My friend Monica and I riffed off each other when it came to deciding on this ice cream. We were gathered at her home, Orchard Cottage, for a weekend of relaxing, cooking and eating together; four friends who met this summer enjoying a reunion.
I’d taken along a large kilner jar of my candied whole clementines and the plan was to create an ice cream to go with them for dessert. I also had a theme in mind of spices. Monica suggested we look through her copy of David Lebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop for inspiration. I flicked through and found a recipe for black pepper ice cream. “Wait,” I said, “do you think it would work if we changed this to sichuan pepper? I had a great sichuan pepper dessert by Claude Bosi recently, and it had a wonderful citrus flavour“.
Having a look through the book a few moments later, Monica spotted a different recipe, for orange and sichuan pepper ice cream, “so we know sichuan pepper will go with your oranges. Let’s do it!”
Decision made and a quick shopping trip to pick up the ingredients.
Sichuan pepper is a spice commonly used in Asian cuisine. Despite it’s name and appearance when dried, it’s not related to either black peppers or chilli peppers but is part of the Rutacae (citrus) family alongside oranges, lemons, limes, kumquats and grapefruits. Finely ground, the seed husks are one of the components of five-spice, but the husks are also used whole. The seeds are usually discarded, because of their gritty texture. Sichuan pepper has a delicate citrus flavour, and is noted for the tingling, numbing sensation it creates on the tongue.
Whilst Monica got busy making a fabulous rosemary bread from Jekka’s Herb Cookbook (review coming soon) I started on the ice cream. Mr Lebovitz’ recipe called for infusing the peppers into a rich custard base. His recipe was straightforward and, as we expected from the ice cream king, it delivered on texture and taste..
The distinctive citrus flavour of the sichuan peppers came through loud and strong, though the numbing sensation wasn’t obvious, perhaps disguised by the effects of the cold ice cream. The ice cream worked superbly well with the candied clementines and was a very fitting dessert after a superb dinner.
Monica and I even worked together to style some photographs, Monica behind the camera, having carefully arranged ice cream and halved clementine in a bowl, and me repositioning the jar of clementines behind, to make use of depth of field, and shoving David’s book into the shots at different angles and height. Team work rocks!
Sichuan Pepper Ice Cream
Based on David Lebovitz‘ black pepper ice cream recipe
1.5 tablespoon sichuan peppers
125 ml whole milk
65 grams sugar
250 ml double cream (divided)
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
Lightly crush the sichuan peppers.
Add the sichuan peppers into milk, sugar, salt and half the double cream, and heat, gently.
Once the sugar has fully dissolved, remove from the heat, cover and set aside for an hour to steep.
Pour the remaining double cream into a large bowl, with a sieve over the top, and set aside for later.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
Re-heat the milk, sugar and cream. Slowly pour this into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Once it’s all combined, pour the whole lot back into the saucepan and stir over a medium heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
Pour the thick custard through the sieve into the double cream. Discard the sichuan peppers, and stir to combine the custard and cream.
Set aside to cool and then chill in the fridge.
Churn in an ice cream machine, then transfer to a suitable container to further solidify in the freezer before serving.
Thanks, Monica, for letting me use the photos!