Ice-cream is one of the joys of a British summer – and, says Cookie Bellair, it’s not as hard to make the true, delicate, flavoursome stuff as you might imagine
The West London home of ice-cream gurus Robin and Caroline Weir is an Aladdin’s cave filled with all things related to ices. The walls exhibit beautiful early prints depicting the first Neapolitan sellers; curiously-shaped moulds and serving implements catch the eye and spark the imagination; and the piece de resistance is a mid-20th century ice-cream counter around which their kitchen is built.
Robin’s passion stems from an early experience buying ice cream for his children. He was so appalled at the ingredient list that he tipped it down the drain. He then set out, with kids in tow, to buy a machine and ingredients to make some themselves. He found the result much simpler and better than anything that could be bought. He was hooked.
Robin can go into the chemistry of things in great detail, but he is also at pains to stress how easy it is to make ices. As there are so few ingredients, they overwhelmingly affect the end result. Robin is emphatic that using unrefined sugar gives a much better taste. As to cream, the Weirs use whipping cream. It has the right fat levels to make a smooth, but not overly rich, end product. And if you can’t find whipping cream you can make it up yourself, by using three parts double cream to one part whole milk. A useful tip for when your corner shop lets you down.
It is important to taste your mixture before freezing. Robin says it needs to be ‘on the limit’, almost too rich and sweet, as once frozen the flavour will be flattened. Nowadays we have many more options for freezing the mixture than the early machines that used ice and salt.