the stalks and discarded the stalks (the chickens loved them). I kept the leaves whole and infused them for an hour in the warm cream.  This seemed to work very well but the cream wasn’t very green.  So I thought I would puree the mint leaves and push them through a sieve with the cream again, risking that this may turn the cream brown.  Well, in actual fact I nearly turned the cream red (reminder to self – stick blenders are extremely sharp and will cut your fingers!). Fortunately, all blood was contained well away from the infused cream and I had no reason to tell my guests that we were having mint and strawberry ice cream, as suggested by my helpful neighbour.  I also still have my index finger and thumb intact, just about.

Anyway, as it turns out the infused cream did have a subtle green glow about it.

Not quite commercial mint choc chip green  but lovely anyway.  I was surprised by the taste, it is nothing like commercial mint ice cream.  It had a subtle mint taste with a slight earthiness about it.  I really enjoyed it. I don’t think the kids were as impressed though because it didn’t taste like what they are used to.

I could have just served it as it is but I still wanted to enter this month’s challenge, so I thought an arctic roll might just hit the spot.

I made a traditional swiss roll rather than a roulade.  The difference for me between the two is the flour used in a swiss roll.  If I was making it again I might use the roulade recipe as it is richer and not quite so dry as a swiss roll.  But this did roll better.  I borrowed my mum’s tin – the right size for the recipe, and rolled it straight away as it came out of the oven.  Then unrolled it to fill it with ice cream. No cracks!

Next time I will make the ice cream the day before to give it time to freeze properly and I might just take James Martin’s advice to freeze the ice cream in a plastic pipe as trying to roll it in greaseproof paper was messy and difficult.

For the Mint choc chip ice cream
600ml double cream
60g mint leaves
50g caster sugar
6 egg yolks
1 dsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g dark chocolate, chopped into chip sized pieces

For the swiss roll
3 eggs
75g caster sugar
50g plain flour
25g cocoa powder

For the ice cream:

Pour the double cream into a saucepan and add the mint leaves.  Place the pan on a medium heat and bring up to almost boiling point.  Remove the pan from the heat and  leave to infuse for 1 hour.

Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla extract together until combined.  Sieve the cream into a jug and discard the mint leaves.  Pour the cream over the eggs and whisk well.  Return this mixture to the saucepan and cook over a gentle heat, stirring all the time, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Allow to cool and then freeze in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions or pour into a plastic container and place in the freezer removing every half hour for two hours to beat the mixture and remove ice crystals.

I would then recommend sourcing a clean plastic pipe as James Martin advises and freezing the ice cream in this.  Otherwise, lay a piece of greaseproof paper on a worktop and spoon on the ice cream and roll up into a tube shape measuring 5cm x 30 cm.  I found this quite difficult because I had made my ice cream that day and it was melting as soon as I handled it.  So I would advise making the ice cream the day before to give it time to freeze properly.

For the swiss roll

Grease and line with greaseproof paper a shallow swiss roll tin measuring 33cm x 23cm.

Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a large bowl until the whisk leaves a trail when lifted. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder together and fold very carefully into the mixture.  Spread this evenly onto the tin.

Bake in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or with the grid shelf on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga for 8 minutes until the sides are shrinking away from the tin.

Whilst the swiss roll is cooking, lay a piece of greaseproof paper, which is bigger than the swiss roll tray, on the worktop and dust with cocoa powder or sugar.

As soon as the swiss roll is removed from the oven carefully invert it into the greaseproof paper.  Peel away the paper that is on the bottom and, using the paper underneath to help you, roll into a swiss roll.  Place on a wire rack to cool.

When you are ready to serve, remove the roll of ice cream from the freezer, unroll the swiss roll.  Place the ice cream in the middle and re roll the swiss roll to cover.  Serve in slices.

