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Rhubarb Surprise Ice Cream Sandwiches

My ice cream life was varied and disparate when I was a wain. There was the exquisite gelato of family holidays to Italy ( scene of one of my most memorable moments when I brattily declared I didn’t like ice cream to howls of disbelieving laughter), Mr Whippy style cornets with a flake on the side, the mouth puckering but moreish lemon sorbet my mum’s friend Ann made at dinner parties and slices of raspberry ripple from a rectangular carton, often served on the side of fresh raspberries from my granny’s garden but also slipped between two wafers to make a slider.

Cue quizzical eyebrow raising from our foodie readers. Well to us Norn Irish (and Scottish) folk, a slider is not a mini burger, it’s an  ice cream sandwich, usually from a van or one of those amazing Celtic-Italian ice cream cafes both countries welcomed so happily due to their super sweet tooth. Possible to make at home if you could get your Dale Farm in the right sized block and work quickly, they were more often a treat bought on a seaside trip or at the end of a Sunday out. They came in several souped up versions such as the nougat wafer (dipped in chocolate and nougat and pronounced nugget) or the seemingly sophisticated oyster, but my favourite was the version that had a Flake inside. I could work out how they got the figs in Fig Rolls, but not the Flake inside one of these.

Quite hard to eat in a dignified manner, these required a careful combo of licking, nibbling, turning and eventually biting to make sure you got every drop without it exploding down your front. I imagine it was their trickiness to eat that has led to them seemingly vanishing without a trace these days. I haven’t seen one for years and neither had the other slightly bemused people I canvassed about them. It looked like I was going to have to make my own version. It was a project worthy of one of Kavey’s ice cream challenges!

Chocolate is all very well and good but my last two batches had both been chocolatey and I felt I needed some fresher and tangier to hit the spot. One of those perfect lightbulb moments happened and I realised that a stick of poached rhubarb inside the ice cream would make a perfect grown up copy of that childhood classic…

Rhubarb Surprise Ice Cream Sandwiches:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 250ml milk
  • 500ml double cream
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 5 stalks rhubarb
  • pack of rectangular ice cream wafers

I used a silicone tray like this one to make individual blocks of ice cream. All instructions are for this tray, but you could use something else if you prefer.

Roast your rhubarb in the oven at 150℃ for about 20 minutes until soft but still holding its shape firmly. Then set aside the narrower stalks on a plate so you have enough for nine pieces and allow them to drain any juice away. Puree the rest of the rhubarb in the blender.

Then make your ice cream base by heating the milk and sugar together until bubbling but not boiling. Add in the cream. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks in a small bowl. Then add a cupful of the warm cream mixture to the egg yolks and stir. This will temper the yolks so they don’t scramble when you add them to the hot liquid. Then add the egg mix to the warmed milk and cream and cook gently until starting to thicken and coats the back of a spatula. Take off the heat and chill well before churning in your machine.

About five minutes before your ice cream machine has done its job, add in the rhubarb puree to flavour your custard base. Make sure your ice cream is still quite soft and malleable and then put a dessertspoonful in the base of each section of your tray. Place the cut piece of roast rhubarb on top and then cover it all with another spoonful of ice cream so there are no gaps. When all are filled, put the tray flat into the freezer to chill completely for several hours so that each little block is nice and firm.

When you are ready to eat the ice cream, take the tray out about 5 minutes before and run a blunt knife round the block to loosen it and the block should pop out in one piece. Pop between two rectangular ice cream wafers (I used Askey’s for extra childhood nostalgia) and then get your chops round this awesome ice cream sandwich. The ice cream is super creamy and custardy with a proper tang from the rhubarb shot through it and the whole thing is made amazing by the frozen piece of rhubarb which makes it all taste a bit like a quarter of the eponymous sweeties. I revisited childhood memories and instead of being disappointed, it was even better than remembered…

 

Northern Stars supper club. Pt.2: local food for local people

(This is the second article on our Northern Stars supper club… you can check out part one here)

When we had to name our team for the recent ‘A Question of Taste’ TV show, I rather glibly chose Northern Stars… it chimed with our team’s all-northern roots, and echoed North Star Deli’s title as the genesis of our team. When we hatched plans for our recent supper club after the show, that name morphed to became a genuine manifesto for the evening. I was keen to make the JoinUs4Supper evening a showcase for some of our favourite local food stars and producers… the products I’ve known and loved for sometime… and those which I take down to Miss South in London, to bring a taste of the Pennines to the big city.

