Ice cream is one of my all-time favourite treats, I don't really mind what the weather. I had the pleasure of meeting Sean and Kieran Murphy from Murphy's Ice Cream at the Dingle Food Festival last year. And even though it was a chilly October, their shop was still teeming with ice cream lovers.
The Murphy brothers have created a much-loved ice cream made with the best quality ingredients with a few quirky flavours, like salt, thrown in. What the nation really fell in love with, though, is the quirky sense of fun that the brothers have brought to the brand and also the environmentally conscious and green ethos that they have, right down to searching for biodegradable spoons and containers. For a collection of their fabulous ice cream recipes, pick up a copy of their recipe book, 'The Book of Sweet Things'.
Ice cream has a very ancient history and many forms of frozen desserts have been developed over the centuries, leading to some dispute over who invented ice cream!
Here are some of my favourite frozen treats:
Frozen yoghurt first became popular in the 1970s when it was produced as a healthier alternative to ice cream. This is due to the fact that yoghurt is made from milk and not cream, so is lower in fat.
Consumers complained of the unexpected tart taste, so sweetened versions became available. This unfortunately ramped up the calorie and sugar content. To get the benefits of good quality frozen yoghurt, choose a healthier brand like Irish-made Froberry, which also has probiotic cultures added.
Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream. This is one of the most luxurious ice creams as it is made using milk, cream, sugar and often eggs. Gelato is also churned, not whipped, so it isn't fluffed up with air. I was taught to start with a custard, called zabaglione, made with sugar syrup and egg yolks, then add in cream, milk and any flavours. The zabaglione creates the richness and silkiness that is typical of a gelato, so while it takes a little longer, I wouldn't shortcut this step.
Granita is another frozen Italian dessert, but this time with little or no dairy content. Traditionally, granita is made with shaved ice mixed with sugar, fruit juice, fresh fruit and sometimes liqueur. Very refreshing and thirst quenching, granita is ideal on a hot day or if you are looking for a healthy frozen dessert.
Ice lollies are a childhood favourite of mine, when we would make our own using cordial and special plastic moulds that you fill and freeze. Use pure fruit juice for a healthier version as cordials can be full of sugar. Flavours become dulled once you freeze them so add a squeeze of orange or lime for an extra edge of flavour.
This is a popular type of ice cream first developed in the 1930s, which has a softer texture and is served in cones. In the late 1940s, Margaret Thatcher worked briefly as a chemist for a food manufacturer. Rumour has it that it was her idea to whip air into the ice cream to increase volume and profits by selling more air and less ice cream.
Sheep's Milk Ice Cream
When I visited Des Crinion's organic farm just outside Slane to make organic sheep's milk ice cream, I had no idea what to expect. The sheep's milk was a really pleasant surprise: creamy and sweet with a hint of toasted hazelnut, perfect for making ice cream. Des can make up a 20-litre batch of any flavour you like – ideal for parties or restaurants who want their own unique ice cream. Visit the farm to pick your own salad greens, stock up on organic eggs and bring a cooler box for the ice cream!
Des Crinion 085 715 1277
Soya Ice Cream
For those who prefer to avoid milk altogether, there are a range of soya-based frozen desserts. You will find good, bad and indifferent versions. Make sure that you choose a dessert that only tastes good, but is also additive free, GM free and has a reasonable amount of sugar. My favourite is Swedish Glace.
Sorbets are a traditional frozen dessert going back centuries. Used to 'cleanse the palate' between courses of a heavy meal with it's cool, fresh flavour and texture. Typically a mixture of sugar syrup and fruit, sorbets are a refreshing summer palate pleaser. Much lower in calories than a creamy dessert, sorbets also give you the chance of enjoying the best of summer fruit.
Frozen Banana Ice Cream
One of the easiest and most delicious frozen desserts is pureéd frozen banana. Peel six ripe bananas, break into chunks and place in freezer bag in the freezer for a few hours until completely frozen. Then blitz the frozen bananas to a smooth consistency in a food processor. You can also add various extras to the banana dessert, good quality cocoa powder, peanut butter a hot chocolate sauce.
Murphy's Ice Cream www.icecreamireland.com
Recipes are from 'Relish BBQ' by Rozanne Stevens, which is available online at www.rozannestevens.com or in most good book shops.