Foodiva's Kitchen: Fennel, Date and Strawberry Ice Cream

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fennel, Date and Strawberry Ice Cream

It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.
~ Erma Bombeck

Ever since I started this blog and dabbled often with food and fresh ingredients, I've had time to reflect on how fortunate we, the people of Borneo island are. We have plenty of tropical bounty, and yet because my country (Brunei) is so small, it is unable to produce enough food for the whole population. Hence many of our staples like rice and sugar, as well as our fruits and vegetables, are still imported from neighboring countries and sometimes a little bit further offshore. 



And that's why I feel blessed to be at this location and in this situation where we not only get to support our local farmers, we also, through our supply and demand limitations, get to support farmers from exporting countries (because let's face it, every farmer in the world needs to make a living and feed their families too, right?).

Sweet corn and longans

Right now, the markets are bursting at the seams with both local and foreign produce. Take one day last week, for example. Diva D and I came back with a truckload of fruits and vegetables you see in these photos. Luckily, the market doesn't take credit cards, otherwise who knew what else we would impulsively lug home with us? Within the space of an hour, we had purchased fresh corn, longans, huge, finger-like red chillies and limes. But we also grabbed some rare, seasonal produce from overseas like beetroot, radishes, white peaches and strawberries (finally!). And when we saw the biggest, freshest juiciest dates for the first time in a long time, well, they weren't safe from our shopping baskets either! 

Chillies and limes
Beetroot, radishes, peaches and strawberries
And then there were dates...

Returning home, I flippantly declared, "Never fear, ice cream days are here!". Erm, I didn't actually say it in those exact words but mumbled something about preserves and such... Of course, I had a better preservation method in mind, and that was to immortalize the various fresh flavors as ice cream ;-). Where would I start, though? Oh yes, hopefully you already saw the first one I made - Lemongrass, Chilli and Lime ice cream. It was wild, oh-so-wildly delicious!

Fennel seeds

This time, I was inspired to make something out of the dates and strawberries, buoyed in the sweet licorice undertones of fennel seeds. I can't tell you for sure how I come up with these unusual flavor combinations and this may sound sick, but I just know. My mental palate tells me what works well together and what doesn't. I think Gordon Ramsay would love me, but frankly, I wouldn't be able to take any of his BS screaming and in all likelihood would retaliate. That would be one hell of a Hell's Kitchen! LOL. Anyway, as usual, I digress.


So the cream base of the frozen treat (I'm tired of saying 'ice cream') was flavored with the sweet and aromatic taste of fennel, which I love. By the way, did you all know that fennel is a key ingredient in major spice blends such as Indian curry powders, Chinese Five Spices and the French Herbes de Province? As well as being used in savory dishes, it is also frequently used in baked breads, cakes and cookies. In some countries, fennel seeds are served with sugar as an after-meal mouth freshener. Can you envisage now how lovely this spice would taste in an ice cream?

I decided to blend the dates with the fennel cream to make a custard that carried a slightly middle-eastern flair. The fresh strawberries were transformed into a compote and swirled into the semi-frozen ice cream to give that 'rippled' effect. Topped with some julienned fresh dates, and it was all set to be chowed down! Oh. My. Goodness. Do I even need to tell you how fantabulous this tasted?


Now so far, I have shared with you my video stash of hip and happening young artistes and musicians, but today let's listen to a golden oldie. No, not Rod Stewart! He'll forever be 27 (or is that the age of his girlfriends?). This is Rod Stewart like you've never seen him before, singing a golden classic. And I must say, he is breathtaking here. The few minutes you take out of your life to enjoy this will be worth it, I promise.


