When I was growing up in seaside Cornwall ice cream was always a bit of a treat. It wasn’t as common as you might think, despite the ice-cream friendly sea, sand and tourists. But I still remember the thrill of excitement when the ice cream van pulled into the road, plinking and plonking to a standstill. Everyone would rush out clutching sticky 50p and £1 coins.
There were only a few flavours that really mattered. Vanilla (made with clotted cream), chocolate, strawberry and, if you lived on the edge, mint-choc-chip. There were no exciting berries or sorbets, mango or zabligione. Exotic meant going for a Calippo or a milk lolly. Luxury was a 99 flake.
I was amazed when I first came across a proper Italian ice cream shop on a family trip the US. The colours and tastes had me totally transfixed. I fell first for blueberry, then for mysterious things like tiramisu, then for bright mango. And that was all over the course of about ten minutes.
What really intrigued me were the nutty flavours. Hazelnut with chocolate, maple and pecan, almond. And pistachio. I had tried all the other nuts in their raw form before, but pistachio ice cream was my first brush with the green nut. I didn’t really believe in it at first. After all, what nut could be green? And that flavour, a smooth, creamy, almost medicinal taste. Definitely not nutty. And not that great either.
It was later, much later, that I found out that along with strawberry, pistachio is the one flavour ice cream that doesn’t taste anything like the original. Unless you make it yourself. Whatever they do to it on a commercial scale kills it completely. But a home made pistachio ice cream. That’s a thing to savour.
Not too sweet, it’s almost closer to kulfi than traditional (for the UK) ice cream flavours. Nothing medicinal about this. Oh no. It’s got a subtle, creamy flavour. Very gentle but also one that sits well with aromatic spices and dried fruits. The ice cream also comes out a lovely pale jade colour.
Pistachio ice cream recipe
Makes enough for about 6-8 desserts, depending on how much ice cream you want to eat
This recipe is from Tessa Kiros’s beautiful Falling Cloudberries cookbook, it’s a wonderful tome, full of beautifullphotographed Finnish, Greek, South African and Cypriot recipes, plus a smattering of other stuff. Well worth the asking price.
I think you could probably add a bay leaf or maybe some rosemary to the cooking stage. It would a lovely herby undercurrent and is something I am eager to try. I also use an ice cream maker, it makes life so much easier and they are not too expensive.
100g pistachio kernels
250mls whole milk
400mls single cream
1 tblsp brandy
125g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
The first, and most fiddly hard thing is to get rid of the brown skin on the kernels. To do this, dunk the kernels in boiling water for about a minute, then remove. They should – with a little encouragement – shuck from their skins. But you have to do each one individually.
Once this is complete, stick the kernels in a blender and whiz until coarse. Add to a pan with the milk, cream and brandy and bring to a rolling boil and then turn the heat off. Use a hand blender to whiz the mixture.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the caster sugar until it all turns to a smooth ivory cream. Add a wee bit of the creamy mix and whisk. This will ensure the eggs don;t scramble. Add the rest of the mix slowly, whisking all the while.
When it’s all mixed, put it on the fridge to cool it down. The use an ice cream maker to churn it into dessert and store in the freezer until ready to eat. Delicious.