The change in seasons always fills me with a sense of excitement. Particularly at this time of the year, as Autumn would have to be most favourite of them all. The sunshine still kisses the skin with her warmth, the summer crowds dissipate and the produce is in abundance.
As the leaves change from greens to rusty reds, burnt oranges and nut browns, they line the footpaths in a mosaic of colour and provide the "crunch, crunch, crunch" underfoot that create the soundtrack Autumn only provides.
There are an abundance of fig trees that grow around our area with their big, bold green leaves and delicious gems that hang from the branches that only reveal their inner beauty once cut. We walk past one every day on our way down to the beach and as we inch closer and closer the air begins to fill with a particular sweetness that only a fig tree can provide. The temptation to just pluck them all from the tree is so strong, but I await patiently until they are ripe and ready. I just hope I beat the birds to it!
In the meantime, whilst I await, I came across a few recipes that called for the use of fig leaves and was very intrigued. so, as I found myself with a container full of egg yolks in the fridge, leftover from making a double batch of swiss meringue buttercream from a wedding cake and not wanting anything to go to waste, I set about creating a batch of fig leaf and vanilla bean ice cream and I am happy to report that the finished product was simply, "Fig-aliscious!"
Steeping the leaves in the custard-like mixture gives the ice-cream the most delicate, lightly flavoured essence of figs and it would work beautifully as a dessert served alongside caramelised fig halves and perhaps the added crunch of a crushed nut praline. Otherwise, served simply in a little bowl all by itself while you curl yourself up on the couch and savour every silky smooth mouthful. I'll leave that one up to you.
Makes 1 1/2 litres
1 litre full-cream milk
200ml thickened cream
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
260g caster sugar
5 egg yolks
5 large fig leaves, washed and dried
pinch of salt
1 cinnamon stick
Before you start make sure that the bowl of your ice-cream churner is in the freezer!
Place the milk, cream, vanilla seeds and the pod, half of the sugar, salt and cinnamon stick into a large saucepan. Bring it up to the boil, gently and then remove it from the heat.
Whisk the remaining sugar and the egg yolks with an electric mixer until fluffy, pale and almost doubled in size. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the half of the milk and cream mixture. Once it's combined pour it all back into the saucepan with the rest of the mixture.
Cook very slowly over a low heat, stirring constantly. It will need to cook for around 15 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of the spoon, so when you swipe your finger up the spoon it leaves a line. This means its ready.
Remove from the heat and add in the leaves, pushing them down so that they are fully submerged. Leave it to steep for 1 hour. Strain the mixture through a sieve and pop in the fridge to chill overnight.
The following day pour it all into an ice-cream churner and churn for about 20 minutes or until its lovely and thick. Spoon into an ice-cream container or any sort of container that has a tight fitting lid and pop it into the freezer. Its a great little concoction to have in the freezer for when your tastebuds are in need of a hit of sweetness or when you need to jazz up a dessert.