Monday, 12 December 2011

Review: Make Your Own Organic Ice-Cream by Ben Vear

A while ago I was given a book to review. Now, I don't like to pass verdict on something until I've tried and tested it thoroughly. Sadly, this particular book was a book of ice-cream recipes, so as a matter of journalistic integrity, it was vital that I ate quite a lot of ice-cream. In the public interest, you understand.

Ben Vear
The book is Make Your Own Organic Ice-Cream by Ben Vear, who is the latest incarnation of Cotswold ice-cream makers Winstones Ices. I grew up within walking distance of Winstones factory, which is in fact a dairy shed on the edge of Minchinhampton Common. I remember going there as a child. In my memories the fields are always gold and the hedges are always green and the sky is always blue. To get there, you walked up a path across the railway line, which until some years previously had been the local halt. (There was still a platform, and sometimes, if you spoke nicely to the guard, when the train stopped at the signal, he'd let you hop out.) If all this sounds too Railway Children, I should point out that you also had to pass Listers Diesels factory, which made boat motors. A factory that made something useful, even in rural Gloucestershire!

Anyway, in the village, there was a shop, run by a lady who was local rolling pin throwing champion. There was a bus into town every 20 minutes, and in town there were half a dozen each of butchers and greengrocers, as well as a haberdashery shop where everything was stocked in gleaming mahogany and brass shelves. People used to grumble because there were too many Building Societies, though.

All these things have gone. Winstones Ice-Cream, however, are still there. Though apparently they have super-dooper new production equipment and make thousands of litres of ice-cream a month. From the outside, it's the same old shed, and most importantly it's still a family business. Ben Vear is the grandson of the lady of who used to sell us cornets on those sunny 70's days. I'm really glad they're still going, and I'm really glad to eat their ice-cream, which is all made with local ingredients. It's the best I know and unlike many premium brands, really reasonably priced.

So when I got asked to review a book of their ice-cream recipes I was quite excited. I was also a bit nervous, because I've never tried making ice-cream before. However some friends of mine have an ice-cream machine so I imposed to their goodwill and attempted to make mint choc chip, which I'd chosen entirely at random.

Now, the book says is that it's fine to make ice-cream in the freezer. I assumed it would be easier in the machine, all the same. First, said friends were a bit horrified when I told them I planned to heat things up, involving eggs and cream. I was a bit horrified to find they had an electric cooker. But we went ahead anyway. Problem no 1 was that we couldn't keep the ice-cream mixture on a very low heat, as instructed. It kept simmering instead, so what we ended up with was very very condensed ice-cream. It tasted ok but it definately wasn't like anything in the recipe.

So I decided to make a second attempt, at home, with the gas cooker, and  freezer. We tried Golden Syrup ice-cream this time, and I have to say, it was perfect. You do have to keep taking it out of the freezer, whipping it, and popping it back in, about once an hour over three hours, so you need to have some time about the house, but the end result tasted fantastic. I will definately have a go again, probably with the brown bread ice-cream recipe, maybe for xmas.

Anyway, there's all kinds of seasonal and unusual flavours included in the book (including Christmas pudding ice-cream) and the recipes are perfectly simple and clear to follow. I wouldn't bother with buying an ice-cream machine, though, as the handmade result was much better. You can buy the book on Amazon or at bookshops. But if you really can't be bothered doing it yourself you could just nip round to Minchinhampton Common and buy some they made earlier.

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