With summer fast approaching, Elaine Lavery talks ice-cream, and why it’s better to make it yourself
My love affair with ice-cream started early. The first time I ever tasted some was under the Eiffel Tower at six months old. It is no surprise that given one taste, I grabbed the entire cone from my mother; human beings are evolutionally drawn towards sugary and fatty foods – the sugar for energy and the fat for insulation – a more efficient way to eat and survive when food was scarce. Who doesn’t love ice-cream? It is so fitting for so very many occasions: a Magnum after dinner, a Twister on a summer’s day, a Ninety-Nine at the seaside. Like a lot of things, however, the best ice-cream is the ice-cream you make yourself.
My advice is to follow a recipe, but ice-cream is simple to make. The first stage is to make a custard base with egg yolks, caster sugar and milk or cream. When that has cooled, move onto the second stage, where you add a pint or so of cream, depending on your quantities. The third stage is the freezing process. It is advantageous to own an ice-cream machine, but not essential. You get the same results by pouring the mixture into a freeze-proof container, placing in the freezer and stirring once every hour for several hours until frozen solid. For plain vanilla, you incorporate the seeds of a vanilla pod at the first stage; for chocolate, you incorporate melted chocolate at the second stage and so on. Various recipes will give different directions. A particular favourite of mine is lemon ice-cream. It is quite different from sorbet in that it is both lusciously creamy and zingy all at once.
However, if the above sounds like far too much hard work, there is an even easier way to make ice-cream. If you are a berry fan, just whizz the berries of your choice (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry) with lemon juice and icing sugar, add cream and freeze. There is no need to stir this mixture hourly, because thanks to the high sugar content it will not crystallise.
Homemade ice-cream can accompany any dessert but the real pleasure is in eating a big bowl of it all on its own. Vanilla and chocolate ice-cream are particularly fantastic jazzed up with homemade chocolate or caramel sauce (or both if you are really naughty), toasted nuts and whipped cream. Nom nom nom.