Earl Grey and Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

November 24, 2009


Earl Grey and Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

Too cold for ice cream? Never! I’d rather crank up the heating and jumper myself up to Michelin Man level than stop eating the cold stuff during winter months. After a moderately successful attempt at curbing my previous (and frankly quite disturbing) level of consumption, I’ve relapsed and bought an ice cream maker. All that  freezing, mixing, freezing rubbish is now a distant memory; the thing has powers of mystical magical wonderment. Milk, cream and custard are transformed into the smoothest of operators.


As a child, the practice of eating ice cream for me was a ritualistic one. I would scurry off to a quiet corner and perform a weird routine of  mashing and stirring to just the right consistency, then using the back of my spoon to form it into peaks before finally devouring each at record speed; I’ve had my fair share of brain freezes and then some. Back then, my weapon of choice was strawberry or Neapolitan but now I’ve come to favour more adult flavours (makes sense) and I’m pleased to report that I can eat it in the normal manner. A boozy rum ‘n’ raisin floats my boat, as does a skilfully balanced lemon sorbet or even a far-out candied bacon effort.


Sally Butcher’s earl grey ice cream with Iranian chickpea sweets is top of the list*, and here I’ve given it a citrus twist with some lemon verbena kindly given to me by the rarest of tea ladies, Henrietta Lovell, who advised me to add just a pinch to my cuppa. I wasn’t sure how the dried version would work in an ice cream so cautiously added a  teaspoon infused with each teabag. The resulting flavour was creamed bergamot with a subtle lift of lemon freshness. I ate it for breakfast today.

A bit of practical advice on method before I head to the freezer for another fix: when heating the mixture for the second time, make sure to stay with it and stir. Don’t wander off or be tempted to turn up the heat too much as I have done on several occasions – the eggs will scramble and your mix will be ruined. I did it again just yesterday.

Earl Grey and Lemon Verbena Ice Cream (adapted from Persia in Peckham by Sally Butcher).

150ml strong earl grey tea (I used 2 teabags, sorry Henrietta), brewed with 2 tablespoons of dried lemon verbena and then strained. If you don’t have lemon verbena, use a  strip of lemon peel, adding it to the pan with the milk, cream and tea.
150ml each full fat milk, single cream and whipping cream
1 strip lemon peel or 2 teaspoons dried lemon verbena
3 egg yolks
110g caster sugar

Put the tea, single cream and milk into a pan and bring to a simmer, then whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they thicken and pale. Remove the milk mixture from the heat (discard the lemon peel if using), then whisk it into the egg mix.

Put the whole lot back onto a gentle heat until it thickens, stirring very regularly. On no account should you let this boil, otherwise the eggs will scramble. Set it aside to cool with a dampened circle of greaseproof paper on the top, to stop a skin forming.
When cool, either churn in an ice cream maker, adding the whipping cream towards the end of churning, or pour into a freezer-proof container, then cover it and freeze until half frozen. At this point, scoop it into a bowl, then whisk up the whipping cream and fold it into the ice cream. Put it back into the freezer until it is of ice cream consistency. You can repeat this as often as you can be bothered, to reduce the amount of crystals in the finished ice cream. Or, buy an ice cream maker and live happily ever after.

* sounds weird I know but the chickpea sweets are incredible – you can buy them in Iranian shops like Sally’s or make them by her recipe below. I’ve never actually used this recipe myself, preferring to buy them.

Chickpea Shortbread/Sweets

50g caster sugar
110g Iranian chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
50g unsalted butter
Crushed nibbed pistachios

Sift the dry ingredients together on a flat, clean surface, then work in the butter with the tips of your fingers. When the mixture starts holding together, roll it into little chickpea shapes (or make into whatever shape you fancy) and put them on a sheet of grease-proof paper on a baking tray. Bake for about 10 minutes at gas 2/150C and allow to cool. Sprinkle with the crushed pistachio.

The shop bought ones usually contain saffron apparently but Sally’s version obviously does not. Do what you will.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Dan (Essex Eating) November 24, 2009 at 10:12 am

    This sounds totally gorgeous. I’m strangely drawn to ice-cream with earl grey in it. Not entirely sure why, but of its on a menu – I’ll order it.

