'Oh my goodness,' exclaimed my friend. 'I couldn't possibly eat all that!' She was referring to the three large scoops of ice cream served in a tall martini glass. 'Just wait until you've tasted it,' I replied, with a knowing smile. All four of us watched as the spoon went into her mouth. One... two... three... 'Oh yum, that is really good, isn't it,' came the response, as my friend licked the spoon.
We were dining out with friends at one of our favourite local eateries — a Persian restaurant tucked away in a lakeside suburb just five minutes from our home. The food is nothing short of delicious. The atmosphere is friendly and the hosts are ever so gracious. Best of all is the pistachio and saffron ice cream. Its exotic flavours speak to my tastebuds every single time. I have to tell you, I love it, and yet as a pistachio ice cream it's just not quite there — it's delicious, but a little icy. Another cooking enthusiast friend agreed with me on this when we dined there together. I'm not sure if it's because the custard hasn't been properly cooked, or the sugar hasn't fully dissolved, or maybe it hasn't been aerated sufficiently in the churning process. Or perhaps that's simply how the chef likes it. That said, I do look forward to it every time I visit, and always order it, despite the other sweets on the menu.
The (second) last time I enjoyed this ice cream was the night I broke my foot and ever since then I've been busting to pay homage to it by making my own version. Yes indeed, I did go out to dinner some 30 minutes after 'twisting' my foot. Yes, I was in agony, but I wasn't going to allow that to make us miss catching up as planned with our friends. And, to be honest, I wasn't aware that the bone was broken until said lovely friend, a trained nurse, gave me the bad news. But then that's another story. Now let's talk about this exquisite recipe.
Looking through the numerous ice cream titles in my library (I have several), I decided to adapt a relatively simple recipe for pistachio ice cream by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis in Ice Cream and Iced Desserts. It was important to me that I wasn't adding food colour, as numerous recipes suggest (whatever for?!). I also wanted to keep the ground pistachios in the finished product, rather than straining them out. And I wanted to add saffron and rose water, essential ingredients to give my ice cream that extra depth of flavour. The resulting dish is creamy yet nutty at the same time. My Peter has given it the stamp of approval, so it must be good.
Post script: Having gone back for another taste of the ice cream this evening, I note that it is definitely more rosewater and saffron, than pistachio. It is indeed exquisite and I really do love it. But mine is good too.
PISTACHIO ICE CREAM WITH SAFFRON AND ROSE WATER
4 free range egg yolks*
6 tablespoons vanilla infused golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon (5ml) maize cornflour
1/2 teaspoon saffron, gently ground or crushed+
300ml low fat milk
2 teaspoons rose water
115g (one cup) unsalted roasted pistachio nuts (shelled)
300ml pure cream
Combine the egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour in a Pyrex bowl and whisk thoroughly until the mixture is really thick and creamy. Pour the milk into a heavy-based saucepan, heat it gently and when it it almost boiling, add the saffron strands. Now take it off the heat and slowly whisk it into the bowl with the egg yolk mixture. Add the rose water and stir well.
Transfer the egg and milk mixture back into the saucepan, pop it back onto the stove and cook it over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens (test by running your finger through the custard on the back of a wooden spoon, see my photo below). Pour the mixture into a clean bowl, cover and allow it to cool completely in the refrigerator. This is important. The mixture should be well chilled.
Meanwhile, place all but one tablespoon of the pistachio nuts into the bowl of a food processor and grind until the nuts are roughly chopped, then add 40mls of the cream and grind to a coarse paste (see my photo below). Spoon the rest of the cream into a small saucepan, bring it gently to the boil and then stir in the pistachio paste. Stir until 'smooth'. Transfer this pistachio cream mixture to a small bowl and pop it into the refrigerator and allow it cool.
Once both the custard and the pistachio paste are chilled, mix them together in a large Pyrex jug, and stir well. Pour this mixture into the bowl of an ice cream machine and churn until the ice cream is smooth.
If you would like to make the ice cream by hand, pour the mixture into a freezer-proof dish and freeze for several hours. Then beat it with an electric mixer until the ice cream is nice and smooth (this is important, as you will break up the ice crystals). Serve, sprinkled with crushed pistachios. This quantity will serve 6.
* Make some meringues with the whites. + Use a mortar and pestle, or the back of a spoon, to grind the saffron.
What say you, dear readers... would you lick the spoon in my photograph above? Would my pistachio ice cream with saffron and rose water get your stamp of approval? And have you ever proceeded to go out to dinner despite having a nasty injury?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.