Jelly and Ice Cream

When she first arrived on these shores, nineteen and newlywed – a green eyed slip of a girl, shivering in her unfamiliar winter coat and grappling with the lingo; my mother struggled with a number of elements. One of the toughest aspects of her new life was trying to recreate traditional dishes minus so many of the familiar ingredients she’d grown up casually plucking from the trees and plants in her village. Back in the days when curry came in Fray Bentos tins and garlic was still considered to be a foreign ingredient, creating the most basic Bengali supper or teatime snack was more often than not an exercise in creative improvisation. Relatives returning from trips to the motherland would be excitedly mobbed, their suitcases bulging with delicious secrets. Chinese dates (boroi), dried fish (shutki), jaggery (toffee like boulders of unrefined palm sugar), jolpai (Bengal olives), jackfruit seeds and other precious edibles were meticulously divvied up. For these much coveted goodies simply weren’t available for love nor indeed, for any sort of currency.

How times have changed.

I know the trains are rubbish and the air is filthy, but one of the best things about living in the smoke right now is the astonishing amount and variety of ethnic treats you can lay your greedy mitts on, if you’re so inclined. A brief jaunt around Chinatown the other day resulted in the following haul:

Almond Tea –You add hot water to these luscious sachets of gingko nuts, fungus, yam and almond powder, and the results are pure molten marzipan.

 

Dried anchovies and peanuts  – these pocket sized snackettes are pretty moreish. Speckled with chilli and spring onion, the anchovies are both salty and caramelised to addictive effect – which might sound a bit wrong, but tastes oh so right.

 

Umeshu- super fruity and podgy with booze-saturated umeboshi plums that loll around at the base of the bottle. An icy drop of this stuff can slip down with dangerous ease.


Despite having access to grub from practically every crevice of the globe, it seems there are still some foodstuffs that require a bit of the old suitcase smuggling. One of the few things I haven’t been able to track down anywhere has been the elusive, lesser spotted tiger nut.

The Ancient Egyptians ranked tiger nuts amongst their oldest cultivated plants, having discovered them some 4000 years ago, before introducing them to the Spanish. Apparently, they used to make cakes with them. On a recent trip to Valencia I raided the local supermarket for a hessian bagful of “chufas”, after acquiring a taste for the cool, sweetened nut-milk they sell on street corners. Back in East London I decided to celebrate the arrival of summer with some horchata ice cream and plum wine jelly. However, most of the recipes I came across seemed to be made with the Mexican version of rice and almonds, rather than the sweet, nutty tubers, so I decided to experiment by soaking and grinding the tiger nuts, before adding them to a classic custard base. This is definitely one of those start-a-day-or-two-before-you-want-to-eat-it type recipes, but is absolutely worth this piffling hassle. Rich with cream and custard and with a subtle nutty chord woven throughout, this makes quite a sophisticated little ice. It works particularly well with the fruity joy that is plum wine jelly – all in all the perfect way to rip off that dingy shroud of winter and bask it up in the intermittent sunshine (cool shades and VW Beetle are optional).

 

For the ice cream

ingredients

130g soaked tiger nuts (I soaked mine for a good 24 rather than the instructed 8 hours)

150ml water

3 egg yolks

1 small cinnamon stick

200ml whole milk

200ml double cream, whipped

60g vanilla sugar

½ vanilla pod

Method

  • about 8 hours before you want to start, grind the nuts and water in a blender to a smooth paste. Leave in the fridge for 8 hours to macerate.
  • Toast a small cinnamon stick in a dry, hot pan.
  • Add the milk, sugar and vanilla pod and heat very gently (you don’t want too much sugar as the tiger nuts are already quite sweet).
  • Just as it’s on the brink of boiling, fish out the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod.
  • Beat the yolks and pour the hot, sweet, milk over, whisking continuously.
  • Return this to the saucepan and gently heat until viscous. Once thickened, allow to cool.
  • Stir in the cream and the ground, macerated tiger nuts.
  • Freeze in an ice cream maker (or in a plastic tub in the freezer, stirring every 30 minutes or so to avoid a congestion of ice crystals).


