Anne, one of my oldest and dearest friends, reminded me recently that I used to make fantastic brown-bread ice-cream. To be honest, I don't actually remember making it, but she assures me that I did. We used to eat it together at The Double Locks, a wonderful pub by the river in Exeter where we were students. We also used to enjoy the garlic mushrooms topped with Stilton and a pint of Exmoor. When our exams were over, we would walk along the river to the pub and have brunch at 11 when the pub opened: the full English fry up with a pint of Wadworth's 6X on the side. Looking back, The Double Locks was probably my first introduction to the gastropub - but this was nearly 25 years ago, before the idea of a "dining pub" became fashionable, and all sorts of perfectly good, old-fashioned pubs started being tarted up and morphing into 'gastropubs'. The Double Locks served good food and good beer; it was as simple as that.
Back to that ice-cream....
It seems a bizarre idea, and smacks faintly of healthy eating (that's the brown bread part). It is in fact a Victorian concoction, and recreates, in ice-cream form, all that is good about toasted brown bread slathered in creamy butter. A vanilla base, flecked with crunchy sweet nuggets, it really is a wonderful thing.
You don't need an ice-cream maker to make this ice-cream: with the high cream content it really makes itself.
Brown Bread Ice-cream
3 oz (85g) wholemeal breadcrumbs
3 oz (85g) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons water
3/4 pint (420ml) double cream
2 oz (50g) icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons rum
real vanilla extract
Spread the crumbs on a baking tray and toast under a grill, string from time to time, until golden brown - be careful not to burn them. Set aside to cool. Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved completely. Boil the syrup to a rich brown caramel, but don't allow the caramel to darken too much or it will be bitter. Take it off the heat and stir in the breadcrumbs.
Immediately turn the mixture out onto a buttered baking tray. It will harden quickly to a kind of ersatz praline. Grind it finely in a coffee grinder or with a pestle and mortar. Don't grind this very hard mixture in a food processor or blender as it may damage the blades. Meanwhile, whip the cream until it holds soft peaks, then beat in the icing sugar, rum and a little vanilla extract. Fold in the breadcrumb praline and freeze without stirring. Serve with some fresh raspberries.