Friday, 27 May 2011

Ben Vear's ice cream; It's got the 'Oooh!' Factor!

I’ve been really lucky to get my hands on the introduction and three delicious recipes from Ben Vear's forthcoming book, Make Your Own Organic Ice Cream: Using Home Grown and Local Produce. I’ve been thinking about buying an ice-cream maker for some time but haven’t yet bitten the bullet, so to see that you only need basic equipment and very good locally produced ingredients for this book, I couldn’t have been happier. Ben gives instructions for both ice-cream makers and churning by hand and whilst churning by hand isn’t the easy option, it’s the way his great-granddad used to do it – if it’s good enough for the man who started the business in 1925 that now churns 1 million litres of ice-cream a year, it’s good enough for me. The book is very clear in it's message - ice cream is not hard to make, is not time consuming and absolutely does not require all types of expensive and fanciful gadgets. And you should 100%, absolutely support your local community.

Living in Cheshire, abound with local produce and local business, buying local is something I really champion, going so far as to grow as much of my own as possible.  So Ben is a man after my own heart. “It's important to me to give back to the local community” Ben tells me. The family business started when Ben's great-grandfather foraged in the local hedgerows while his son's played golf on beautiful Rodborough Common. "He would pick fruit, herbs and vegetables, go home and make dinner for his sons after their round of golf from what he found. They would bring their friends, who would bring their friends and so on, creating the business - so community is important."  As a result, Winstones Ice cream use local wherever possible - local farmers, growers, packaging, even down to the labels and electricians they use.  However, with our tastes changing, there are some ingredients that can't be sourced in Gloucestershire - vanilla and mixed spice being good examples, but the business ensures they source responsibility at all times.

Ben is a busy boy; as well as writing his book, due for release in October, he manages marketing and communications for the business, whilst studying for an Economics degree at university. I wondered where he found the time and energy, and it became clear that his passion for food, family and community drives Ben, having left a high flying City career to go to university and to write his book. All of Ben's free time is spent with food;  making ice cream, pastries, jams, marmalade, recreating his grandfathers recipes, a modern take on old family classics. And this modern take is reflected in the book, where we can expect what are sure to become modern favourites; olive oil ice cream, cracked black pepper ice cream; not meant to be served in a cone with a flake, but as part of a wider gastronomical experience.

Home-made marmalade,
next seen disguised as ice-cream

And so to the book. The recipes I’ve seen in this book so far look so delicious that I just had to try a couple. Anything that says ‘serve with lashings of cream and fruit’ gets my vote, so Winstones Chocolate Ice Cream was in my good books from the off.  I must confess that, due to the lack of ice-cream maker, I’ve never made ice-cream before but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. I made some marmalade (thick-cut, naturally - who has the patience!) earlier in the year for my husband; it’s one of his favourite things, spread (too thickly, in my opinion) on toast. The delightful introduction to the Marmalade Ice Cream recipe informed me that it’s also Ben’s dads favourite. That, and the fact that marmalade is taking over my fridge, made this the first recipe I tried.

To stay true to the books ethos, I dug deep and bought local and organic cream and milk, and set to it with my home-made marmalade. The recipe, clear, concise and easy to follow, turned out a soft, smooth, tangy, creamy dessert even when doing it by hand. 

Marmalade ice-cream

I then turned the page to find Mixed Spice Ice Cream. I really didn’t like the sound of that, so what better reason to give it a go! So, I retrieved my whisk, created more space in my freezer and nipped to snatch some fresh eggs from under my friends hens bottoms (oooh, still warm).

Mixed Spice ice-cream

And another successful, easy to follow recipe delivered a heady spice mix, cool on the tongue, but strangely warming at the same time. I’m so pleased I tried this recipe, my husband loved it - 'mmm, aaah, oooh it's so good', were the sounds of our house tonight (and sadly, they were nothing to do with me!) He even said he 'didn't think home-made ice cream could be that good.  Seriously'. Needless to say, he, and I were impressed.  Ben suggests serving this with Mulled Wine, conjuring thoughts of winters by the fire with a huge slice of apple or pecan pie served with a dollop of this oddly warming ice-cream melting over the top. Odd, how a bowl of ice-cream has made me wish the summer away, dreaming of winter when I can get my hands on this book and eat ice cream in front of the fire.

Confused (by wanting ice-cream in winter and the noises emitted by my husband)? A little. 

Delighted? Definitely.

Huge thanks to Ben for allowing me a sneak preview of his book and recipes, and for taking some time to speak to me. You can pre-order his book here and keep up with Ben at his Blog here

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