Makes 1.2 litres (serves 8)
700ml buffalo milk
5 egg yolks
145g vanilla sugar
4 fresh roses or 3–4 drops of rose
extract (attar of roses)
425g fresh strawberries
From Vanessa Kimbell’s Food for Thought, published by Kyle Books
The arrival of strawberries in my garden each year excites me. I have wild alpine strawberries that were, I suspect, brought in by a passing bird decades ago. They grow everywhere, between the lords-and-ladies (wild arum), in the stone walls, under the fruit bushes and along the driveway. They are small, sweet, juicy, highly aromatic and just slightly tart. I can honestly say that I never eat strawberries out of season as they are a disappointment – so I gorge on them when they are around, not least because their perfect state is so fleeting. Not ripe enough, and they are un-perfumed and taste of nothing; and overripe, they simply lose their texture. Strawberries are best served warm from the summer sun – left to ripen on their own, they will develop a deep sweetness and it is at this point you want to capture the moment and devour them. If you have a glut, then seize the opportunity and catch these exquisite berries’ most heavenly moment in ice cream, emphasising their sublime charm with rose and vanilla.
This recipe, however is not just about eating strawberries in season, it is also about using buffalo milk, which aside from making really delicious ice cream is also a sustainable product. Although buffalos produce less milk than domestic cows, during the summer months they live happily on much more marginal land, without the need for cereal-based ‘concentrate’ to supplement their diet, which makes them a much more sustainable choice for pastoral farming on land that is not ideal for domestic cows. Buffalo milk is also higher in fat and in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus but lower in cholesterol than cow’s milk, so it’s ideal for making the creamiest ice cream, as well as your own yogurt or cottage cheese.
In this recipe, I’ve recommended using vanilla sugar: caster sugar, stored in a jar with used split vanilla pods, which lend their fragrance to the sugar. Make sure your roses have not been sprayed with pesticides or insecticides.
The day before you want your ice cream, put the buffalo milk, egg yolks and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan and stir over a moderate heat. Keep the liquid moving using a whisk. (If you don’t have vanilla sugar, use regular caster sugar with a small vanilla pod split lengthways.) Keep stirring as the custard thickens. This can take 20–25 minutes, so take your time and don’t be tempted to heat it quickly (you’ll get scrambled eggs!). The mixture will thicken. When the custard easily coats the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat and scrape it into a clean bowl. Pluck the rose petals, discarding any that are bruised, and check them for any tiny insects, then stir them into the custard. Leave to cool (I keep my custard in the fridge overnight for the flavour to infuse but if you are in a hurry, use rose extract instead).
Hull the strawberries and blend to a pulp in a food processor. Sieve the custard into the strawberries, discarding the rose petals. Blend the mixture; you can make the ice cream right away, or store the liquid in the fridge in a clean airtight container for up to two days before freezing. Either follow the manufacturers’ instructions if you are using an ice-cream maker, or if you are doing it by hand, pour the mixture into a shallow freezer-proof container and freeze for at least 3 hours, taking it out and whisking it three or four times, at 45-minute intervals to prevent ice crystals forming. Use a timer to remind you, as I often forget to do this!
Ndali Tip: for a quick strong vanilla sugar you can add 1tsp of vanilla powder to the recipe's 145g sugar