I usually tell people that the best way to make ice-cream if you don’t have an ice-cream machine … is to buy an ice-cream machine. A machine is your best friend when it comes to the somewhat tricky puzzle of how to take liquid ingredients such as milk, cream and eggs, and churn them into a divinely light, smooth and airy emulsion, rather than a sharp block of ice. But needs must, and freezer space is precious: you need room for ice cubes and peas, after all. Ice-cream machines bought as wedding presents often languish in cupboards for years, to be retrieved one day when strawberries, say, are plentiful, only to find that no one has seen the paddle attachment since 2016. Not to mention the question of how to make ice-cream on holiday, when, for once, there are gluts of ripe fruit to use up and the temperature necessitates a cool pudding. I mean, I’ve certainly been know to take my ice-cream machine on holiday with me, but for those who don’t, here are three fail-safe recipes to delight, that really are no-churn.
Sea salt and honey whippy
This was inspired by a recent half-term trip to Ireland, and a conversation I had en route home with Maryann Wright, a fantastic cook and one of the proprietors of Wright’s Food Emporium in Carmarthenshire. When Wright’s first opened, she told me, she made ice-cream without ever using a machine, and explained how the honey in the Italian meringue base meant this ice-cream is always scoopable, even straight from the freezer. I’ve flavoured mine with sea salt, a singular idea taken from the outstanding ice-cream made by Murphy’s of Dingle and very much enjoyed with Kerry strawberries on the same trip.
Prep 5 min
Cook 20 min
Chill 4 hr+
160g caster sugar
3 large egg whites
3g sea salt
450ml whipping cream
Put the honey and 120g of the caster sugar in a small pan – use one that’s about 12cm diameter, because the syrup will evaporate too quickly in anything bigger and may well burn. Add 50ml water (that said, I usually weigh the water for my ices, for precision’s sake, so in this case I’d use 50g) and turn on the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, put a candy thermometer or similar in the syrup, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until it hits 120C.
Meanwhile, using a hand whisk or stand mixer, vigorously whip the egg whites and salt to firm peaks. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 40g sugar, whisking constantly, until the mix goes shiny and glossy.
Pour the 120C syrup into the egg whites in a steady stream, whisking as you go, then keep whisking until the meringue cools.
In the meantime, whip the cream in a large bowl until it goes soft and thick – take care not to overwhip, because softly whipped cream is much easier to fold into the egg whites.
Fold the whipped cream into the meringue mix in three stages (I always use a silicone spatula to do this, but use a large metal spoon if you prefer). Once everything is well combined, pour the mixture into a 1½-litre container for which you have a lid, and freeze hard for at least four hours. This ice-cream is good to scoop straight from the freezer, so there’s no need to take it out to soften first. Any leftovers will keep, covered, in the freezer for at least two weeks.
Espresso and almond granita
In Puglia during summer time, everywhere from beach bars to bus stations will serve you the Leccese speciality caffè in ghiaccio for about €1: rich, bitter espresso dripped over ice cubes and sweetened with sciroppo latte di mandorla (almond syrup). It’s refreshing and addictive, and almost stupidly easy to reshape into a slushy granita. Whipped cream piled on top and a brioche on the side is always a good option.
Prep 5 min
Chill 2 hr+
500ml freshly brewed espresso, or strong black coffee
175ml almond syrup
Pour the hot coffee (or weigh out 500g) and syrup into a shallow metal tray, stir to combine, then leave to cool to room temperature. Put the tray in the freezer (make sure it’s on a flat surface, so it doesn’t spill), and leave for an hour and a half.
When the time is up, check the granita: it should have started to freeze around the edges. Use a fork to break up the frozen bits and stir them back into the centre of the granita mix. Return to the freezer, and repeat every 45 minutes or so, raking the granita with the fork so it doesn’t freeze into a solid block: the aim is to get it to an even slush.
After the granita has had two or three hours in the freezer, it should look like a heap of melting snow. Serve it in chilled glasses, perhaps topped with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.
Any leftover granita will keep, covered, in the freezer for up to three days. To serve, remove and leave to melt slightly, then scratch again with a fork to break up any large lumps.
Raspberry and fig leaf spumone
The English name for this style of ice is spoom, which doesn’t have the same ring to it as its derivation, the Italian spuma, meaning froth or foam. It is, however, as delicious as any of Italy’s finest gelati, as well as light and seemingly creamy, despite being entirely free of dairy. You can get away with making it with minimal equipment, and the raspberries can be swapped for the same weight of any other fruit that’s either ripe enough or cooked gently enough to be squashed through a sieve. Fig leaves go beautifully with raspberries, bringing a warm, dusky hint of something interesting, but it’s still very good without. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a mulberry tree, replace the raspberries with an equal amount of mulberries and the fig leaf with three mulberry leaves.
Prep 5 min
Infuse 10 min
Cook 5 min
Chill 4 hr+
160g golden granulated sugar
1 large fig leaf – optional
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 large egg whites
70g caster sugar
Put the granulated sugar in a small pan with 160ml (or 160g) water and heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mix comes to a simmer, then take off the heat.
Roll up the fig leaf, shred it into tagliatelle-like strips, then add these to the hot syrup and leave to steep for 10 minutes.
Pour the syrup through a sieve, pressing the shredded fig leaf to extract as much flavour as possible, then return the liquid to the pan and stir in the raspberries. Cook on a gentle heat for two or three minutes, until the fruit collapses, then take off the heat and leave to cool.
Tip the berry mixture into a blender, add the lemon juice and blitz smooth. Pass the mix through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing down on the raspberry seeds to extract as much fruit puree as possible, then discard the seeds. Cover the puree and chill.
Meanwhile, in a large, clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually sprinkle in the caster sugar, whisking constantly as you go, until the sugar dissolves and you are left with a glossy meringue – this will take about five minutes.
Fold the meringue into the puree, making sure it’s completely incorporated, then transfer to a one-litre-capacity freezer container with a lid and freeze hard for at least four hours.
About 15 minutes before you want to eat, remove from the freezer and put in the fridge, to soften. Any leftover ice-cream will keep well in the freezer for up to two weeks.
Kitty Travers is owner of La Grotta Ices in London, and author of La Grotta Ices, published by Vintage at £19.99. To order a copy for £18.19, go to guardianbookshop.com