The combination for the night of farmer, chef and foodie gave us a chance to share some of these tastes with friends and fellow foodies in Manchester, and now we can share them with you too.

Northern stars local specialities 1

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Headline image, inside North Star Deli at the JoinUs4Supper event

Northern Stars supper club. Pt.1: the meal

Northern stars main 1

For someone with an overly healthy interest in food, there could be few things more exciting than being set loose in a professional kitchen. Last Thursday saw my debut in the kitchen, at the latest JoinUs4Supper evening at North Star Deli. If, however, you’d seen me on Wednesday night, I’d probably have looked more than a tad pensive, mildly nervous, and concentrating deeply. A little part of me was starting to think I’d bitten off more than I could chew by accepting the challenge to collaborate with Deanna, Ben and the North Star Deli team. That and the fact I was helping stuff a pig’s intestine with blood, desperately trying to ensure it didn’t drop and burst in an ignominious end to our efforts to make fresh black pudding. All this from a throwaway comment about having a go on a TV food quiz to a couple of fellow foodies

Northern stars final 1

After weeks of thoughts, discussions and debate, we were clear in what we wanted to do. At the heart of the meal was the intention to place Porcus pork in the limelight, with local cheese and veg as superb supporting actors. We wanted to find a flavour and feel which properly encompassed the character of our TV team.

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Rhubarb and custard tarts

Angled plate1 new

I love custard of any description. Whether it be Bird’s or Ambrosia’s Devon kind or fresh stuff poured over a crumble or a quivering baked version, I love custard. Sadly it has never reciprocated that love and everytime I’ve tried to make it, there have been problems. It’s split, ended up scrambled, been full of lumps and the packet version has resembled concrete. I’ve always thought if I wrote a book about my cooking exploits, it would be called ‘Custard is my Nemesis.’

Few things go better with custard than rhubarb so when I finally got my paws on some proper Yorkshire forced rhubarb for the first time this season (even though Mister North has been cooking up a storm with it for a while now this winter.) I decided that come hell or high water, this weekend would be the time that I tamed custard, even if it meant the kind of mayhem in the kitchen that accompanied the cartoon duo of the same name.

I’ve been eyeing Dan Lepard’s Bay Custard Tarts forever, even having cut the recipe out of the Guardian and kept it when it first appeared several years ago and thanks to the clear and foolproof instructions in Short and Sweet, I knew this was the place to start with custard, but decided to put a seasonal twist on it by layering the baked custard with a topping of tangy rhubarb curd, partly because it would no doubt be delicious, but because it might hide a custard malfunction…

I made the tart cases from scratch using Dan’s sweet shortcrust recipe and tips on pastry handling. The first time I made pastry it was exceptionally good and I wondered why people worry about it, but every subsequent time has been a mess of varying levels. I decided to try and teach myself better pastry skills while I was mastering custard, but you could just use shop bought if that’s easier. But do follow Dan’s tip to only blind bake the cases for 15 minutes and undercook them slightly to allow the custard to ‘stick’

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Upside-down Rhubarb Cheesecake

Some people have a spirit animal that sums up their personality and beliefs. We here at North/South Food have a spirit ingredient instead in the shape of rhubarb! Preferably the seasonal treat that is forced Rheum rhaponticum from the Rhubarb Triangle of Yorkshire with its perfect perky pink colouring and tangy taste, but ultimately any rhubarb pleases us profoundly. We’ll eat it any which we can and as often as possible!

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