Ice cream might evoke images of summer in most countries but here it transcends the seasons.
As a resident of Portstewart, I’ve witnessed people struggling through the town’s promenade in sleety gales, clinging valiantly to their cherished cones. We’re devoted to this frozen confection and are as likely to enjoy this frozen confection in summer as in winter.
The chef Jeremy Lee of the iconic Soho restaurant Quo Vadis, serves ice cream, whipped cream and hot custard with his puddings all year round. It’s how his granny used to do at home in Dundee and it’s a tradition he upholds.
We’re blessed with many ice cream makers in this country from the Italian Morelli’s and Fusco’s to the Rinkha in Islandmagee. I grew up outside Garvagh and our ice cream of choice was Ussher’s in the village. They churned ice cream by hand the way it had been done through the generations, in a barrel surrounded by salted ice. With this age old method of freezing, the addition of salt lowered the melting point of the ice which in effect drew heat from the cream allowing it to freeze. The first reference to ice cream in literature is from the Indian poem Panchatantra which can be dated back to 4th century AD.
Regardless of its origins, the excitement I felt when a trip to Usshers was on the cards is a memory that still elicits joy. The American actor Heywood Broun sums it up - “ I doubt whether the world holds for anyone a more soul stirring surprise than the first adventure in ice cream.” There’s something soothing about ice cream too. If I have an ailment that can’t be sorted with ice cream, flat coke or sudocrem, it’s time to ring the doctor.
Making your own ice cream is surprisingly easy. You don’t need a fancy ice cream maker for the recipes this week – just a whisk and a blender. Chocolate ice cream is a perennial favourite and my recipe involves whipped cream, some condensed milk and chocolate – simple but delicious. You end up with a velvety smooth confection. For some crunch popcorn is a lovely addition made even more special with the addition of a maple caramel coating and some toasted pumpkin seeds.
For something lighter, sorbet is a refreshing treat. Coconut milk is a great base for this frozen dessert with the addition of some sweetness and the zing of lime. To complete the tropical feel there’s some rum flamed pineapple. My guilty pleasure is a toot of coconut flavoured rum and this works well with the fragrant fruit. Stick an cocktail umbrella in it, put on “Club Tropicana” by Wham and dream of the good times ahead.
Chocolate ice cream sundae with maple caramel popcorn and pumpkin seeds
Chocolate ice cream
500ml double cream
125g chopped dark chocolate
200ml condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Simmer 150ml of the cream in a pan with the vanilla. Add the chocolate and stir off heat until melted. Whisk the cream to soft peaks and add the condensed milk and chocolate mixture. Mix well and place in a plastic tub. Cover and freeze until set. Remove from freezer 20 minutes before serving.
Maple caramel popcorn with pumpkin seeds
50g castor sugar
3 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp double cream
25g popping corn
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds toasted in a dry pan until they start to pop
Place the corn in a saucepan and cover with lid. Cook until popped.
Place sugar in a pan with a tablespoon of water. Cook to a caramel and then add the butter and maple syrup carefully. Stir together then add the cream and cook to a smooth sauce. Toss in the popcorn and pumpkin seeds.
Scoop the icecream into bowls and top with some of the popcorn.
Coconut and lime sorbet with rum flamed pineapple
Coconut and lime sorbet
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
125g castor sugar
50g glucose syrup
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Simmer the sugar, water and glucose in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. Cool and add the coconut milk, lime juice and zest. Place in a plastic tub and freeze. Fluff up every hour with a fork for 4 hours then blend to a smooth puree. Freeze again until set. Remove from freezer 20 minutes before serving and scoop into bowls.
Rum flamed pineapple
50g demerara sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
50ml golden or coconut rum
Peel the pineapple and remove the eyes. Quarter and remove the core. Cut into cubes or slices.
Heat the sugar in a large saucepan and when it starts to caramelize, add the pineapple. Cook on both sides to sear and then carefully add the rum and flame. Add the cinnamon and vanilla. Cool and serve with the sorbet.