Recipe: Fig Leaf Ice Cream

Summer has finally arrived! After a disappointingly drizzly June,the sun has properly put his/her hat on and we’re all basking in the sunshine. Or maybe basking for about five minutes and then going back inside, because it really is very hot. If you need a treat to cool you down, then this Fig Leaf Ice Cream might be just the ticket.

The recipe is inspired by a day I spent helping out at the Rochelle Canteen in East London. We picked fig leaves from their garden and infused them in a milk and cream mixture to make ice cream. The resulting taste is difficult to describe but nevertheless delicious, a bit coconutty, a little bit herbal, the faintest hint of petroleum.

Being a proper kitchen Rochelle Canteen actually have an ice cream maker, unlike me. However, I have a ready supply of fig leaves from a neighbour’s tree which overhangs our garden and I couldn’t miss the chance to use this free ingredient! I’ve used a method of ice cream making (often called the mousse method), that I learnt at Ballymaloe Cookery School and that doesn’t require an ice cream maker. I use this ice cream making method all the time and experiment with lots of different flavours, it always works like a dream.

I imagine this would be delicious with something like a warm treacle tart, but I’ve mainly been eating it by itself or with a sprinkling of pistachio brittle as in the photos.

Serves 12 – 16 (this is very rich and you can’t really half the recipe as there won’t be enough egg yolk for the whisk to ‘catch’ properly, but you can keep it in the freezer for ages).

Ingredients:

About eight large fig leaves

1 vanilla pod

700ml double cream

4 egg yolks

100g granulated sugar

220ml water

Day 1:

Pick and wash the fig leaves. Combine the fig leaves, split vanilla pod (scraping out a some of the seeds) and the double cream in a saucepan, on a low heat slowly bring the mixture to a simmer. Allow to simmer very gently for around two minutes. I squashed the leaves down with a wooden spoon every so often to help along the infusing. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Once cool transfer to a bowl cover in clingfilm and put in the fridge overnight.

Figleaves

Day 2:

Remove the fig leaf mixture from the fridge. By now the fig leaf flavour should have infused into the cream and it will smell faintly of coconut. The taste without sugar is a bit strange, but don’t worry it will become delicious when you add the syrup. Strain the cream and fig leaf mixture to remove the leaves. I found quite a lot of the cream stuck to the leaves so I used a spatula to scrape off the cream and then wrung the leaves out to get as much flavour as possible into the cream.

Now, softly whip the cream (don’t overwhip, it should just fall off the spoon) and measure it in a measuring jug. You need about 1200ml. I find 700ml usually results in about 1200ml of softly whipped cream. If you are a little short you can top up by whipping a little more unflavoured cream.

Put the egg yolk in the bowl of a food mixer with the whisk attachment and whisk until a very pale yellow, light and fluffy. I think you could do this by hand, or with a electric hand whisk, but it will probably take a while.

Now combine the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved and then remove the spoon and don’t stir again. Turn up the heat and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread stage’. This is when a metal spoon is dipped into the syrup and the last few drops falling off the spoon will form a very thin thread. I find this takes about 7-10 minutes. if you have a sugar thermometer the correct temperature will be 106 – 113 degrees celsius.

Immediately pour the hot syrup in a steady stream into the middle of the whisked up egg yolks, whisking as you pour. I find it difficult to do this in my food mixer so I do it with a handwhisk, pouring with one hand and whisking with the other. Once the syrup and egg yolks are combined return to the food mixer and whisk on a relatively high setting until it becomes a thick mousse – or continue to whisk by hand (sorry, you may be a bit tired whisking by now). You will know the mousse is ready when it holds a figure of eight. Use the whisk or spoon to trail a figure of eight onto the top of the whisked up mousse, if the figure of eight stays then the mixture is ready.

Finally, gently fold the softly whipped fig leaf infused cream into the mousse. Put into a bowl or Tupperware, cover well and freeze. It should take about 6 hours to freeze completely. Remove from the freezer about five minutes before you want to serve.

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