When I received an ice cream maker for my birthday back in July, I was convinced I’d never buy ice cream from a shop again. I promised myself – and possibly all my readers in one of many excitable ice cream-related posts – that owning this machine would open a world of possibilities, of infinite exotic flavours, wonderful organic ingredients and not an E-number, stabilizer or acidity regulator in sight.
The majority of the time that promise holds true; we don’t eat a lot of frozen food so I hardly ever encounter those extravagant little £5 tubs that dominate that particular section of the supermarket. If I do spend money on eating ice cream out it’s usually in an amazing gelateria like Gelupo, or the mobile offerings of the incredible La Grotta Ices, but there is one shop-bought ice cream I’ve somehow retained an unaccountable weakness for; Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food.
Named after a favourite band of the ice cream inventors’, Phish Food consists of chocolate ice cream, marshmallow swirls, caramel sauce and tiny chocolate fish. It’s nothing particularly ground-breaking or unusual – I’m sure I could make it myself and Carnivorous Boyfriend has even been so brave as to suggest it borders on the sickly side of sweet – but there’s something about those stumpy purple tubs, swirly ice cream and perfect chocolate chunks that manages to tempt me every time.
When I was at University one of my new (now best) friends introduced me to the concept of eating a whole tub of ice cream in one sitting. Where previously this kind of decadence was the stuff of legends, confined to my parents’ single story of an old American friend who consumed a pint of it a day (and still managed to survive well into his eighties), now I was living away from home and allowed to do exactly what I wanted. Eat a whole tub of ice cream? Whyever not?
Pretty much once a week (generally after a big night out and feeling a little worse for wear), as many (if not more) of us as sensibly could would squeeze into my tiny blue Beetle and hotfoot it down to the local video shop to rent DVDs and buy our own body weight in chocolate ice cream. We’d then retire to someone’s tiny rented room, pile ourselves onto the bed and proceed to watch back–to-back chick-flicks, spooning ice cream into our mouths and only stopping when we felt more than slightly sick.
I’m sorry to say I don’t think I ever managed to eat a whole tub. Usually by the time I reached the gloopy final third of the tub, a strong sensation of dairy overload would creep through my body and the sugar shakes would start to set in. Not exactly a gourmet story, but these are the kind of gossipy, girly, over-indulgent evenings are what great friendships are built on. Nowadays I prefer to get my ice cream fix from more of a David Lebovitz-style ‘single perfect scoop’ (ok, who am I kidding, let’s say two ‘perfect scoops’ just to be on the safe side), but every time I see a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, a strange sort of nostalgia seeps over me . . .
Anyway, I digress. This isn’t a recipe for ice cream – I’ve posted quite enough of that over the last couple of weeks. Instead this recipe takes its inspiration from that flawed but still firm favourite of mine, Phish Food. I had some salty caramel sauce left over from making this tea and biscuit ice cream, and originally intended to make some salted caramel brownies, inspired by this incredible post. However as I started to think about chocolate and caramel swirled, a tiny Phish Food-shaped idea started to take shape. A handful of fluffy marshmallows and a sprinkling of chocolate chunks later and these brownies were born.
If you’re a brownie purist, look away now. My base recipe doesn’t include any cocoa (although there is some lovely rich dark chocolate in there) and the sugar content is fairly high, meaning when combined with the salty swirl of caramel and melting marshmallows you get a fairly uncompromisingly sweet batter. But it’s good. It’s unctuous. If I was the kind of person who didn’t slightly cringe when people use these kinds of words about food, I might even say it’s a little bit sexy.
Try to eat these straight out the oven and you’ll get a face full of oozing caramel and molten chocolate – fine for Nigella but you might want to wait until they firm up slightly, becoming a bar that slices to perfection, holds its shape yet melts in your mouth. Sophisticated, elegant and artisan this brownie is not, but just like my every-so-often Phish Food ice cream consumption, sometimes you need something a little less classy to satisfy a certain craving. Best served with a big scoop of cold vanilla bean ice cream (shop-bought, if you like).
Phish Food Brownies (basic brownie batter based on Angela Hartnett’s recipe in A Taste of Home)
3 large free range eggs
210g golden caster sugar
125g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
100g plain white flour
100g dark chocolate chips or chunks
50g mini marshmallows
125ml salted caramel sauce (or you could use dulce de leche from a jar)
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Grease and line a 20 x 20cm baking tin.
Beat the eggs and caster sugar together until pale and creamy. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain marie until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
Once the chocolate mixture is cooled, fold it into the eggs and sugar with a spatula. Sieve the flour and salt into the bowl and fold in carefully, along with the chocolate chips and marshmallows.
Pour the brownie batter into your prepared tin. Spoon the caramel over the top, then swirl gently into the mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes until the edges are set and the centre slightly gooey. Leave to cool completely then cut into squares and serve.