I have long had a fondness for nut based ice creams, however unlike most life-long food loves - the origin of which can often be hazy - I can still vividly remember the very moment this passion began.
I was ten years old, and thinking back I would like to see myself as a pleasant and amiable child. The truth is however, I was your garden variety little shit. I was holidaying with my Aunt and she treated our family to a night out at a restaurant. The meals that were taken that night have long escaped my memory, but the one thing that sticks in my mind is that she denied my requests for dessert. I was mortified and put on my best 10-year-old's sulk. Pout-laden pleas to my mother were no help, and the drive home was punctuated by my sullen silence. Aunt Laine however, had a trick up her sleeve.
When we arrived back at her lovingly restored country church-house, my mood and ears were lifted by her call "Who wants some ice cream?" She knew all along that a sweet treat was waiting at home, and what a treat it was. Home churned macadamia ice cream. I can still taste it - the most vivid memory was not of the chunks of nuts themselves, but that the macadamia flavour had imbued itself into every lick of ice cream. Laine - I remain ever thankful.
As much as I like macadamia nuts, my stronger passion lies with the beguilingly coloured pistachio. I wanted to replicate that ice cream experience from twenty years ago - not simply to churn pistachios through an ice cream mix - but to imbue the whole with their seductive flavour. Our new dessert menu stars a vanilla and toffee tart, and I needed an ice cream to accompany it. I wondered if I could recapture the magic of that night so many years ago. You know what? I did - so let me share.
500 ml (2 cups) milk
500 ml (2 cups) cream, 35% butterfat
200 gm pistachio nuts, unsalted and shelled
8 egg yolks
250 gm (8 1/2 oz) caster sugar
Take 150 gm (5 oz) of the pistachios and combine with the milk in a blender. Blend until the nuts are very finely chopped. The finer you get them, the more flavour will be imparted to the ice cream. Pour the nut/milk mix into a saucepan. Set over a very gentle heat and slowly bring to the simmer. The longer you take with this step the better, as you will extract more pistachio flavour.
In the meantime, place the yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. As soon as the milk has come to the simmer pour through a strainer directly onto the yolks and immediately whisk the mixture to combine thoroughly. Press on the minced pistachios to squeeze out every last drop of flavour¹. Rinse out the saucepan and pour in the strained pistachio mixture. Set over a gentle heat and stir constantly until the custard has thickened and coats the back of the stirring spoon. Do not overcook or stop stirring. Remove from the heat and strain again into a waiting bowl. Allow the mixture to fully cool and add the cream, then churn in an ice cream machine. Coarsely chop the remaining pistachios and just before the ice cream has finished churning, add to the ice cream machine and allow to incorporate. Remove the ice cream to a container and freeze for at least 6 hours.
Ideally serve this with a slice of vanilla and toffee tart, but feel free to attack it as is. Spoon and a movie are the only requirements.
¹ Don't waste the nuts used to flavour the milk - place them on a tray and dry out in a 150 °C (300 °F) oven for 15 minutes. Then make a crunchy toffee garnish for the ice cream, following the directions in the praline node.