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Book review: Melt

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.

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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.’)

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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.’

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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About Chloe King

I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.

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7 comments on “Book review: Melt

  1. Bake
    July 10, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Love the sound of Guinness and gingerbread! We don’t have an ice-cream machine, are there tips in the book for making by hand? xoxo
    Bake recently posted…Our everyday life: week 27My Profile

    • Chloe King
      July 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm

      You can make all of Claire’s ice creams without a machine but it does require more effort. Claire says the recipes with high sugar content are the best ones to stir-freeze as they are less likely to crystallise. The book includes instructions for stir-freezing and notes on all the various types of ice cream makers as well. Thanks for asking! I totally forgot to put this crucial detail in my review. If you’re thinking of making ice cream regularly, I use a Magimix Glacier 1.1 which retails under £50 – I find it is just right for me, my aunt swears by it – she uses hers almost every week!

      • Bake
        July 10, 2013 at 7:58 pm

        I seriously want an ice cream machine, but feel I need to give it a go by hand first. I’m also worried I would use it more than once a week if I had it! Thanks so much for the info, really like the sound of the book – great review :) xoxo
        Bake recently posted…Mackerel, Lemon and Dill Potato SaladMy Profile

  2. Katie (@teaandcaketime)
    July 10, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    This sounds DELICIOUS and I love the photographs/illustrations- particularly the page with all the raspberries. I used my ice-cream maker for the first time this week, and the bug has definitely bitten me once more. xxx
    Katie (@teaandcaketime) recently posted…Edinburgh: Day 2 Part 1My Profile

    • Chloe King
      July 10, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      Congrats on the new kitchen addition :-) what was the first ice cream you made with it? You may have read about it on here but I was totally boring and stuck to vanilla custard for about three months after getting mine, but I do like vanilla custard. I’m sure this book will help me be more adventurous. And on the topic of ice cream – you guys should check out Kavey Eats’ wonderful Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream x

  3. Hattie
    July 10, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Woah… Sounds like she translated all my weird pregnancy cravings into the medium of ice cream…
    Hattie recently posted…DIY: Marquee lightsMy Profile

    • Chloe King
      July 11, 2013 at 6:58 am

      Haha, Hattie, you know you could probably get away with a gin and tonic sorbet!

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