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Red and yellow tomato granitas, pea sorbet, saffron ice cream, and faloodeh (photo by the author)


Everyone has food quests. One of mine is making ice cream, particularly at this time of year, and it gets more positive reinforcement than, say, the quest to find Clamato (an American brand of tomato juice mixed with clam broth) in the UK (turns out you can get it on Ocado), or to reverse-engineer the Bath Oliver (in case of a Marmitegate-style supply problem). Sometimes the power of ice cream overrides rational thought: flipping through food-art book Experimental Eating (Black Dog, £16.95), I saw the artist duo PUTPUT’s piece “Popsicles”, and felt a powerful, instinctive desire to consume it. It took a few moments (or more accurately the third flip through the book) for me to realise the popsicles were dish sponges on sticks, photographed with the aesthetics and attention of an advertising shoot.

It’s fun to play with expectations in ice cream, though I advise you do it in a more obviously edible way.  Agnes Marshall, the First Lady of Victorian ice cream making, has a coffee cream ice in her book (reprinted, most recently, as Ices and Ice Creams, Square Peg, £9.99): whole coffee beans are simmered in cream or milk, making a coffee ice that’s almost white. Blackcurrant leaves infused in sugar syrup make a base for a blackcurrant-ish sorbet that is paradoxically green. Milk and cream absorb flavours well: try infusing rosemary or bay leaves into custard instead of vanilla. Or cornflakes into milk (the basis for the Momofuku restaurant’s signature “cereal milk” ice cream).

And then there are savoury ices. I’ve never tried to make the famous bacon-and-egg ice cream but tomato ice cream, pea sorbet (cook and purée peas, push them through a sieve, dilute with sugar syrup), and Stilton ice cream (mostly Stilton and fromage frais, from Robin and Caroline Weir’s Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelati, Grub Street, £25) have all been successful. The tomato  works just as well in a granita or sorbet: a good basic concept is just to roughly chop some tomatoes, dress them a little bit with salt, pepper, sugar, a tiny bit of vinegar, and olive oil, leave overnight to macerate, then push the mixture through a sieve. The resulting purée seems to do just fine whether churned in an ice cream machine into sorbet or frozen into a granita. (In either case I would put a squeezy plastic bottle of vodka in the freezer too, for a drizzle while serving.) This ice is light, sweet-and-sour, extraordinarily refreshing. One of the limitations of savoury ices is that some sugar is always needed to make them freeze properly; one of the nice things is ending up with clean-tasting ices which are not very sweet. The Victorians were certainly more open to savoury ices than we are: Mrs Marshall has a cucumber cream ice in her book, as well as “iced spinach à la crème”, and a sort of frozen curry mousse, “souffle of curry à la Ripon”. These last two sound too over the top to work even as show-offy palate-cleansing entremets.

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