While making a cheese spread (goat’s cheese and goat’s yogurt, honey and thyme) for some sourdough toast the other day, it crossed my mind that the softly herbal, deliciously lactic flavour might work as an ice cream. A frozen cheese and herb ice for a hot summer’s day, not to stuff into a cornet, but to spread on toast, to eat with slices of air-dried ham, or to sit at the side of a tomato and basil salad.
I wanted to sweeten the ice, partly as this helps to improve the texture. Sugar seemed inappropriate. Honey, on the other hand, stood out as a natural candidate. A trickle of liquid honey makes a fine addition to a soft, bloomy goat’s cheese – particularly those with a hint of thyme or rosemary to them. So honey it was, a little being first warmed with thyme leaves then folded into the goat’s yogurt with the crumbled cheese. I could, to be honest, have added more, but the plan was always to use the ice cream to spread on bread and eat with a slice of ham, so I used just enough to balance the sourness and to give a backnote of honey. No machine necessary for this, by the way.
Talking of sourness, rhubarb is abundant in the shops at the moment, and deserves a life beyond crumble. I use it mostly in conjunction with custard, either as stewed fruit, in a trifle or a posset, or in a tart filled with pastry cream. Today it was rhubarb and custard’s turn in the ice-cream machine. The point of rhubarb, at least for me, is its bracing sourness, and that can be lost among the sugar and cream of an ice. I got round this by reserving some of the juice, and pouring it over the ice cream as we ate.
Rhubarb ice cream
For the custard:
single cream 500ml
vanilla extract 1 tsp
egg 5 yolks
caster sugar 4 tbsp
For the rhubarb:
caster sugar 75g
Make the custard first. Pour the cream into a medium-sized nonstick saucepan, then add the vanilla extract and bring to the boil. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy, then pour over the hot milk and stir to mix. Wipe the saucepan clean, place it over a low to moderate heat and pour in the sugar, egg and cream mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon, letting the mixture heat through, but stay just short of coming to a boil. (If it boils, the custard will curdle.) As the mixture thickens, stir almost continuously until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.
Reduce the temperature of the custard quickly, by pouring it into a chilled bowl, beating quickly to let the steam escape. Leave the custard to cool, then chill it in the fridge.
To cook the rhubarb, cut it into short lengths (about the size of a wine cork), then pack them into a medium-sized saucepan. Scatter over the caster sugar, pour in the water and bring it to the boil. Lower the heat, partially cover the pan with a lid, then leave the rhubarb to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until it is tender and soft.
Pour the rhubarb syrup from the pan into a bowl or jug and set it aside. Process the rhubarb to a thick purée – either in a food processor or a blender. Chill the juice and the purée.
Stir the chilled custard and purée together, pour it into the bowl of an ice-cream machine and leave to churn. If you are not using a machine, then pour the mixture into a chilled freezer box and freeze for a couple of hours. Stir the frozen edges into the liquid middle and return to the freezer every hour. It should take about 4 hours to freeze.
To serve, place spoonfuls or balls of ice cream into bowls then spoon over the chilled rhubarb syrup.
Goat’s cheese ice cream
This ice is made especially to be eaten with thin slices of charcuterie. Use a crumbly goat’s cheese that doesn’t have a rind.
liquid honey 6 tbsp
thyme leaves 1½ tsp
goat’s cheese 150g
goat’s milk yogurt 500ml
air-dried ham 12 thin slices
Pour the honey into a small saucepan. Roughly chop the thyme leaves – it will help to release their essential oils – then stir them into the honey and bring it to the boil. As soon as the honey bubbles, turn off the heat and leave it to cool for 15 minutes.
Roughly crumble the goat’s cheese into small pieces then add them to the yogurt. Scrape the cooled honey and thyme mixture into the yogurt and cheese and fold gently together.
Transfer the mixture to a small freezer box then place it in the freezer and leave for an hour. Remove from the freezer, stir the mixture to bring the semi-frozen edges into the middle then return to the freezer. Repeat this freezing and stirring process several times over the next 4 or 5 hours until the ice cream is at serving consistency. It will keep in the freezer for a day or two.
Take it out 20 minutes or so before you intend to serve it and transfer to the fridge.
To serve, divide the ice cream between four small bowls and serve with the slices of ham and some toasted bread.