PUBLISHED: 15:44 03 September 2013 | UPDATED: 15:44 03 September 2013
I don't think there's any food that can rival the enduring appeal of ice cream. There are mentions of Emperor Nero mixing ice from the mountains with fruit to create a dessert, but it's generally accepted that the Chinese first added the milk element before ice cream was brought to Europe to be enjoyed by the Royal courts. The first ice cream parlour opened in New York in 1794, and the first ice cream cone was served at the St Louis World Fair in 1904.
In the 1960s you had the choice of white, pink or brown – apparently vanilla, strawberry and chocolate – or, if you put them all together, you had the exotic Neapolitan. I can well remember when raspberry ripple arrived on the scene; the excitement was palpable. Nowadays, sea-salt caramel is de rigueur, as is peanut butter, pina colada and liquorice. We have experimented with Parmesan, horseradish, beetroot sorbet and, I must confess, I did steal the recipe for Galton Blackiston’s pea and mint to serve with this year’s asparagus.
I think we lack a really good ice cream parlour in Norwich city centre – there are several dotted along the coast, but what guise a city centre establishment should take I’m not quite sure. It could be the very classic Fortnum and Mason style parlour with sundaes served in beautiful frosted coupes or perhaps a 1960s-style venue with retro banana-splits and Knickerbocker glories.
Probably the most outrageous ice cream parlour in the land is in Covent Garden where the Icecreamist serves all manner of confectionary concoctions – its staff in military uniforms as rock music blares out to the queues. Famously, its Baby Gaga sundae was made with breast milk which resulted in more outraged commentators than actual customers, I suspect. Bizarrely enough the council tried to ban its sale, though was happy to leave the iced absinthe and Holy Water pistol in the Icecreamist’s freezers.
I don’t think there’s anything quite like buying from the ice cream van that visits on Sunday afternoons – though as a boy, our cones and lollies always had the faint taste of diesel, being stored above the exhaust of the barely road-worthy Commer van. This is yet another childhood memory that bears little relevance to today’s children - the 1950s saw some 50,000 ice cream vans touring the estates across the UK, sadly, today there are just 5,000 vans on the roads.
We’re fortunate enough to have our own ice cream machine at the restaurant but we’ve given you a recipe that we always used before we invested in such an expensive piece of kit. It’s the traditional soufflé glace method of whisking yolks and sugar, cream and meringue, then folding them all together and freezing.
It’s simple, but you always have the option of buying from one of the county’s fantastic ice cream suppliers, from the long-established Lakenham Creameries and Ronaldo to relatively new kids on the ice cream block such as Norfolk Farmhouse. Whether it be a premium product that’s your occasional reward or a 99 from the “Popeye the Sailor Man” van, with ice cream there’s always that frisson of indulgence.
Richard Hughes is chef proprietor of the Lavender House at Brundall and the Richard Hughes Cookery School. He is also director of The Pigs Pub at Edgefield and The Assembly House, Norwich, www.thelavenderhouse.co.uk www.richardhughescookery school.co.uk
Vanilla ice cream
4 large eggs separated
150g caster sugar
500ml whipping cream
Strawberry and Pimms salad
250g fresh strawberries
Bunch of mint
100g small cucumber
1 dessertspoon caster sugar
1 Separate the eggs
2 Place 100g of the sugar in a thick bottomed saucepan, with 50ml water.
3 Bring to the boil and simmer gently until it reaches 235F or the soft ball stage. (Check by removing a little sugar and placing directly into a cup of cold water. The sugar should remain pliable between your fingers.)
4 Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl, over hot water; whisk until pale and doubled in volume.
5 Gently pour in the sugar, whisking continually. Continue to whisk until the mixture is cool.
6 Place the vanilla seeds into the cream. Whisk until it reaches soft peak.
7 Fold the whisked egg yolk into the cream.
8 Whisk the egg whites with the remaining 50g sugar.
9 Fold into the cream mixture.
10 Carefully mix, taking care not to lose any of the volume.
11 Cover with cling film and place in the freezer for at least four hours.
12 Crunch 100g of the strawberries.
13 Chop the remaining 150g. Place in a bowl.
14 Chop the mint.
15 Add to the strawberries.
16 Peel and dice the cucumber.
17 Add to the strawberries.
18 Add the Pimms.