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    Reply The Ginger Gourmand November 24, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Looks delicious Helen! I’m glad it turned out well. I love Earl Grey so this would be right up my street… What sort of ice cream maker do you have?

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    Reply Lizzie November 24, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Wow – I bet that tastes great. I’m neither here nor there about ice cream but I think grown up flavours might convince me otherwise.

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    Reply Y November 24, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Sounds divine. And I want to make those chickpea sweets too. Is Iranian chickpea flour the same as normal chickpea flour (besan)?

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    Reply The Graphic Foodie November 24, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Yum. I love ice cream more in the winter than the summer. This flavour sounds just divine!

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    Reply Ben November 24, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Haha! I agree, it’s never too cold to eat ice cream. This one sounds and looks very good.

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    Reply The Curious Cat November 24, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    ooo this sounds yum…a really unusual and intriguing combination that I imagine is rather divine to the tastebuds! xxx

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    Reply LexEat November 24, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Looks and sounds delicious! Would rather like to snuggle up with a bowl right now!

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    Reply Helen @ World Foodie Guide November 24, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    It’s never too cold for ice cream! I love anything flavoured with Earl Grey…I’ve not heard of chickpea sweets though, they sound interesting!

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    Reply Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen November 24, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Wow, this sounds so good Helen! I love this adult flavor of ice cream. So tempting. I am with you, I eat the stuff year round!

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    Reply Sharmila November 25, 2009 at 9:40 am

    This looks wonderful, and I do agree that it’s never too cold to eat ice cream. Maybe this will be the weekend that I’ll finally get the ice cream maker. Talking of grown up flavours, I’m desperate to re-create a buttermilk and beer ice cream I tried in Berlin. Yummy.

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    Reply Ollie November 25, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I’ve never been a fan of Earl Grey tea but this does sound delicious – and I bet the lemon freshens it up nicely. Looks beautiful.

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    Reply Dan November 25, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    I can just see the thought process, how can I incorporate ice cream into my breakfast? Why Earl Grey Tea is the answer!

    What ice creams are you developing for lunch and supper? The ice cream diet, it’s the new Atkins!

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    Reply Caitlin November 26, 2009 at 1:50 am

    I’ve been thinking of getting an ice cream maker but I might wait until I move back to Australia. We are spoiled for choice with wonderful artisanal ice cream in San Francisco so there’s no point in making my own all that often. Also, the voltages are different in the US so I would probably have to replace the gadget when I left the country.

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    Reply shayma November 26, 2009 at 3:30 am

    not a big fan of earl grey tea, but after reading your blog i desperately want that ice cream- it looks amazing. so lovely!

    helen, you MADE nan nokhochee (chickpea biscuits)? oh my god you genius girl, you. hats off to you.

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    Reply Caitlin November 26, 2009 at 3:52 am

    Actually you could almost call this Lady Grey ice cream. I believe Lady Grey tea is black tea with Bergamot (like Earl Grey) and also lemon.

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    Reply foodrambler November 26, 2009 at 11:33 am

    This icecream sounds fantastic – can’t wait to try it. Have learnt my lessons enough times with the scrambling custard too… makes me want to cry.

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    Reply Wild Boar November 26, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Oh no I hope the wife doesn’t see this or she’s going to want to get an ice cream maker even more then I’m really going to be the size of the Michelin man!

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    Reply Peter November 27, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    I am smitten with lemon verbena and this ice cream has to be eaten one spoonful at a time…slowly.

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    Reply Ailsa November 30, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Helen, I’ve been reading your blog for ages but never commented before – now I have to because I’m so glad you made this recipe! I love Earl Grey and absolutely anything with chickpeas, but have never made this from Persia in Peckham because a) everyone but me thinks it sounds weird and b) I don’t have an ice-cream machine.

    Maybe this Christmas Santa will smile on me…

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    Reply Maninas March 10, 2010 at 10:47 am

    I’m intrigued by those chickpea sweets!

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