Fennel, Date and Strawberry Ice Cream
Makes about 3 cups


Ingredients:
Fennel-Date Custard
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup (about 8 large) fresh dates, peeled and pitted
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch


Strawberry Compote
1 cup sliced strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:
1. Crush the fennel seeds using a pestle and mortar, or a rolling pin. Add them to the cream in a small heavy saucepan and bring just to a simmer. Turn off the heat, cover pan and let steep for about 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, blanch the dates in a bowl or pan of boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain and let dates cool slightly, then peel off skin with by inserting a toothpick it underneath the skin to loosen it. Cut open dates and remove seeds. (Express tip: You can skip peeling the dates by blending them together with the milk as in Step 3 below, then straining the liquid afterwards to eliminate the skin. Just remember to remove the seeds first!)
3. Process dates with milk and salt in a blender until smooth. Pour into a pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly.
4. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, stir the remaining 2 tablespoons milk and cornstarch until well combined. Add the cornstarch mixture to the hot milk and return saucepan to heat. As soon as the mixture starts to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to a custard-like consistency.
5. Strain fennel cream through fine-mesh sieve into date custard, pressing on solids. Stir mixture until well combined.
6. Leave fennel-date custard to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours in the refrigerator or 45 minutes in the freezer. Note: Custard can be chilled, covered, in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
7. To make the strawberry compote, place the strawberries, sugar and vanilla in a small pan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until sugar melts and the berries are softened. Set aside to cool.
8. Pour the chilled custard into the ice-cream maker and freeze according to the instructions of your ice-cream machine. When the ice cream is nearly frozen (about 15-20 minutes), pour the strawberry compote into the bowl of the ice cream maker and churn for about 30 seconds to allow the compote to drizzle through the ice cream. Transfer to a container and freeze until ready to serve. Remove from freezer and let stand for 10 minutes to soften slightly before serving.

41 comments:

Carolyn said...

I am so intrigued by the fennel in this! I love fennel, but only think of it in savoury dishes. I bet this was REALLY good!

Carolyn said...

PS - Nice blog overhaul! ;)

BestOodles said...

Fennel seeds in ice cream? please someone pass me a spoon! I can't wait to try delicious looking ice cream.

Foodiva said...

Carolyn, it tastes really, REALLY good! You should try making a low-carb fennel ice cream and sub the milk with coconut milk. Oh heaven! Glad you like the new look ;-).

Foodiva said...

@BestOodles, thanks. I hope you do, you won't regret it one bit!

marla said...

Such original & fabulous flavors for ice cream!

Ann said...

What an unusual combination! I suspect that it's delicious - and I'm curious as to how the fennel tasted....beautiful pictures!

Foodness Gracious said...

Another great dish from Maya's ice cream store:) And thanks for profiling my fellow countryman Mr Stewart
Thanks!

Foodiva said...

Marla and Ann, thanks for stopping by. The fennel tasted like a diluted version of licorice or anise, but it's not a full-on flavor, just a lingering taste there behind the dates and strawberries, which are more dominant. You'd have to be told that the fennel is there or your tastebuds may not be able to distinguish that 'something-else' flavor. That's why I like this...it's mysterious ;-).

Foodiva said...

@Foodness Gracious, Maya's Magic Ice Cream Shoppe, I like that better!LOL. So happy to have another Scots on my blog on the same day... but you're not forever 27 too, are you? :-)

Kris Ngoei said...

Looks so delicious! This could turn into one of my lifetime favorite ice cream like Rod Steward my lifetime favorite male singer! :-)

Xinmei @ Pudding Pie Lane said...

What a great post, and I love the ice cream too. Actually, this year exactly one year ago I was on a plane to Borneo! I spent a month in Sabah, but I wish I got to see more of the island :)

Tina said...

I like everything about this post. The quote at the top and the Rod Stewart clip. Most of all though, the ice cream is awesome. Great and unique combo of flavors. Buzz Buzz

Nourhan @ Miss Anthropist's Kitchen said...

That ice cream sounds SO great! Love the addition of dates :)

Adora's Box said...

Fantastic flavour! You should have your own ice cream brand, Maya. Love those fresh dates. I love the surprising accent of fennel seeds to the sweet date and strawberry flavours.

dwidlebug said...

This is very interesting recipe, just look so gooood!

Foodiva said...

