The idea of this ice cream started out as a short phrase in Nigel Slater‘s amazing cookbook, Appetite, in which he suggests, ever so briefly, while describing cardamom pods that “they make the most mysteriously scented ice cream, especially when you add a little rosewater”.
Anyone acquainted with Nigel Slater (if you aren’t, you must rectify that immediately) knows that his recipes are glorious, but you’d be missing something very special if you fail to see the additional multitude of recipes he quickly sketches throughout his chapters on ingredients, equipment and seasonal eating. A cursory flip through Appetite may make you think that the recipes begin on page 158, but there is so much more going on.
Let me put it to you this way: Years ago, when I had just purchased this book and stopped at a nearby cafe to start reading it, a friendly, handsome guy tried to chat me up and I basically told him to eff off. Not because I am married, because flirting doesn’t stop when you’re married, I just told him to leave me alone because I was reading the best cookbook I’d ever read in my life and he was interrupting me. I was reading Nigel’s essay on SALT and it was a revelation. I can only imagine that the dude quickly realized he’d had a close call with a crazy woman and left me alone after that.
Anyways, I digress. Appetite is full of great little suggestions and this ice cream is one of them. I love serving it and making people guess what exactly they’re tasting.
I’ve adapted the Vanilla Bean ice cream recipe that came with my ice cream maker for this, and it’s actually less expensive to make cardamom ice cream than vanilla bean ice cream. I never seem to have any vanilla beans on hand, while I always have a good supply of cardamom pods. I found rosewater fairly easily at a health food store, but you could leave it out without sacrificing much flavour.
1½ cups homogenized milk (whole milk)
1½ cups whipping cream (heavy cream)
The seeds from two cardamom pods, crushed in a mortar and pestle
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon rosewater
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Heat the milk and cream in a medium saucepan and toss in the crushed cardamom. As the milk/cream mixture heats to a slow boil on medium heat, the cardamom will infuse the liquid. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally.
Mix the eggs, egg yolks and sugar with a stand mixer or hand mixer until the mixture is creamy, thick and pale yellow in colour.
Slowly add one cup of the hot milk to the egg mixture while mixer is on a low speed, then pour the combined mixture into the saucepan containing the rest of the hot milk and cook on low to medium heat, stirring constantly – you’re making custard at this point so make sure you’re comfortable and don’t have anything else on the go. At this point you’ll have to use you own custard making prowess but you’re done when the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon. I don’t have any words of encouragement for you if it curdles or any first hand experience of bringing something curdled back. It happened to me once and I cursed and we didn’t have ice cream for dessert that night. I usually avoid the unpleasantness by having the heat a bit lower – it takes longer but it’s safer than getting impatient and turning the heat up.
Once the custard is done, mix in the rosewater and vanilla, (taste it and add a smidge more of either if you like), pour into a glass bowl or pitcher, making sure to cover the surface of the custard with cling film and chill for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. When it’s chilled, follow your ice cream maker’s instructions, and then finish off the task by freezing it solid for a few hours. I store my ice cream in old 750 gram yogurt containers.
An interesting aside – I don’t actually make that much ice cream in the summer due to the amount of time I must spend over a hot stove to make the custard, so this is more of a “winter” ice cream for me. And, although there are other cardamom ice cream recipes out there (tip: google both cardamom and cardomom [sic] ice cream), this one is on the subtle side – simply add more cardamom if you want something less “mysterious”.
And I usually serve this ice cream with Nigel Slater’s Sea Salt Chocolate Snaps.