For this month’s Random Recipe challenge hosted as usual by Dom at Belleau Kitchen I’m going back to the 1980s for a dessert that’s strictly for grown-ups. It’s a remarkably simple and quick ice cream that doesn’t need an ice cream machine and that stays soft enough to be eaten straight from the freezer.
From one of my less-used shelves I randomly picked a slim volume called ‘The London Restaurant Recipe Book’ published in 1983, which features a number of the best-known restaurants of that time. It’s like a window onto a lost age. Alistair Little was still at 192, Stephen Bull was at Lichfield’s, Pierre Koffman was at La Tante Claire and David Bowie had just released ‘Let’s Dance’. French fine cuisine was still the predominant style, although I rather doubt the Frenchness of some of the recipes in this book.
The random page took me to recipes by Patrick Gwynn-Jones of Pomegranates. Mr Gwynn-Jones opened this basement restaurant in Pimlico back in 1974 and it finally closed its doors for good in 2009 shortly after he retired. In all that time the menu remained varied and eclectic but the 1970s décor was never updated. It was said to be the haunt of celebrities and politicians and was reputed to be the ideal place for a discreet assignation. I really can’t vouch for that – I've always been a good boy.
The recipe on the random page is one for ‘Honey and Cognac Ice Cream’. I have to admit that I couldn’t quite afford a good cognac and so that’s why I've called it ‘Honey and Brandy Ice Cream’. I've no reason to doubt that this dish originated in the Pimlico kitchen (essentially it’s a simplified iced parfait recipe) but, in one form or another, it became something of a 1980s classic. It seemed to turn up in many, many different restaurants. For instance, Franco Taruschio made something akin to it at The Walnut Tree and Gary Rhodes used whisky to make a similar dessert. But, although I'd eaten it, I’d never made it, so I think that’s OK for the rules of Random Recipe. I confess to reducing the quantity and adjusting the ratio of ingredients a little, simply because the recipe seemed to work better for me that way.
This ice cream is very reminiscent of the 1980s in some ways – indulgent, slightly over the top and very boozy. It’s truly delicious and even those who don’t like brandy often seem to love it. But, a bit like a 12 inch single by The Human League, I wouldn’t advise too much of it in one go. This amount should serve eight comfortably unless you have a truly 1980s appetite. The recipe is also open to many variations – I have very fond memories of a heather honey and lowland malt whisky version many years ago.
3 eggs, separated
120 g icing sugar
80 ml brandy
130 ml honey
230 ml double cream
Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Gradually add the icing sugar while continuing to whisk until the mixture is very stiff and glossy.
Beat the egg yolks until pale and thickened. Whisk in the brandy and honey. (Make sure that the honey isn’t too cold or this could prove a little tricky).
Whip the cream lightly until it stands in soft peaks. Mix the whites, yolks and cream together, lightly but thoroughly.
Pour into a container, seal and place in the freezer. The original recipe recommends removing the ice cream from the freezer after 2 or 3 hours and remixing it. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it does ensure that the mixture remains even as it freezes and avoids any danger of the cream separating into lumps.
Mr Gwynn-Jones suggests serving this with Langue de Chat and I certainly can’t argue with that. On the other hand, I’d gladly eat it straight out of the freezer container, with or without a spoon.