For the jelly

Ingredients

Mixed berries (I used strawberries, blueberries and blackberries)

200 ml plum wine

100 ml water

Juice of half a lime

One sachet of gelatine

Method

  • Heat the wine and the water in a small pan. Add the lime juice to taste.
  • Arrange the fruit in jelly moulds, or glasses.
  • Just before simmering point, stir the gelatine into the wine mixture, remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before pouring over the fruit.
  • Leave to set in the fridge.
would be excitedly mobbed,
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26 comments

  1. No denying that London is a food treasure trove! Just about the only thing I do really miss about it, mind…

    Lovely post as ever. Wish I could recreate the jelly and ice cream, but tiger nuts are elusive around here. Cobnuts however…

    • gastrogeek

      Thank you! Yes, it’s definitely a redeeming factor, and almost makes up for being repeatedly squished onto the carriage during rush hour (almost). Will see if we can’t get a certain someone to sort you out with a stash – “taps nose” ;-)

  2. The almond tea sounds delicious too, but OMG the icecream seems amazing!

    (Btw, my English blog: thefoodarchive.wordpress.com the one in my avatar is the Swedish one)

    • gastrogeek

      cheers lovely. And hahahaha that’s so funny! I did wonder. Although I’ve really enjoyed trying to guess what you’ve written!! ;-)

  3. David44

    Fantastic idea – I love horchatta. I bet this was yummy.

  4. Now hungry. And craving that almond tea!

  5. Catherine Phipps

    Fabulous! Can you remember where you got the almond tea? I want!!

    • gastrogeek

      cheers! I think it might have been SeeWoo on Lisle Street…I can send you some in the post too if you fancy trying a cuppa first?

      • Catherine Phipps

        No, I wouldn’t put you to the trouble, but thanks for the offer. I’ll track some down next time I’m there. x

      • gastrogeek

        oh, it’s no bother at all, just let me know if you don’t have any joy- would love to hear what you think of the stuff x

  6. In December, drinking horchata, I’d look psychotic in a balaclava…….totally irrelevant comment but always like to fit in a song lyric when I can.

    Very interesting sounding jelly and ice cream Rej but a lot of hanging around, no good for braying children

    • gastrogeek

      Thanks FU, it’s always nice to have a bit of a sing song – I’d say this was definitely one for the grown ups (especially the boozy jelly)!

  7. Of course, of course, the plum wine….may I just add that I am a responsible parent and would never ever give my children alcohol……unless it was say 3 in the morning and really needed to sleep.

    • gastrogeek

      Gin in the milk bottle, “Special K” in the cereal -oooh I know your sort… Am calling social services right now Mr Urchin!

  8. Amazing post! Reminds me of my mums own exploits to make Indian dishes at home, having come over here in 1970, and then ending up living small-town life in the Midlands.

    On another note, I adore the Valencian style of Horchata, and whiled away a good few breakfasts sat drinking as much as possible when I was over there a few weeks ago. The idea of horchata ice cream sounds fab!

    • gastrogeek

      Thanks Sharmila – sounds like we have a lot in common…! Would love to hear about your Valencian adventures and definitely more about how your mum got on back then – does she sometimes feel a bit between cultures? I know mine feels as though she’s not entirely at home back in Bangladesh anymore (she misses her M&S and fish and chips) and yet she’s aware that she’s not exactly 100% westernised either. I think it’s all so much easier for us 2nd generation-ers in a lot of ways, isn’t it?

  9. Wowzers – that ice cream certainly worth the effort (including a trip to Valencia!) Beautiful post x

  10. i love the description of your mother in this post, beautiful writing. x shayma

  11. gastrogeek

    thanks Shayma, that’s such a lovely thing to say X

  12. I love your writing in this post – and that almond tea sounds very intriguing, have never seen it before. And plum wine… is dangerous.

  13. Defnitely one of the aspects of London I love the most! Really interesting recipe, sounds delicious.

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