It’s around this time of the year that the debate begins afresh: whether to buy an ice cream maker or not. What’s stirred it up this year is a clip in one of the Sunday supps describing a new product.
It comes from the Heston Blumental stable, makes enough for 12, costs an arm and a leg (so yes, we won’t be going there) but has an amazing USP: it plays an ice-cream-van tune when it’s ready.
Alongside the description is one for a budget version, much more reasonably priced, but where you apparently have to keep going back to check freezing progress.
The heart says yes but the head says no. All this household needs is another gadget…but then we’re also all addicted to ice cream, and sorbets for that matter.
One of my favourite photos is of daughter and Dame V’s eldest son on a family holiday in France. Both are slurping their way through a chocolate ice cream cone, and getting it everywhere such was their enjoyment (they weren’t that old at the time). Daughter’s favourite dress never recovered.
My love affair with ice cream is probably hereditary: my great grandfather opened an ice cream parlour in Chicago in the 1900s and if we’d stayed that side of the Atlantic I have a feeling it might still be going.
As for ice cream’s origins, the jury’ s out. There is a theory that a dish was created in China as far back as 200 B.C. that combined milk and rice, which was then packed in snow to freeze it. Whatever, today’s ice cream is just getting better and better.
Time was when heaven was a trip to Marine Ices in Haverstock Hill back in the ’60s, or later an overdose at Baskin Robins. It mattered not that there was snow on the ground: it’s always the right time for ice cream. And it’s not just a matter of consuming Ben & Jerry’s when the going gets tough. I remember, for example, buying an ice cream cake for Dame Mike’s birthday in his twenties.
There may be also-rans like frozen yogurt, but you know you’re living in the right city when there are sufficient ice cream parlours to merit a top ten in Time Out. There’s Amorino in Soho, Freggo near Picccadilly, Gelupo in Mayfair and La Gelateria in Covent Garden, to name just four.
There’s even been progress in the shop-bought varieties. Where once well-known brands had a tendency to add ingredients that would have made an Italian blush, now they have raised their game. My personal Holy Grail is the quest for a perfect cassis sorbet, which only one manufacturer, Movenpick, seems to offer in the UK. In France you can’t escape it, so why the discrimination over here?
Writing this has prompted me to seek out recipes for a version and lo and behold, that stalwart of vegetarian recipe providers – Rose Elliot – appears to have come up with a goodie. It’s simple, looks the part, and best of all I already have all the ingredients and kit. Maybe I’ll hold off from buying an ice cream maker for another year.