On the night that I was scarfing down chocolate mousse from Chocolate Buddha, the beloved almost got to eat her own dessert unmolested. She knew she’d made a pretty safe bet choosing banana fritter (bananas, ugh) but the ice cream tucked underneath it didn’t escape my attention. I didn’t have high hopes – Japanese ice cream is nowhere near as tooth-achingly sweet or richly creamy as the chocolate, coffee and fruit flavours that usually find their way into our freezer. It’s hard to take a step back from that sugary intensity. But this ice cream, azuki bean, was surprisingly moreish – sure it was not very sweet, but flavoursome, ever so slightly nutty and not a bad match for spoonfuls of stolen sticky date pudding.
Whole-lot-of-faffing-about Azuki Bean Ice Cream
400 grams of dry azuki beans
1 cup of sugar
350 mls of full fat milk
350 mls of cream
100 grams of sugar
6 egg yolks
Start the night before by soaking the beans in a saucepanful of water.
The next day, drain and rinse the beans, then stir in the cup of sugar.
Cover with water to an inch above the beans.
Bring to the boil then simmer until you can squash beans between two fingers. This took me two hours, but it will vary. Stir regularly and add water as needed to keep the beans covered.
Set aside about half a cup of the cooked beans.
Mash the rest with a potato masher. A food processor wouldn’t do a bad job either, but I was trying not to wake the sleeping family.
Push the mash through a fine sieve with a spatula to remove all the bean husks. This leaves you with a smooth-ish bean paste. I used a standard kitchen sieve, but I’d really prefer a finer mesh sieve for jobs like this. If you want, you can add more sugar at this point – just adjust it to your own taste.
Set aside while you make the ice cream base. On reflection, you could also do this while the beans are boiling.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale. Set aside.
Put the cream and milk into a medium saucepan and bring to just boiling.
Pour the cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking continually.
Transfer mixture back to the saucepan and cook over a low-medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Take off the heat immediately. Pour into a bowl that’s resting in a bowl of iced water.
Allow to cool a little, then stir in the azuki bean paste.
Churn in an ice-cream machine until scoopable. Transfer to a 1.5 litre airtight container and freeze for a few hours.
Well, it’s not chocolate. It’s not going to fill that I’ve-had-a-crappy-day-and-am-mortally-fatigued-and-emotional craving. It’s not got the zing of lemon sorbet to cool you down on a hot day. It probably won’t taste great under a lake of Ice-Magic. It’s decidedly, recognisably Japanese. But I like it. And I think I’ll like it even more with some velvety rice pudding.