I have a bit of a confession to make. Sometime in the last ten years I seemed to have lost my sweet tooth, and I now eat sweets so rarely that if I take ice cream twice in a single season, it is either an odd occurrence - or summer.
Thinking back to when I was a child, such frugal enjoyment of sugary treats would have been horrifying, particularly in the case of ice cream. Like most kids, I had a healthy (or perhaps not) addiction to the stuff, and rarely a summer's afternoon would pass without the cooling and sweet lull of ice cream punctuating an otherwise dull school day.
We all had our favourites; the ever-popular Paddle Pop - the king of Australian childhood ice creams - simple flavours such as chocolate, vanilla, caramel or banana on a stick, was the first choice for most kids. The naively monikered Gaytime had us so besotten with its biscuit-coated, vanilla and caramel centre that only the most street-wise amongst us picked up the double entendre. Cornettos were in another league. This self-contained ice-cream-in-a-cone, with a chocolate and nut topping was a good 50% more expensive than anything else in the corner shop freezer, and was thus purely the domain of well-to-do youngsters. Kids who treated themselves to Cornettos grew up, bought a Saab turbo, and quite possibly just cut you off at the last set of traffic lights. My personal ice cream obsession however, was the Splice.
To me, nothing could fend off a scorching hot summer day like a Splice. Inside was plain, cool and creamy vanilla ice cream, but it was the coating that made it so magical. A thin, yet just thick enough layer of frozen pineapple ice. The first bite of pineapple coating would send a teeth-numbing zing through your entire mouth - only to be immediately soothed by the milky ice cream contained within. Each subsequent bite repeated this polarity of tastes and sensations, until some minutes later, with only an ice cream stick and an empty wrapper in hand - and some forty cents out of pocket, you knew that something pretty special had just happened; it truly was the ultimate summer treat. This watermelon and vanilla ice cream dessert takes one hundred percent inspiration from those childhood Splice ice creams.
I came up with this idea especially for our 2002 New Years Eve menu, which by necessity is always a little more elaborate and celebratory than our regular offering. It was served with a cinnamon poached peach, a sprinkle of almond praline and a drizzle of sticky peach syrup. The preparation of the terrine is a little time consuming, but not particularly difficult. You will however, need an ice cream machine to make it. First churn the watermelon sorbet, then place it in the bottom half of a terrine mold or loaf tin. Move it to the freezer to set while you churn the vanilla ice cream. This is layered on top of the watermelon sorbet, and then allowed to freeze overnight. Once set, removed from the terrine mold and sliced, you end up with a colourful and stratified slab of pink sorbet and pale ice cream. I won't hold back here - it tastes bloody amazing.
Of course, you could make the vanilla ice cream and watermelon sorbet separately, or individually, and let them set in containers to be scooped out like regular ice cream and sorbet - but if you really want to impress, like at a special dinner party, make the terrine along with the peaches and the praline.
Lets do it.
Vanilla ice cream
Start off with the sorbet. Place the sugar in a saucepan and top with 2 cups (500 ml) of cold water. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down to room temperature. This is called a heavy sugar syrup and is used in numerous sorbet recipes. You can make this ahead and store it in the refrigerator for ages - it keeps well for over a year.
Line a terrine mold or loaf tin with non-stick paper and place it in the freezer to chill.
Cut the watermelon into small chunks and remove the flesh from the rind (if you abhor waste, or love thrifty recipes, use the rind in this recipe). Pick out the seeds, then using a wooden spoon push the watermelon flesh through a sieve into a bowl. Measure out 2 cups (500 ml) of watermelon juice and keep the rest for another use (I suggest a splash of Stolichnaya, some ice cubes and a sprig of mint). Place the 2 cups of watermelon juice into a bowl. Measure 2 cups of the cooled syrup, and add it to the watermelon, along with the lemon juice. Churn in an ice cream machine until just set, then add the egg white. Allow it to churn for a few minutes more, ensuring the egg white is fully incorporated.
Fill the bottom half of the terrine with the sorbet, placing any extra into a separate container for another use, then place both in the freezer to set. If you aren't bothering with the terrine, just pile the sorbet into a freezer-proof container and allow to set for 6 hours before serving.
For the vanilla ice cream, place the milk and vanilla bean in a small saucepan and slowly bring to the simmer. Set the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl and gently whisk to combine. Once the milk has come to the simmer, pour it directly onto the egg yolks and immediately whisk to combine thoroughly. Without delay, transfer this mix to another saucepan and set over a medium/low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture has thickened and coats the stirring spoon when lifted out. You are for all intents making custard in this step. Once the custard is thick, remove from the heat and pour though a sieve into a waiting bowl. Add the cream and stir well, cooling the mixture down. Once at room temperature, churn into an ice cream machine until set.
Scoop the ice cream out and pile on top of the watermelon sorbet in the terrine. Smooth the ice cream out, then place back in the freezer for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight.
To serve, place a long, thin knife under hot running water, then cut the ice cream terrine away from the mold on all sides. Tip upside down and gently tap out the terrine. Remove the non-stick paper and slice into healthy wedges, making sure to warm the knife again before each slice. Rush any unused terrine back to the freezer, as it will melt in quick fashion.
A note on storage - unlike ice cream, sorbets tend to harden and turn unpalatably icy after a few days in the freezer. Many restaurants overcome this by melting the sorbet and re-churning it. With this terrine, such a luxury is not possible. I would advise polishing this baby off within 4 or 5 days. Like you're gonna have any trouble.