Pot Luck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is always one of my favourite weeks, because it means that we get to cook with any one of our ten IHCC chefs. For me that usually means the irresistible opportunity to catch up once again with my favourite chef, Yotam Ottolenghi.
This is timely, because this month at Tasting Jerusalem** we are exploring cooking with date syrup, through the lens of Ottolenghi's book Jerusalem. I've use date syrup a few times before in dishes such as this Butternut Squash & Tahini Spread, which is finished off with a drizzle of date syrup.
Date syrup has a consistency similar to maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup or runny honey, and makes a great substitute anywhere you would use any of those ingredients, but the flavour is so much more, for want of a better word, "exotic" and complex than any of them. The sticky sweetness of dates, combined with the intense flavour and aroma of rosewater, makes for an ingredient that will transport you to places far flung.
I've also used date syrup in these Pumpkin, Date & Chocolate Scones ...
... but today I wanted to come up with something that was altogether more indulgent and which really played to the exotic nature of this ingredient.
Doing a little research, I found my inspiration in Ottolenghi's recipe for Chocolate, Rose & Walnut Ice Cream. This seemed like a good starting point, and I thought I could come up with my own version.
To start with, I simplified the whole process by using a combination of coconut cream, condensed milk, and melted dark chocolate, instead of the typical custard base used in the original recipe. Since I had decided I was going to work date syrup into the recipe, I didn't need rose water, as that flavour is already sufficiently pronounced in the syrup. I also wanted actual dates in the ice cream, as well as the syrup, so I soaked them in some freshly brewed espresso to soften them, before swirling into the ice cream. And for that all important crunch, I replaced the walnuts and digestive biscuits Ottolenghi used, with some crumbled meringues. I love the way they hold their texture, and keep that little bit of "chewiness" even once frozen. I did think about also including some cacao nibs, but I think it would have been an ingredient too far, and the depth of chocolate flavour here is more than sufficient without it.
Ottolenghi served his ice cream with chocolate sauce drizzled over the top, which seemed a bit unnecessary in the circumstances, and some little cubes of Turkish delight sprinkled over the top. I think this would have been delightful, but I didn't have any on hand. He also finished with a little sprinkling of dried rose petals - another delightful touch, which I did have and would have added, but the ice cream was melting and for the life of me I couldn't find them in the cupboard (note to self: time to give the cupboard a clean out!)
In the end, this ice cream is everything I wanted it to be. Rich and chocolatey and almost fudgy; there are delightful little of nuggets of chewy dates and crunchy meringues; the date and rose flavours really come through without overpowering, and linger long enough on the palate to tantalise the mind with thoughts of far flung places. I think I should have called this Magic Carpet Ice Cream.
Mocha, Date & Meringue Ice Cream Recipe
Inspired by a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi
Makes about 1 litre
Download the free recipe card here
1/2 cup finely chopped, dried dates
3 tablespoons freshly brewed espresso
1 tablespoon date syrup
400ml (13.5 fl oz) coconut milk
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
200g dark chocolate, melted (I used Whittaker's Dark Ghana)
40g (1-1/2 oz) crumbled meringues
Place chopped dates in a small bowl. Pour over the hot espresso and date syrup. Stir to combine, and set aside until the dates have softened, and mixture has cooled.
Break chocolate into smallish pieces. Place in a bowl over a pot of gently simmering water, making sure the water is not actually touching the bowl. Stir from time to time, until the chocolate is melted and glossy. Set aside and allow to cool completely, but without re-solidifying.
In another bowl, beat together the coconut milk, condensed milk and melted chocolate, until everything is well combined.
Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.
Empty ice cream into a freezer safe container. Stir in the softened dates and crumbled meringues. Cover the surface of the ice cream with a piece of non-stick baking paper, and put in the freezer to firm up.
Serve generously whenever you have itchy feet.
If you would like to get to know Yotam Ottolenghi a little better or any one of our other IHCC chefs, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up for Pot Luck week.
** Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to omgyummy.com, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest.
I'll also be sharing this post at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, and very amusing, Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollam.
I will also be submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand. Inspired by Alessandra Zecchini, and hosted this month by Michelle at Munch Cooking, Sweet New Zealand is an event for all Kiwi bloggers (whether living at home or abroad), or all foreign bloggers living in New Zealand, to link up their sweet treats.