Ice ice baby

I can’t resist good ice cream.

I think it started when I was little. I have vague memories of visiting an Italian ice cream shop on the outskirts of Edinburgh when I was tiny. And I remember being awestruck by the enormous Knickerbockerglories bought by my Grandma in a little cafe in Haddington – it was my first encounter with Brain-Freeze, the terrible pain in the head associated with eating too much very cold food too quickly (something I can still get today from a particularly good Frozen Marguerita!).

I remember “going for a run” which, in those days, meant driving as a family to an ice cream shop in the next town, spending ages choosing the best flavours to have and then getting back into the car and eating them as slowly as we could to prolong the joy of eating ice cream. My sister was the weirdest ice-cream eater. Firstly she would only ever eat Mint Choc Chip ice cream which I have always believed to be slightly strange and toothpaste flavoured. Then, she also refused to eat an ice cream cone unless it had been “flattened” which meant my Dad had to eat a large proportion of the actual ice cream until it was flat and flush with the side of the cone. By the time I had finished my ice cream she was usually just getting started. I was, by this point, prepared to eat some of her Frozen Colgate too. Happily I could sometimes encourage her to give me some by seducing her into helping me make a tiny ice cream cone using the very end part of my cone. The charm of that soon wore off when she realised it was merely a ploy to enable eat her remaining ice cream long after after mine had finished. Ah well.

And then a few years later we moved to Greece and stumbled across ice cream Nirvana – a cafe which sold dishes of ice cream that had been piped in thin strands into a bowl, topped with red sauce and grated coconut on top having the effect of looking exactly like Spaghetti Bolognese. It was the best thing I’d ever seen or tasted. And it’s only now, having Googled it, that I know it’s actually a German speciality – have a look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghettieis. Food that looks like a completely different food – brilliant!

And of course Greece is also the home of the most elaborate, weddingy-meringue-y looking Ice Cream Cakes. You don’t see anything like them in Britain really but in Athens they were the birthday cake of choice. They were just enormous piles of ice cream formed and piped and shaped into huge cakes and then decorated with chocolate, nuts and fruit and displayed in backlit free-standing freezers – looking exactly like ostentatious, elaborate hats.

And last year we were lucky enough to travel around Italy for a few weeks where we visited a carefully researched list of the best ice cream shops – we enjoyed delicious granità di caffè  with whipped cream for breakfast at the Tazzo D’Oro in Rome, we tried honey, crema, hazelnut and pistachio flavoured ice cream at the grumpy but gorgeous San Crispino and we adored the lemon sorbet in Cinque Terre. I loved the habit Roman office workers have of popping out for ice cream at some point in the day – the Italian equivalent of a swift half after work perhaps?

And back in East London I think I can safely say that we probably eat too much ice cream in our house. I’m not a massive pudding person but we do often nip out for post-dinner ice cream – I love Carluccios dark almost chewy sorbet-ish chocolate ice cream and the BF is happiest with a bowl of vanilla (or a guilty slice of Vienetta). So as an experiment and in attempt to be healthier I had a crack at frozen yoghurt today. I don’t have an ice cream maker so I emptied a big carton of greek yoghurt, 2 dessert-spoons of Vanilla essence and 2 of caster sugar into a tupperware box, mixed it up and then popped it in the freezer. I took it out every hour and gave it a thorough mix up with a fork to try to get rid of any ice crystals. I’m afraid our camera was out of juice so there aren’t any piccies but it was pretty good actually. It was a little too solid and needed some time out of the freezer before eating but it was creamy and tasty and a cheap (and slightly healthier…?) alternative to supermarket ice cream. I will definitely be investigating more frozen yoghurt recipes and will let you know how I get on.

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