Our first savoury ices: Tomato Ice Cream & White Stilton Ice Cream
For some considerable time we have been discussing the possibilities of savoury ice creams. While I know this concept may strike fear into the hearts of many, especially those long devoted to the Russell Recipe, the White Mountain’s reign of glory must eventually encompass all courses of a meal.
So finally we have turned our debates about freezing points, sugars, salts, and alcohols into action. Big D came up to Edinburgh for the weekend insisting we finally try the Frozen Stilton Cheese Cream recipe from the Ices book. This is the weekend of savoury ice cream.
White Stilton Ice Cream
This is apparently a classic Victorian recipe that was hugely popular among cheese lovers over a hundred years ago. It sounded like an easy and tasty way to make our first step into savoury ice cream.
The recipe called for Stilton Cheese but did not specify White or Blue. I wanted to use Blue Stilton but Big D was insistent that we should use the milder White Stilton. We searched the city’s usual stockists of quality cheeses and were disappointed not to find White Stilton. In the end we ventured into the bright lights of the local supermarket who indeed had a firm White Stilton.
Our ingredients for the half-gallon White Mountain were as follows:
- 780ml of milk
- 2 cloves
- 312g of White Stilton Cheese
- 5 Tbsp of Dry White Port
- 500g of Fromage Frais
- Salt and Pepper
- Freshly ground nutmeg
To begin, we slowly heated the milk and cloves to near-boiling. We chopped up the Stilton and stirred into the milk mixture in an effort to melt it into a smooth consistency. This proved more difficult than we had hoped.
The cheese always stayed a bit lumpy but vigorous whisking managed to reduce it to relatively small grains. After taking it off the heat, I whisked for about a minute until it felt a bit smoother.
Then we added the White Port and mixed it in.
Finally, we chilled the cheese mixture. Once it was cold, we mixed in the fromage frais. At this point it took on the consistency and taste of some really milky cottage cheese.
Still unsatisfied with the lumpiness we forced it through a fine grain sieve.
It was tasting pretty cheesy by the end but we decided to season with salt and pepper. Then at the last minute Big D had the brilliant idea to add some nutmeg, which I think really made the ice cream come into its own.
For some reason (maybe the lack of sugar) this was the fastest freezing ice cream batch we’ve ever made. It was ready in less than 10 minutes of cranking!
Tomato Ice Cream
We debated for a while about the right flavour to accompany the Cheese Ice Cream and decided to try another savoury ice cream recipe from the Ices book. Tomatoes and Cheese are a classic accompaniment and seemed like a fairly safe combination. The Tomato Ice Cream (another half-gallon) included:
- 900g of ripe tomatoes (chopped into quarters)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 Tbsp of tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp of sugar
- freshly ground black pepper
- 170 ml of cream
For the Mayonnaise:
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbsp of lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp of dijon mustard
- 500 ml of sunflower oil
- salt and pepper
Cook the tomatoes, garlic and bay leaves together over a low heat. Cover the pan and stir frequently until you have a soft pulp.
Push the tomatoes through a sieve and then stir in the tomato paste and sugar. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Chill the tomato sauce in the fridge and start making the mayonnaise.
Beat the two eggs in a mixing bowl and whisk in the lemon juice.
Then whisk constantly as you slowly pour in the sunflower oil. It’s important to just dribble in a little at a time. It will slowly become more like mayonnaise and develop an emulsion. Finally add the mustard and salt and freshly ground black pepper. Chill the mayonnaise in the fridge as well.
Once the tomatoes and mayonnaise are cool, you can light whip the cream and then you just need to combine all the ingredients. We actually found we didn’t need all the mayonnaise (which was a relief!) so just combine the tomatoes and cream and then add enough mayonnaise to reach the approximate 1.6 litres you need for the half-gallon White Mountain.
If I’m ever looking for a quick way to lose all the friends I’ve made through ice cream, I think I now know how to do it… We were invited to a friend’s dinner party and we promised to bring ice cream. This of course built some excitement among the guests about our legendary frozen desserts. Little did they know we were bringing the starter…
So we arrived at Florian’s house and hid our ice creams in his freezer. As we had pre-dinner drinks we heard friends telling newcomers about how great our ice creams are. We wanted to surprise people but did attempt to dampen the excitement a bit by ensuring people knew the ice cream would be the first course.
We chose to serve the two ice creams with a basil leaf on an oatcake canapÃ© case. The tomato-mayo ice cream had an odd flavour and we didn’t think it could stand alone. The cheese ice cream was also not quite what we were aiming for, though it was much more palatable. Still, we found that combining the two flavours with a bit of basil made a rather enjoyable mouthful. Each oatcake was topped by a basil leaf, then a scoop each of the tomato and cheese ice creams, then finished with black pepper and balsamic vinegar.
The visual presentation was certainly something and our guests responded reasonably well to the unusual starter. I was quite happy with the result, but we both knew that these two ice creams are only the first step towards something much greater. Perhaps these recipes worked for Caroline Liddell and Robin Weir, but we have other plans. (stay tuned…)
I think this marks a significant turning point in our ice-cream adventures. Taking on the challenge of savoury ice-cream has required us to engage with the concept of low temperature food in a more committed and profound way. I think it has something to do with the lack of sugar, which even in a pretty mediocre sweet ice-cream goes some way to compensate for any failings in the flavour, one way or another you meet peoples expectations of a dessert. But with savoury ice-cream you have to overcome the natural reticence people have towards a dessert modality in a main course. In short it can’t just be ok, it has to be damn good or people are gonna baulk.
In many ways I think that’s why this first attempt wasn’t a raging success. The ice-creams were quite cold tasting and I think we put a bit too much in each canape case. Consequently people tried to lick them rather than just eat them whole. I think this was a turn off for many people because (as Peter mentioned) the tomato ice-cream was really only appetizing when eaten in the same mouthful as the cheese ice-cream.
I think the 2 main lessons for me from all this were:
1. Don’t make ice-cream from mayo.
2. Serve savoury ice-cream in bite-size portions.
Three words for you Peter…SHIP IT HERE!!!!!
Im so impressed, your a breath of fresh air
Perhaps the tomato recipe was too complex… leave out the garlic,bay leaves,tomato paste and mayonnaise. Reduce the tomatoes more, and more slowly – honey or sugar won’t hurt it – and a touch of vodka would…
Very interested in your trial. Sticking to the basic flavour seems the trick – had a red cabbage ice cream in France recently which was to die for! I’me experimenting with jerusalem artichoke and nutmeg to have with scallops (ice cream in shot glasses) for my husbands 70th birthday party – hello!
Wow, Ali. That sounds like an amazing combination. Please let us know how it turns out!
I’d try the same quantity of toms, quartered and then sprinkled with 1 Tbs white sugar, 1 Tbs fine salt. Hang this in a tea towel over a bowl in the fridge or a cool place overnight. The salt/sugar will draw out the juice AND intensify it. Then roast the same quantity of toms with a quartered red onion, blitz it, add the tomato liquor and cool. Whisk with some double cream (this is like cream of tom soup) and do a basil oil ‘ripple’