For me, cooking for others is all about the joy of shared experience. It’s family sitting round a big kitchen table and breaking bread, friends catching up over long boozy dinners, the look on people’s faces when you emerge from the kitchen – whether carrying an incredible confection or a simple supper – and the satisfaction of introducing your loved ones to favourite recipes or brand new flavours.
Cooking for others can also be tricky; there are different tastes to consider, different appetites to allow for, and in some cases, diet restrictions to bear in mind. Heading round my parents for dinner recently, I knew I wanted to make something using the ice cream maker they’d given me for my birthday, but was confronted by a few constraints. My Dad, as per your (larger than) average middle-aged man, is on a semi-permanent diet to keep his heart in healthy shape, and my Mum doesn’t have a hugely sweet tooth.
Luckily I’ve not yet inherited either of these troublesome traits, but I wanted to create an ice cream (or two) which they would both enjoy. After a few hours trawling through recipe books and tinkering with ingredients, these two flavours are the result.
First up is an incredible chocolate sorbet. If you love chocolate and you’ve never tried chocolate sorbet, you honestly haven’t lived. This sorbet is so lusciously rich, so beautifully creamy, and so intensely chocolaty, you’ll wonder why you ever bothered to dilute your chocolate fix with such frivolous additions as milk and cream.
I initially hit on the recipe as a lighter way for my Dad to enjoy chocolate without lashings of artery clogging dairy products – a kind of ‘square-of-dark-chocolate-a-day does you good’ principle – but can honestly say it’s so much more than that. Before freezing, the mixture is a thick, glossy chocolate soup. After, it churns into an ice so smooth and complex you’d be hard pushed to guess it was a sorbet. I’m not sure you’d get the same texture if you froze it by hand, but if ever there was a reason to invest in an ice cream maker, this is it.
My second flavour was more of an experiment. I wanted a custard-based ice cream to complement the sorbet, but was hoping to keep it light, fresh and not too sweet. This ice cream also needed a little texture or crunch to contrast with the smooth silkiness of the chocolate. When I was little, my Mum used to make us wholesome flapjacks with tahini and sesame seeds, replacing some of the copious quantities of sugar with a little honey. I’d made peanut butter ice cream before, so why not use tahini?
I stirred a few dollops into a custard base, adding just a touch of unrefined golden caster sugar, then crumbled in a simple sesame brittle made of toasted seeds and honey. I was a little worried that the abstemious sugar quantities combined with the almost savoury sesame might result in an inedible ice cream, but it was delicious. The ice cream is rounded and nutty with a satisfying sesame crunch, little pockets of seeds and honey crisp against rich, smooth cream.
So there you have it; two fabulous new flavours to add to my ever growing list of frozen favourites. My parents absolutely loved them both, in fact my Dad even went in for seconds on the sorbet. Not strictly ‘on-diet’, but then everyone needs a little indulgence once in a while . . .
Chocolate sorbet (from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop)
(makes approx. 1 litre)
75g good quality cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
170g dark chocolate (45% cocoa solids minimum), finely chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Whisk together 375ml of the water with the sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, whisking frequently, then let it boil, continuing to whisk, for 45 seconds.
Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until melted, then stir in the vanilla extract and remaining 180ml water. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend for 15 seconds. Chill thoroughly then freeze in your ice cream maker.
Honey sesame brittle ice cream
25ml good flavoured runny honey
100g sesame seeds
250ml whole milk
4 large egg yolks
80g golden caster sugar
400ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Line a baking trail with tin foil.
In a frying pan, warm the honey. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame seeds until evenly coated then spread the mixture on the tray and bake for 25 mins. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
n.b. the brittle goes a little soft if left to long, so use within an hour of cooling.
Place the milk in a saucepan and bring to boil. Remove from the heat, add the tahini, then cover and let steep for at about an hour. After an hour, strain the mixture, pushing through as much tahini flavour as possible.
In one large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar. Pour the cream into another large bowl and set it on ice. Rewarm the milk mixture and pour onto the yolk, constantly whisking, until incorporated.
Place this mixture in a clean saucepan and put on a medium heat, constantly stirring until the custard thickens and coats the back of your spoon. Pour the custard over the chilled cream, stirring until cool, then chill in the fridge. Churn in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is still soft, spoon into a container, crumbling in your honey sesame brittle until well incorporated, leaving nice chunks here and there.