Perhaps people should be divided into two categories, those that remember food eaten from meals past, and those that don’t. As expected for a nascent food blogger, I am one of the former. I have photographic memories of ‘food moments’, strong visual images that are both good and bad. Not ones that have been recorded by a camera, or handed down as a family memory, but ones that are pixelated into my brain. The cold ham, crisp Cos leaves, whole tomatoes and cucumber slices served on separate plates for tea at my grandfather’s house with a bowl of salad cream on the side, followed by thick slices of Guernsey ‘Gâche’, a fruit bread that needed lashings of butter. The excitement of finding crisp bones from a tin of ‘red’ salmon and rolling them around my tongue. Savouring every ounce of chilled sponge and jam on slices of Arctic roll at school lunches, or the gulp of disgust in my throat when a bowl of rehydrated prunes and figs was placed in front of me instead. The smell of dark, moist slabs of bread pudding on the office tea trolley and the crunch of battered squares of Spam in the cafeteria. I could go on down the decades, across the world, until I come to a rolling stop at the bowl of nuts and raisins now sitting on my desk, but I will stop and concentrate on one abiding passion – ice cream.
This memory of course began in childhood. Ice cream was seen as a treat kept for high days and holidays, and as an occasional Sunday, lunch accompaniment to fruit crumbles or pies. Choc ices were a favourite for their chocolate coating, bought from the ice cream van parked outside the village pub on summer Saturdays. But nothing, nothing beats the memory of the ice cream we ate in Cornwall. We spent many a school holiday there, accompanied by my grandmother, in a rented cottage snuck up high under a cliff overlooking the bay of West Portholland on the Rose Peninsula. This tiny hamlet and its companion of East Portholland, are part of the Caerhays Castle Estate and one time home of the Trevanion family. In front of our cottage was one of those ‘pull ins’ that allow cars to pass on narrow country roads. An ideal place for an ice cream van to stop. The ice cream was thick yellow, more vibrant in colour than the county’s better known clotted cream and so rich that it spoilt my appetite for supper afterwards. Even then I didn’t like the taste or texture of the waffle cone and pushed the ice cream down it’s hollow with my tongue so I could suck it out the other end. If I couldn’t persuade my brother to eat this empty offering, the cone would be crumbled and tossed on the cliffs for the seagulls, but more probably eaten by the farm dog who often followed us around. I’ve only been back to Cornwall once in the last 55 years. It was winter and the gorse covered cliffs were brown and barren of any ice cream van.
Does Cornish ice cream exist as I remember it, or has time blown this memory out of all proportion? I don’t know, but I have found most shop bought ice creams lacking, however much they insist they are made from Cornish cream. I’ve eaten memorable gelato in Rome, and from a travelling Italian ice cream van deep in the Dutch countryside. In Leipzig, Germany we regularly bought ‘Jack’s’ macadamia ice cream from our local Netto, an unassuming supermarket chain. This was surprisingly good, with a good proportion of nuts to vanilla, and just sweet enough without being overly rich. Unfortunately, after three years, Berlin manufactured Jack’s disappeared from the shelf. I thought then about trying my hand at making my own, but was put off by the lack of double cream in Germany and the expense of their ice cream makers. So, it was with great delight, that on my last birthday I received an ice cream attachment for my KitchenAid. Then I had no excuses left not to try my hand at making this, my all-time favourite dessert.
For my first attempt, I thought I would keep it simple before I started hunting down the best of Cornish creams. Coffee is a favourite flavour of mine and not one that is often stocked in my part of London. As my grandmother is firmly lodged in my psyche as the goddess of all things sweet, then I used, as she did, Camp Coffee as the flavouring and reduced the amount of added sugar. Camp, for those not familiar with its history, dates back to 1885. Its thick black syrup is a ‘secret blend’ of sugar, water, coffee and chicory essence, and was originally made in Glasgow by R. Paterson and Sons Ltd, ‘sole proprietors’. I have a fondness for the original label which showed a Gordon Highlander drinking a cup of Camp coffee whilst being waited on by a Sikh servant. My father, however, corrected the associations of this image and told me of his great admiration for the Sikh’s after fighting side by side with them in Burma during the Second World War.
Once, having worked out the fiddly bits of fitting the attachment to my KitchenAid, making ice cream is actually very simple and my first attempt was rated impressive by Man.
Coffee ice cream
Serves four to six, Preparation time approximately 60mins. This will depend greatly on which ice cream maker you are using. With the Kitchen Aid, the ice cream attachment has to sit in the freezer overnight to reach the required temperature.
250ml full fat cream milk – if you are American the equivalent is half and half.
50ml Camp chicory and coffee essence*
3 medium egg yolks
30g golden caster sugar
300ml double cream
*If you don’t want to use Camp – I bought it online from Amazon – make a strong dose of espresso instead and increase the amount of sugar to 75gms.
Put a bowl in the fridge to chill for 20 mins before you start. Pour the milk and the Camp coffee into a jug and mix thoroughly. Heat in microwave until warm, but don’t allow it to boil. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy. Gradually whisk in the milk, then strain through a sieve into a heavy bottomed pan.
Cook over a low heat, stirring, until thick enough to coat the back of the spoon – again do not allow to boil. Pour into the chilled bowl, place in fridge and leave to cool. Then beat the cream into the custard. At this point, I removed the KitchenAid’s ice cream bowl from the freezer, fitted it onto the stand, ran it on its lowest setting and carefully poured the custard/cream mix into the mixer and churned it for 20 mins. Manufacturer’s Instructions will vary on how to do this. I then turned it out into plastic boxes with a lid and placed in the freezer to further firm up, approx. 15 mins, before serving.