Christmas Pudding Ice Cream

With the best will in the world, no family can eat an entire Christmas Pudding.

Not even when it is one made by my aunt… the world’s best Christmas Pudding maker, ever.

All that love, skill and years of practice to make a lovely pudding …. you need to use it up to the last crumb. And what better way than by making it into the Boxing Day favourite pudding… ice cream.

First, make some custard. You can do it with eggs, as I normally do, or you can do it with custard powder. I have to consider who will be eating the ice cream so it’s custard powder for me this time.

Mr Bird, a Birmingham chemist,  had a wife who was allergic to eggs but adored custard so he invented the world famous Bird’s Custard Powder. It uses cornflour to thicken and is a staple ingredient in most British kitchens. I use it when I can’t make real egg custard – for example for those who are allergic or intolerant and those who may be unwell and it isn’t advised that they eat egg yolks.

It makes a perfectly lovely custard though and generations of people have grown up on it. I still think a real custard is best but needs must and all that.

You combine the powder in a bowl with some sugar – two tablespoons of each.

Then stir in some cold liquid… I am looking for a lovely, rich effect so I am adding cream

… maybe a couple more tablespoons of the cream, stirred in to make a smooth paste.

I like to add vanilla, as I would if I was doing the custard with eggs. You can use a teaspoonful of extract

 Or, if you like the look of vanilla seeds, you can use the paste

In the meantime, I have a pint or so of milk heating on the hob. Once it reaches boiling… well, once it gets those tiny bubbles round the side of the pan that are the warning it is just about to explode into a bubbling, overflowing pan of scalding milk…then you add that to the bowl and stir it smooth

You need to add it slowly and stir it round gently.. a smooth paste at first and then getting thinner and and more custard like.

Once it is smooth, pour it back into the pan and heat through to boiling again. It thickens and becomes…. custard!

You can see how it leaves a trail when you dribble a spoonful over the surface….

All you need to do now is put it into a clean bowl and leave to cool. I do this the night before and leave it in the fridge over night.

That’s handy… because if you you are using an ice cream maker, you need to have the bowl chilling in the freezer. Of course, there are some incredibly fancy machines that have their own freezing unit built in… but why spend hundreds of pounds when an ordinary machine can be had for around £30?

You can do this without a machine as well, you know. You just put the custard mix into a plastic box, clip the lid on and freeze it. You just have to keep opening the box and stirring it round with a fork to stop the ice crystals from turning the custard into a solid block.

My machine is a simple one… you put the bowl in the freezer

and the next day, connect the lid,

with the paddle and the motorised bit,

set it away to whirr and pour the chilled mixture down the hole in the lid…

It whirrs away for maybe ten minutes or so, thickening and freezing.

You can see the change happening. Once it starts to get really thick and look like it is freezing, get your added extras ready.

You break up your cold, left over Christmas pudding and drop bits of it down the hole so it sets into the freezing mix. Don’t do it too soon because you don’t want it to dissolve – you need bits of it running through the mix.

I also like to add little nuggets of brandy butter. They stay whole, too and make a surprising litle burst of soft booziness. I don’t think you are in any danger of getting drunk on it, but leave it out if you think it wouldn’t be suitable.

See how economical you are being? Using up any leftovers like this?

I suppose the fact that I was hiding the brandy butter to make sure there was some for the ice cream is neither here nor there.

Within a minute or so you are ready to serve it up….. I might have poured some brandy cream over it as well….

It was left over, OK? I was trying to use it all up!

But it doesn’t end there…..

What should have been a respectable portion for each of us somehow seemed to be not enough after all.

I admit we were all feeling rather jolly. It was J’s birthday dinner and we did deserve to spoil ourselves.

The freezer bowl was called for and spoons were dug in

In fact, we all dug in.

Sign of a succesful pudding then, don’t you think?

A day at the seaside

I have been away this weekend, back up to the North. While I was there, I went to see my little brother so I could collect some pheasant and we decided to go to the beach and take his son, my four year old nephew.

We live close to the sea and it is only a matter of minutes before we can get down to this faded little seaside town. I love it for its ageing beauty and the beautiful white sands lashed by the ferocious North Sea.

It’s also where the Bear and I used to go for a walk when we first met. That was  romance………

Seaton Carew to Headland

It’s all pretty much deserted at this time of year with only a few hardy souls out in the biting wind

Seaton Carew in December

The North Sea sweeps straight round and down from the frozen wastes of Russia… and you can tell. Your face hurts and your nose goes numb from the biting wind.

I have actually been swimming in the sea in January and once you get over the initial agonising shock it is, in fact, quite exhilarating. Our Granny used to live in this small  town and she swam in the North Sea most days. Tough old thing she was, too. I reckon the ice cold dousing  every day did her the world of good.

She believed in open windows, whatever the weather, and lots of exercise. She was never ill. Mind you she ate nettles and wheat germ, which for a woman born in 1896 made her a real health freak. Forward thinking, I’d think she’d say.

And yes, that does say 1896.

I don’t think we will ever be as fit as her because once we got there we decided that fish and chips would be the perfect treat

Seaton Carew Fish and Chips

 Oh the smell of them… there’s something so lovely about freshly fried chips and beautiful crispy batter round just caught fish…. there’s no way you could make this at home. Not to have it turn out the way a real chip shop can do it.

We opened the back of my brother’s car and perched in the boot, keeping as much out of the wind as we could.

When I broke open the fish, clouds of steam came out. Hot and fresh and doused in salt and vinegar. Now that is a smell that makes me smile!

You have to eat it quickly because REAL fish and chips are fried in dripping and once they go cold the dripping congeals. Not, I have to say that we tend to hang about .

Seaton Carew prom

When we finished, we decided to get my nephew an ice cream…. well, it’s not a trip to the seaside unless there’s ice cream, is it? And even in temperatures well below freezing, with the wind chill factor, small boys will always want ice cream.

Seaton Carew Big Ice

Especially when they see an enormous ice cream in the street…

The ice cream was being sold in a sweet shop… a real. old fashioned type of sweet shop

Seaton Carew sweet shop

And even in December there were bags of luridly coloured candy floss

Sweet shop candy floss

So, with our noses frozen and the little one beaming happily we got the most seasidey kind of ice cream.

Not for us the handmade, carefully crafted, organic, free range and  chef inspired icecream… no, we went for the industrial whipped….

Sam's ice cream

Because sometimes, just sometimes, there’s nothing nicer than recreating childhood pleasures.