Sunday 26 March 2017

Pistachio ice cream

Pistachio ice cream with crystallised pistachios and a chocolate tuile.

Of all the regular ice cream flavours, pistachio is my favourite. Odd then that I'd never thought of making it myself. Although perhaps the cost of the raw ingredient was off putting. This is doubtless the most expensive of the regular gelato flavours. It's easily ten times the cost of my Valrhona chocolate ice cream.

The inspiration came from my neighbour Michael over a feedback session. By 'feedback session' I mean those evenings where - wine in hand, possibly as a drink, possibly as a weapon - I insist on a full and frank set of opinions on whatever new food I have fed friends.  It's possibly one of my most endearing traits. On this occasion it was a rhubarb dessert that I'd served with Crème fraîche sorbet. Michael thought it would benefit from some pistachios crumbled over it. He was very right. I ambled off down pistachio alley to find an entirely new dish: rhubarb galette with crystallised pistachios and pistachio ice cream. I'll recipe this up soon.

Roast rhubarb galette with crystallised pistachios, rhubarb and rose syrup and pistachio ice cream.

As with almost all my ice creams, this is a version of my custard base recipe. The bad news is you can only make pistachio ice cream using pistachios. Why do these nuts cost so much? I thought cheap stuff was meant to 'grow on trees'. Yeah. So, you will need to buy some pistachio paste. This was the first one I found and - to the consternation of my anti globalisation readers - is delivered by Amazon. I could not find it in any local shop or supermarket. It's about £9 for a 190g jar. Be careful though. This was my second purchase, I first ordered the almost identically labelled pistachio pesto. Although in retrospect, seeing that the pesto is entirely nuts with some salt; critically NO parmesan, I might try that too. Seriously. I add salt anyway to most of my ice cream recipes. It's a Heston gig.

You could try making your own paste but that means buying raw pistachio kernels which are also very expensive and making nut butters is a fraught, blender-burning experience. I know from my hazelnut endeavours that making a perfectly smooth nut paste is very hard work that results in wasteful sieve-fulls of bits. Tolerable when using 'cheap' nuts but... these are pistachios, the uranium of the Fagaceae family.

This has a better flavour than the commercially available ice creams I've had. I suspect they use a cheaper flavouring that has never seen a nut tree. This ice cream has nuance. It tastes of the nut. It's also not as sweet. You won't get the near luminous, Halloween green colouring - more of a 1970s German army olive drab - but I think we can all agree that's a good thing. I've never yet had a pistachio that I could read a book by.

The problem with the paste is it includes sugar; it's ferociously sweet. I had to compensate by reducing the sugar in the custard. I have since found pastes with no sugar and will update the blog when I use it. The new paste costs £14 for the same small 190g jar. I won't be making it very often.

Pistachio ice cream
Serves 16 as a dessert accompaniment (see above) or 8 as a dessert or one sad person bent on an evening of woeful self reflection.

Make a custard (technique here) using 350ml full fat milk, 140 caster sugar, 6 egg yolks and 250g of mascarpone (replacing) the double cream and a pinch of salt. Stir the pistachio paste into the mix. Churn the chilled mix in whichever machine you use.

You could, of course, halve the amounts but then you'll have half a jar of absurdly expensive paste left.

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