Kris, what an honor to hear you say that about my ice cream. As for Rod, he will never get old and we will never tire of him! :-)

Jenny (VintageSugarcube) said...

Maya- Loved learning about your Farmer's Markets. Summer in your red kitchen, sounds like the hottest ticket in town. THe flavor combo sounds nothing short of pure deliciousness. A friend recently gave me branches of fennel seeds and my kitchen has never smelled so wonderful. Any vacations for you guys this summer?

Ameena said...

I have always wanted to visit Borneo...even more so now that I see what delicious foods you have over there! I love this recipe...

Sandra said...

You keep putting my favorite songs:)) thank you for that..:)
Your ice-cream look INCREDIBLE! I would love one scoop right now:))

yummychunklet said...

Simply fantastic photos. I'm hesitant about the fennel, but you make it sound so appetizing that I'll have to try it!

Foodiva said...

Xinmei, what...you were in Sabah and you didn't come over and visit me?! On your next trip out here, make sure that's corrected.

Foodiva said...

Tina, so glad you noticed everything in this post, even the food! ;-)

Foodiva said...

Nourhan, Ramadan is here so date days are a-plenty! Happy fasting to you, my girl.

Foodiva said...

Adora, do you really think anyone would eat my ice cream concoctions? I'm the one eating them by the tub at home, but thanks so much for the vote of confidence! ;-)

Foodiva said...

Dwiana@dwidlebug, just checked out your site and I think your photography is simply phenomenal! Thanks for dropping by.

Foodiva said...

Jenny doll, no vacations for us this summer :-(. Saving it all up for Dec, LOL. You should really make something out of those fennel seeds, girl!

Foodiva said...

Ameena, if you ever come here, you simply MUST visit me and bring along Maya. Then you'll have two Mayas to annoy you! I think we'll have a blast and leave the husbands to their techie things. Or maybe just leave the husbands, period. ;-)

Foodiva said...

Sandra, that can only mean one thing. You and I, we have INCREDIBLE taste in music!

Foodiva said...

@yummychunklet, if you can withstand lavender in your desserts, then fennel is no different. Try it, don't hesitate!

PFx said...

I love strawberry and fennel. And I haven't eaten a date that fresh for aggeeeessssss! I wonder where I can get it nowadays.

Now a biggie for Rod Stewart's crooning. Not manly enuf like Frankie for me ;P

Foodiva said...

Pierre, glad you like the flavors...well, 2 out of 3 of them, anyway! As for Sinatra singing 'Tonight', yes he'll always be the original, but this, this version here is especially for the girlies ;-).

Cher said...

I always love the way your mind works in putting things together. Great combination.
And for some reason, I like Rod Stewart. I don't know why, but I do :-)

Foodiva said...

Cher, this mind can be both a curse and a blessing, LOL. I like Rod Stewart too, for no reason other than his sandy voice and sexy strut!

Tes said...

Lovely combination and it does look luscious :)

Russell at Chasing Delicious said...

Look at all that gorgeous fruit and vegetables! That bowl of limes and peppers looks awesome too.

I am super, duper, crazy intrigued by fennel in ice cream. I love fennel but have never thought to try it in ice cream. I am going to have to try this asap. It looks divine.

Foodiva said...

Thank you, Tes, and luscious it truly was!

Foodiva said...

Russell, fennel ice cream on its own merit tastes delicious. But you know me, I can't stop at just that...I have to make it over-the-top insanely yummy. And thank goodness it worked this time!

Victoria said...

Yet another exciting ice cream flavor! I really love dates, and have decided that I need to use them way more in my kitchen! Such a wonderful sweetness :)

Foodiva said...

Victoria, yes the dates gave a wonderful sweetness to the main ice cream that I didn't even put any sugar there. All the sugar was in the strawberry compote, but I only added that to balance out the fruit's tartness. This ice cream tasted just perfect!

The Baking Gypsy said...

Absolutely beautiful. Your blog is gorgeous! I am so thrilled to have found it :)

Tammy♥

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