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Sweet memories of Italy - Homemade ice cream by Irene Silvino

London , GB

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My earliest cooking memory was when I was  a child, four or five years old. I am seated on the granite kitchen counter with a plastic plate and a pretend knife and fork, gently holding "Gattu,” a big, yellow soft toy cat. Gattu was also the official food taster and judge of my special recipes.

 My cooking instructor was my father, a funny and friendly physician and also a fantastic (and very messy!) cook. In those days we loved simple homemade recipes, made with fresh ingredients purchased from "Mercato Cetrale" (the central food market in Livorno, a lively sea side city in Tuscany).

My father and I shared a special rule: Never follow recipes. We felt cooking is just a matter of finding the right flavour combinations and ingredients. It's all about taste. When you cook you need to trust yourself, experiment and have fun.

Oh, and to keep the kitchen clean!
My mother reminded us of this often, especially when the kitchen looked like a battlefield straight after one of our "creative" cooking sessions. I can easily recall her crossed face looking at us and pointing at the countertop, at the floor and sink, that overflowed with cooking pots, bowls, utensils and discarded ingredients. How could it happen that not even a pan in the cupboard, or a spoon in the drawer, were clean?! Under some sort of magic spell the sink transformed itself into a ginormous, wonky, metal robot made of pans. The ceramic floor, in an attempt of camouflage, was covered with crumbles, salad leaves, flour, parsley and sometimes even squashed pieces of tomatoes.

Now that I am older, my love for cooking is shared with my children and husband. When my father visits, he still enjoys cooking and making a big mess! My children and Gattu (now my daughter’s favourite toy and taster) listen to his lessons with enthusiasm and help him create our delicious Italian dishes and desserts.

When my dad is away, I’m left to my own devices because I’ve never been good at preparing desserts. In London, where we live, I search for the best dessert shops, but the thing I miss the most, about Italy, especially in summer, is the yummy, full of flavour, creamy ice-cream!  In Livorno, if you go for a walk in the city centre or by the sea, at every corner you can find a gelateria (ice-cream shop). There are the most delicious, mouth-watering ice-cream made with local and fresh ingredients! There are all sorts of flavours, not just the most common vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and pistachio.

Are you ready for a summer challenge? We are going to make home made ice-creams!
I asked my friend Giovanna from Sicily (her ice-cream is superb!) for a nice ice-cream recipe. She gave me a few interesting tips but they looked a bit complicated, so, let’s try an easier one, instead. It’s an ice cream base recipe to make at home, without expensive ice-cream machines, and with just two simple main ingredients. I can already hear your disappointment… "where is the challenge in that, if we are going to make ice cream with just two ingredients?" The challenge is in the flavours! Have fun experimenting! Also invite your family and your friends. Good luck! Buona fortuna!

ICE-CREAM BASE

Ingredients:

500ml heavy whipping cream/double cream, cold
350ml condensed milk, cold

*US conversion table (https://www.metric-conversions.org/volume/milliliters-to-us-ounces.htm)

Method:

Use an hand or stand mixer fitted with a wisk attachment to whip on medium/high speed the cold cream until is not too firm.
Add the cold condensed milk and on high speed whip the mix until it gets firmer then before (just be careful not to over whip or your cream will curdle)
Now that you have your ice-cream base you can add your favourite flavours!
You can transfer your ice-cream to an airtight container and freeze for 4/6 hours before eating it.
You can keep it stored in the freezer for up to 6 weeks if you don't take it out from the freezer.

Some simple flavours ideas

You can divide in half the ice-cream base that we prepared and you can make:

Coffee flavour

Add half mug of coffee (if you like a stronger flavour add 3 extra teaspoons of instant coffee), mix it well with a spoon + add on top ground coffee to decorate it.
Freeze for 4/6 hours before eating it.

STRACCIATELLA FLAVOUR

Add 50g chocolate flakes, mix it well wit a spoon  + add extra chocolate chips to decorate it.
Freeze for 4/6 hours before eating it.

If you prepare another ice-cream base (500ml heavy whipping cream/double cream, cold + 350ml condensed milk, cold) and divide it in half you can make:

Amarena (black cherry) Flavour

Add half mug of sour cherries in their syrup, mix it gently with a spoon, + extra cherries and 1 tablespoon of sour cherries to decorate it.
Freeze for 4/6 hours before eating it.

CHOCOLATE Flavour

Add 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder, mix it well with a spoon + add extra chocolate chips on top to decorate it.
Freeze for 4/6 hours before eating it.

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