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Kahlua and Coffee Ice Cream

If I was absolutely forced to name a favourite flavour of ice cream (crikey, it would be hard) it would be coffee (or it might be chocolate, or coconut, no it is coffee, although rum and raisin is nice too…). Anyway, I do love coffee ice cream and I have made plenty of chocolate, and plenty of strawberry and plenty of vanilla but I have never made coffee ice cream.  So last Sunday I dug out the ice cream maker from its winter hiding place at the back of the cupboard and made half chocolate (for the girls) and half Kahlua and coffee ice cream from a batch of custard using six eggs.

The Kahlua was bought for the gathering of friends a few weeks back when I made Nigella’s Espresso Martinis (oh my goodness they are good and worth the purchase of Nigella’s Christmas book all on their own I should think). This bottle of Kahlua was winking at me from the sideboard just begging to be used to flavour ice cream. It was a good call, this is a very good ice cream. It will be made again and soon.

The recipe below gives a 3 egg custard enough for about 5-6 servings of ice cream, but you can easily double it to make more.

3 egg yolks
300ml double cream
1 tsp cornflour
25g caster sugar
50ml Kahlua
25ml very strong coffee


Pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat until just below simmering point.  Mix the egg yolks with the cornflour and sugar in a bowl.  Now whisking the eggs all the time, pour the hot cream over.  When well combined pour the mixture back into the saucepan and  continue to stir with a wooden spoon over a gentle heat.  The mixture will begin to thicken and will coat the back of the spoon.  Take the custard off the heat and stir for a minute or so until it has begun to cool.  Add the Kahlua and the coffee and mix in well. Allow the mixture to cool completely before pouring into an ice cream maker and following the manufacturer’s instructions or pouring into a large freezer proof container and placing into the freezer.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker you will have to remove the ice cream every hour and beat well with a fork to combine the ice crystals with the custard until the ice cream is smooth and frozen.  You will need to remove it from the freezer about 15 minutes before you want to eat it so that it becomes soft enough to spoon out of the container.

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Blackcurrant ice cream with blackcurrant sauce

Please excuse the blurred photography.  This particular photograph was taken after a fine lunch at my parent’s house, which may explain the shaky camera work!

We have had a really good crop of blackcurrants this year in our garden and we have managed to pick them between the rain showers.  The smell of a colander full of blackcurrants is really quite intoxicating and as I was admiring their perfect purply black beauty I was wondering what would make the best use of this fruit.  A summer pudding is always very welcome in this house, but I was a bit short of bread.  I had a tub of cream which was just hanging on inside its use-by date so I thought it had to be ice cream.

The taste of this ice cream, both creamy and sharp at the same time, really is very enjoyable and it manages to capture the essence of the blackcurrant with its heady aroma.

I decided to make a sauce to go over it with another load of the horde and then what wasn’t used to adorn Sunday’s pudding I have frozen into ice lollies for when the summer returns!

I have used the recipe for Blackcurrant Ice Cream from The River Cottage Family Cookbook (Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Fizz Carr, 2005) which uses the basic custard method, but then adds extra double cream for added oomph.

I admit that I tend to only buy double cream, so when a recipe calls for single cream I just use about three-quarters double cream and a quarter milk.  I have no idea if this a huge faux pas or not, but it seems to work ok for me.  Please feel free though to be more sensible and use both single cream and double cream as directed.

For the ice cream

350g blackcurrants
2 tbsp water

300ml (or a 284ml pot) single cream
4 egg yolks
vanilla pod
125g caster sugar
300ml (or a 284ml pot) double cream


Place the blackcurrants an 2 tbsp of water into a pan and simmer until they are soft and pulpy.  Leave to cool.

Pour the single cream into a saucepan with the vanilla pod and heat until it is steaming.  Take off the heat.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until they are thick and paler.  Pour the cream over the eggs, whisking all the while.  Pour this mixture back into the pan and place over a gentle heat. Stir the mixture all the time to prevent scrambled eggs and keep stirring until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon. Take off the heat and stir for a few minutes until it has cooled down. Leave to one side whilst you deal with the blackcurrants.

Pour the blackcurrants into a sieve set over a bowl and using a metal spoon stir the mixture until all that is left in the sieve is skin and seeds and you have a lovely seed free blackcurrant sauce in the bowl.  Add this blackcurrant sauce to the custard mixture and mix well.  Add the double cream and mix this in well.

