Peach and Basil Ice Cream
It was not until the last day of our weeklong wander along the streets of Trieste that we found a tiny gelateria– just a stone’s throw from the Piazza Unita, but on an island of un-walked street. Our criss-crossed paths had thus far managed to take us all around it, but never quite past. Inside, the usual line-up of gelati colours, but lean in closer to read the flavours… Pumpkin & Amaretto, Lemon & Ginger, Peach & Basil!? And how did they taste? Not surprisingly, entirely strange, and extremely familiar. In other words, absolutely perfect.
(Makes 650ml of ice cream – enough for 4 people)
- 400g (approx. 4) perfectly ripe flat peaches
- 150g caster sugar
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- Approx. 20 leaves of basil
- 200ml fresh double cream
Cut the peaches in half along their natural cleft, and twist apart to open. Remove the stone, then roughly chop the fruit (skin on) into approx. 1cm cubes. Place these into a shallow dish, sprinkle over the sugar, along with the lemon juice, and mix briefly with a spoon to coat the pieces. Now, cover with cling film, and leave to macerate at room temperature for 3 hours.
After 3 hours, the fruit will have softened and released a lot of its juices. Pour both the peaches and juice into a food processer, along with the basil leaves. Tear these roughly with your hands as you add them, as this will bruise the leaves a little, releasing their flavour. Give the mixture a quick stir with a spoon to ensure that the basil leaves are evenly distributed through the fruit, before blitzing in the food processor for approx. 30 seconds. You want the fruit to liquefy, but for small flecks of peach skin and basil to still be visible.
Next, add the cream to the processor, and blitz again, for another 10-20 seconds, to blend.
If you are planning on using an ice cream machine, it is best to cool the mixture to fridge temperature before doing so. A couple of hours on the top shelf of the refrigerator in sealable container should be enough. Depending on the type and quality of your ice cream machine, you may be able to omit this step. I find that the kind of machine that relies on a pre-frozen bowl does work best when the liquid introduced to it is refrigerator-cold to begin with.
When the peach mixture is sufficiently cold, pour it into your ice cream maker, and churn for 30 minutes. Remove to a freezer-proof container once churned, and place in the freezer for at least 4 hours before eating.
If you don’t have an ice cream machine, pour the mixture directly into a baking tray or wide container and place into the freezer. The best results with this method rely on some serious diligence – you’ll need to take the mix out of the freezer every half an hour and beat it vigorously with a whisk to stop ice crystals forming. If you have an electric whisk – even better. Really get into the corners of the tray and scrape all the icy bits from the edges.
Keep checking on progress, and, after about 2-3 hours the ice cream should be very nearly frozen. At this point, transfer to a sealable plastic container, and return the ice cream to the freezer until you’re ready to eat it.
The flavours are at their best when still fresh, so best to enjoy it within three days or so of making.