Prune and Cognac Ice Cream

Never have I felt more like a fully fledged member of the Food Tosserati as when I found myself using raw milk from the farmers’ market to make this ice cream, then shortly after seasoning my dauphinoise with penja pepper, before jostling it into the fridge next to the batch of wild garlic pesto I’d made the day before. Oh dear.

Tell you what though, raw milk does taste fantastic. ‘Raw’ meaning unpasteurised. It’s rich and creamy and supposedly has health benefits which are destroyed by pasteurisation. I don’t know the evidence for this and frankly I don’t have time to look so if anyone out there has properly delved into it, I’d be grateful to know the outcome.

What I can tell you is that it makes fabulous ice cream. It was supposed to be prune and Armagnac, but there’s only so far a corner shop in Camberwell can stretch in the booze department, so prune and cognac it was and blimey, was it ever tasty.

I made this for dinner, for the boyfriend’s parents no less. When I took the first mouthful I thought ‘holy shit, this is a bit good’ but obviously kept my trap shut for fear of appearing smug or boastful. So if you want to impress parents or other such important people, and also erm, keep them regular, then make this ice cream.

Prune and Cognac Ice Cream

(fills 2 plastic tubs of the kind that takeaway food arrives in)

20 prunes, pitted and chopped (just chop each into about 3 pieces)
180ml cognac
60ml water
500ml double cream
500ml whole milk
225g caster sugar
6 large egg yolks

Simmer the prunes, cognac and water in a small pan, until 3/4 of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool.

Scald the milk and cream (this means heating it until almost but not boiling, basically when bubbles start to appear around the edge, you’re done). Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they turn pale and start to thicken. Continue whisking, and add about 1/3 of the hot milk and cream mixture to the egg mix, then when it is incorporated, add the remaining mixture (again whisking all the time).

Pour the lot into a clean, heavy based pan and cook over a low-medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. You can also test if it’s ready by drawing a line down  the custard on the back of the spoon with your finger. If the line stays, it’s ready. A thermometer makes this even easier. You’ll get the result you want at 80C.

Put the mixture aside in a bowl and add the prunes and any juices. Cover by placing a layer of cling film or greaseproof paper directly on top of the custard, to stop a skin forming. Leave to cool completely, before churning in an ice cream maker, then freezing for an hour or two before serving.

You can also make this without an ice cream maker, but you’ll need to remove it from the freezer every hour or so and either beat it with an electric mixer or hand whisk, the idea being to break up as many ice crystals as you can in order to make it as smooth and creamy as possible.