What’s your favourite thing to do with a blackened banana?
Breads, cakes, cookies, muffins and smoothies are all pretty wonderful ways to use up an overripe banana or two. The ice cream I’m sharing today is even better. But to be honest, I’d be happy if you made any of the items listed above, as long as your bananas don’t end up in the bin.
With people around the world dying of starvation and plenty (in fact, shockingly, more) suffering from obesity, the paradox is that somewhere in between these two extremes we’re throwing away an insane amount of food each year. 7.2 million tons in the UK alone, to be precise. Or to look at it from an international perspective, roughly a third of our total global food production.
Food waste is a pretty hot topic right now and this month Think.Eat.Save was launched as part of a worldwide campaign to address our culture of waste. That’s everything from portion control to turning the taps off after use, buying quantities of food you’ll actually eat, understanding what a sell-by date really means and learning to love your leftovers.
I don’t want this to turn into an overly preachy post. While I love the frugality (not to mention superior flavour) of making my own chicken stock or blitzing stale bread into crumbs, I’m pretty guilty when it comes to portion control. Never knowingly under-catered seems to be some sort of motto whenever I’m feeding a crowd and while I’ll eat leftovers up to a point, I’ve been known to occasionally empty a groaning fridge of its cling-filmed contents in a fit of spring-cleaning fury. That my parents were still eating their way through party food for what seemed like weeks after our engagement celebrations is something I’m pretty impressed by, but not necessarily something I’d do.
Of course nobody’s perfect. But, like recycling or conserving energy or any of the other little things we’re asked to do on a daily basis where we feel our individual impact may be negligible, we can make a difference. To quote a company which may well be one of the biggest contributors to our food waste problems with its strict sell by dates and two-for-one offers, every little helps, and if you can make even the smallest reduction in food waste and create something delicious in the process, I think it would be churlish not to try.
Which brings me back to blackened bananas. In an attempt to salvage these speckled specimens, the majority of people tend to turn to baking. Mashed up banana makes a wonderfully moist loaf, reduces the need for copious amounts of butter and bakes up into a squidgy, sweet treat that’s also the perfect vehicle for delivering chocolate chips under the vague pretext of healthiness. What people don’t tend to do is make ice cream. Especially when they live in the UK, the temperature outside has dropped below zero and the house is surrounded by a blanket of snow.
But not everyone is quite as obsessed with ice cream as I am: I make no excuses for this recipe. Extra ripe bananas add an intense sweetness to the base, blending into a creamy treat that is cool like the snow outside but can be eaten cosily from the comfort of your sofa. Cocoa nibs add a sophisticated chocolaty kick and toasted maple walnuts impart a sticky, praline crunch without the addition of any overly processed sugar. It’s good. Really good, in fact, and a pretty delicious way to enjoy something that might have otherwise ended up in the bin.
Banana Ice Cream with Cocoa Nib Freckles & Toasted Maple Walnuts (adapted from a recipe by Jeni Britton Bauer)
(makes about one litre of ice cream)
For the maple walnuts
Large handful shelled walnuts
2 tbsp maple syrup
For the ice cream
475ml full fat milk
1 tbsp + 1tsp corn flour
3 tbsp cream cheese
275ml double cream
2 tbsp honey
Seeds of one vanilla bean
2 medium ripe bananas, peeled
Handful cocoa nibs
Handful of maple walnuts (ingredients above), roughly chopped
For the maple walnuts
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
Place the walnuts on one of the baking sheets and toast in the oven for 8 – 10 minutes then remove.
In a small saucepan, bring the maple syrup to the boil then add the walnuts. Boil for minute or two until the walnuts begin to caramelize and the mixture becomes sticky. Pour onto your second prepared baking sheet in an single layer and set aside to cool.
For the ice cream
Mix 2 tbsp of the milk with the corn flour in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt together until smooth.
Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar and honey in a medium saucepan and bring to a rolling boil over a medium-high heat. Boil for four minutes then remove from the heat and gradually mix in the corn flour slurry.
Bring the mixture back to the boil over a medium-high heat and cook for about one minute until slightly thickened, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula. Remove from the heat.
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Stir in the vanilla seeds.
Cut the bananas into chunks and blend in a food processor. Combine with your hot cream mixture then set over an ice bath and stir until cool. Refrigerate overnight.
Churn the ice cream according to your manufacturer’s instructions. Layer in your chosen container with sprinkles of cocoa nibs and maple walnuts, smooth the top then freeze until firm.
I’m entering this recipe into the January Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream challenge. Follow the link for lots more lovely ice cream recipes involving fruit and nuts!