Melt, the debut cookbook by Claire Kelsey of experimental ice cream van Ginger’s Comfort Emporium was published in April this year. At first I cursed my tardiness in writing this but then I forgave myself, for there is little joy in reviewing a book about ice cream when you’re still making good use of your winter coat.
This week’s heat wave presents the perfect opportunity for such things, so this morning I set about making a litre of Claire’s Guinness and gingerbread ice cream.
I chose my test recipe wisely, because it reminds me of the red haired Guinness swilling London-Irish that is my other half. (Excluding the fact that Keane doesn’t drink Guinness anymore ‘because we live in Lewes and it’s £4.20 a pint, so a Harvey’s will do nicely thanks.’)
But it’s also a good choice, I think, because Guinness and gingerbread is typical of the unusual flavour combinations that Claire specialises in.
Claire, originally a food stylist, says she opened her street food business with little more on her mind than getting into summer festivals. She discovered on the road, however, that ice cream is a great canvas. ‘Ice cream fires my imagination,’ she writes, ‘- it’s an experimental cook’s dream.’
So, along with the full complement of classic flavours, Claire uses rare flavourings like real camel’s milk, jostaberry (a cross between a gooseberry and a blackcurrant), mastic, and grape nuts.
Among her most surprising combos are Gorgonzola and honey, fennel and peach; chocolate, red wine, clove and black pepper, and orange, watercress and tarragon sorbet. But the most appealing to me are the simpler ones: killer vanilla with apricot kernel, honey and halva savarin, plum crumble and marmalade on toast, to name a few.
What I enjoy most about Melt is its Britishness. Along with the bountiful beer-based concoctions there is a real, and honest English eccentricity about the book. Yes, Melt is clearly part of this year’s recession-friendly trend for street food but quite apart from the cool branding and vintage-y signwriting, I like the fact Claire’s business feels genuinely old fashioned.
In spite of, or perhaps because of our bad weather, Brits have always adored ice cream. Like the history of England, the culinary history of ice cream is full of extreme characters like James Stevens Cox, whose weirdness I wrote about here. By comparison Claire Kelsey doesn’t seem like much of a fruit loop, but her recipes are full of a wit and playfulness that suits her medium. And fortunately, they also work.
You would be hard pressed to find an ice cream that isn’t appealing on a day as hot as today, but I can promise that her rhubarb custard (that I first tried way back in May) and Guinness and gingerbread ice creams don’t taste weird at all. In fact, they’re rather delicious.
Melt: Ice cream sensations to make at home by Claire Kelsey is published by Simon & Schuster
Disclosure: I was sent a review copy of Melt free from the publisher