Everyone is flavoring desserts with fresh herbs these days so as a farewell to summer here's one I made as soon as I saw some fresh figs in the market. Are you familiar with Hank from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook? I've been reading his blog for quite a while and am so impressed with his diverse interests and inquiring mind. He takes you along on his many journeys and discoveries and never fails to post marvelous recipes and lots of information. And on anything concerning game? He is my guru.
Hank doesn't post desserts all that often so when I read this on his blog quite a while back, I bookmarked it. He has a winner with this herbal ice cream and here's what he says about it:
"This is my own invention, although it relies on a standard ice cream base. Do this ice cream recipe only in early spring, or in the late winters where it is warm, as it is here in Northern California. Only use the freshest oregano and the finest individual ingredients. Your guests will notice."
I waited most of the summer for the fresh figs and just crossed my fingers the oregano from my kitchen herb garden would do the trick. I've had fun with a few herbal ice creams this summer and also made a basil panna cotta and lavender syrup recently; but because ice cream has always been my favorite dessert hands down, I thought this would be an interesting addition to my repertoire.
We all loved it but when you look at the photo, you don't see oregano ice cream, you see vanilla. Believe me, the oregano flavor was delightful, not too strong and perfectly balanced. I wish I had thought to put a sprig of oregano on top to make it a bit more obvious, but by that time I was deep into the fig syrup and forgot. I followed Hank's recipe for fig syrup too, but mine ended up thicker than his....which frankly, made it more of a sauce than a syrup. Mind you, I'm not complaining, it was terrific.
Greek Oregano Ice Cream with Fig Syrup
From Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
2 cups heavy cream
scant 2 cups milk
generous 1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
double handful of fresh oregano leaves, about 1/2 cup loosely placed in a measuring cup
black honey, preferably Greek — any really dark honey will do
sprigs of oregano from the very tips of the plants to garnish (Oops...I forgot!)
Make the crème anglaise. In a nonreactive pot, heat the milk, cream and sugar just barely to the boil. Turn off the heat, stir in the oregano, cover and let cool to room temperature, about 3 hours. Do not steep the herbs for more than 6 hours.
Strain the oregano out of the cream mixture and return to the heat. Lightly beat the egg yolks, and when the cream mixture is just at a boil, turn the heat down.
Add a small ladleful of the hot cream to the egg yolks to temper them, stirring the yolks constantly. Do this until you have several ladle
When the crème anglaise is cool, strain it again to get out any lumpy bits, then pour into your ice cream maker.
Hank's Fig Syrup
1-2 pounds ripe figs (I reduced this amount.)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
sugar to taste (I didn't need any)
Chop the figs well, add the zest and juice of the lemons and simmer over medium-low heat for 2-3 hours. You want everything to break down and be a mush. (It didn't take that long when I did it.)
Turn off the heat and push the fig mixture through the fine plate of a food mill. If you don’t have a food mill, you could use a drum sieve or a fine colander. But a food mill is best.
After everything is through the food mill, pour the fig mixture into a jelly bag if you have one — Hank didn't, so he used a clean spare undershirt — and push everything through. (I ignored this and just pushed everything through a sieve. My syrup looks more like a sauce than Hank's, but we loved it just the way it was.) You will leave a lot of good stuff in the bag, but it’s the price for a clear syrup.
Taste for sugar and add, if necessary.