I’m still thinking Sicily (see my last post). Having reacquainted myself with the wonderful Sicily Unpacked programme on Wednesday evening, on DVD, with Nicola, I watched another episode the following night and saw Giorgio Locatelli and Andrew Graham-Dixon enter Giorgio’s favourite gelateria in Sicily in the baroque town of Noto. A town Nicola and I visited in 2002. But we definitely didn’t find this gelateria. We obviously have to go back!! The two men were in gelato heaven. You could see it on their faces as they tried spoonfuls of different ice creams. Then they went to watch the owner – is a gelato maker an ice cream chef? – make an ice cream of gold: saffron and honey. Well, that sounded too exciting an idea to leave alone.
This morning I was searching through my Diana Henry book, Crazy Water Pickled Lemons, in which I discovered the fabulous recipe for Lemon & Basil Ice Cream that’s become a firm family favourite and was without doubt the star gelato attraction at my birthday party last month. Annie was here. She’d stayed over after our lovely meal at A Cena last night; Ruben’s Bakehouse was on the ‘menu’ for breakfast. We looked at the book together but no saffron & honey; in fact, I couldn’t find a recipe anywhere, even on Google. So, later, when Annie had gone home and one of Ruben’s cappuccino’s and chocolate croissants had been happily consumed to keep me going, I thought it was time to experiment.
I decided to make my basic vanilla ice cream and then add honey and saffron slowly to get the balance right, tasting as I went. I whisked 4 egg yolks, 50g caster sugar, 1 level teaspoon custard powder and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract paste in a bowl till thick and pale. (I used less sugar than normal because of adding the sweet honey later; the custard powder is a Delia Smith trick to stop the custard separating as you cook it.) Meanwhile, I soaked a pinch of saffron in a little boiling water. Then I brought 200ml milk to the boil – just to the point when bubbles appear at the edge. Then I slowly beat this into the egg mixture and transferred to a clean saucepan. I gently cooked the custard till hot and thickening and then turned off the heat.
I added 2 tablespoons of runny honey, mixed it in the hot custard till dissolved and tasted. Then I added 2 more tablespoons (i.e. 4 tablespoons honey in total). I wanted to get the honey taste right before adding the saffron. Once happy, I tipped in the saffron water and mixed well, transferred to a bowl and left to cool. When the custard was cold, I whisked 200ml double cream till thickening but not stiff. I poured that into the custard and mixed well.
I put the mixture in the fridge to get quite cold before putting in the ice cream maker as I find this best for my little, not particularly powerful, home ice cream maker. I churned till nice and thick and then put the ice cream in a freezer container and left it in the freezer till suppertime. If you leave it quite a long time before eating, you may want to take it out of the freezer for a few minutes to soften a bit before serving.
Well, it was certainly a wonderful ‘gold’ colour and looked so pretty and sunny in the bowl. The flavour was rich and fabulous. I’d managed to get a good balance of the two flavours: the unmistakeable saffron with its slightly metallic, bitter but truly wonderful flavour, which goes so well with sweet ingredients as well as savoury. But the sweet, fragrant honey shone through too. I thought this was really quite a special ice cream. It’s rich – one scoop was enough – but it would go well with dark chocolate ice cream or an orange sorbet. So, one more flavour for The Single Gourmet Traveller’s gelato repertoire and even if the weather is not playing game with summer, I’m heading into summer with more ice creams to cheer up even the dullest day.