Place in an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions or pour the mixture into a freezer-proof container and freeze for an hour.  Remove from the freezer and beat well.  Return to the freezer and repeat this process another two times.

This ice cream freezes hard so you will need to remember to remove it from the freezer a good ten minutes before you want to eat it.

For the blackcurrant sauce:

icing sugar


Repeat the process for making the sauce above by simmering the blackcurrants, with a tablespoon or two of water until soft and pulpy.  Leave to cool.  Press through a sieve  over a bowl.  Add icing sugar to taste.

Use this as a sauce or freeze in ice lolly containers for a refreshing sharp ice lolly on a hot day.

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Chocolate and strawberry ice creams

The weather forecasters tell us this week it’s going to be ice cream weather in England, and who am I to question them? I, therefore, expect that tonight’s edition of the local paper will have at least one photo of a girl wearing a sun hat and eating an ice cream in a park somewhere in Shropshire.  It may make the front page, if it gets above 20°c today. I scoff, but in this house all weather is apparently ice cream weather.   My two girls will ask for ice cream when there is snow outside.  Come wind or gale, ice cream is their number one choice.

My mum very kindly left her ice cream maker at our house, which makes meeting the demands of my children very easy indeed.

Mum also has a large strawberry patch in her garden, which, when the strawberries are ready, is visited daily by two little girls who emerge with strawberry juice grins quite a bit later.  Any surplus strawberries are pulped and mixed with sugar and the resulting purée is bagged up and frozen for use during the winter and spring until next year’s harvest.  Hence, the making of strawberry ice cream this week, when we still have a few weeks to wait before we can visit the strawberry patch.

When strawberry ice cream is made it is inevitable that there will be cries for chocolate ice cream shortly afterwards and so that too is made.  Both are absolutely delicious and really don’t taste like anything you can buy from the shops.  It is definitely worth the time spent making both.  The strawberry ice cream takes mere minutes, there is a little more stirring involved with the chocolate ice cream but it is definitely worth it.

The ice cream in the pictures were the just before school portions and yes, I know it is probably wrong to give your children ice cream before school, but when it is made out of such delicious things I can’t really see any harm in it.  Especially when it means I get to sneak a spoonful or two as well.

The recipes for both ice creams come from Jacki Passmore’s The Book of Ice Creams and Sorbets (Salamander Books, 1992).

Chocolate ice cream

50g (2oz) good quality dark chocolate
4 egg yolks
50g (2oz) sugar
375 ml (12 fl oz) single cream
a tiny pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract


Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.   In a stainless steel or heatproof glass bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla extract together until pale, thick and creamy.  Scald the cream in a pan and then, whilst still  whisking pour the hot cream slowly over the eggy mixture.  Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and stir continuously until the mixture thickens and just coats the back of the spoon. Stir in the chocolate and mix well.  It takes a while for it to combine properly so keep on stirring until it is a glorious dark brown. Allow to cool.

If you have an ice cream maker, then pour the mixture into the ice cream bowl and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  If not, pour the mixture into a large tupperware box and place in the freezer for an hour, take out of the freezer and using a fork beat until smooth.  Repeat this process another 3 times.

After a full day in the freezer this ice cream will need to be removed from the freezer for about ten minutes before you can even begin to think about spooning it out.

Strawberry ice cream

500g (1lb) fresh strawberries
100g (4oz) caster sugar
350ml (12 fl oz) double or whipping cream


Mash the strawberries with a fork or whiz in a food processor until pureed.  Add the sugar and mix well.  At this point you can place the mixture in a freezer bag and it will happily freeze until you want to use it.  If it is frozen, allow to defrost fully before adding the cream. Lightly whip the cream.  Add the cream and mix well.

If you have an ice cream maker follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If not place the mixture into a large tupperware and place in the freezer, after an hour of freezing use a fork to beat the mixture well and freeze again. Repeat this 2 or 3 times.

Store the ice creams in covered containers.

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