2014 was very much the year of the clementine. My favourite fruit was everywhere this year, and, with its glossy green leaves, cheerful, punchy colours and Mediterranean vibe, it was looking well. I wanted to make something that would draw out all the best elements of the clementine – the sweetness, the faint sourness, the vibrancy, and showcase all of the things that make the clementine the archetypal orange, and the one we love the most.
I decided to make a clementine ice cream, which I thought would be good for January, a month when the citrus fruits (Seville, blood oranges and clementines) are coming into their own, the nights are long, and people are still gathering, albeit for cosy, slightly more sedate dinners with close friends, rather than the big, rambunctious, pavlova-and-roulade-and-six-other-desserts gatherings of Christmas (Irish people are mad for roulade).
Despite its day to day functionality, the clementine is really quite a special fruit: think of the arrival of the crates of clementines at the supermarket in November, some of them wrapped up like jewels in coloured tin foil; some of them not, but all of them bright and festive. Also, think too of how you felt about the clementine at the bottom of your stocking; a special, heavy orange for a quiet moment of contemplation, days after Christmas, when you were re-examining your presents again after all the fuss.
It’s an ordinary fruit that’s really worth celebrating, and it’s at its best at the moment. Try your clementines in my (really very lovely) Italian-inspired ricotta ice cream; in a beautiful clementine cake from The Wildflour Bakery’s Kate Packwood, or in an invigorating January salad, with shaved fennel, roast beetroot and crumbled feta.
Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.
RICOTTA AND CLEMENTINE ICE CREAM
A deliciously grown-up, stylish and elegant dessert for a cosy January dinner with friends. The mixed peel gives it a lovely texture and, along with the ricotta and lemon zest, a faint cannoli feel, but it’s up to you if you want to include it or not. Serves 6.
1.5 cups cream
2 cups milk
2/3 cup caster sugar
Zest of 1 navel orange
Juice of 3 clementines (or of one navel orange)
3 tablespoons of ricotta
2 tablespoons mixed peel
Zest of one small lemon
Dash of good quality orange or lemon extract
Dash of good quality vanilla extract
1 vanilla pod (optional)
2 egg yolks
Freeze your ice cream maker bowl the night before you want to make the ice cream. Add the sugar, milk and cream to a large glass bowl and set over a smaller pan of boiling water so that the glass bowl sits on top. Zest the orange and add to the milk mixture. Add the vanilla and orange or lemon extract. If you’re using a vanilla pod, cut it in half and scrape out the seeds with a sharp knife, then add seeds and pod to the pan. Heat the milk till the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot. Start beating the egg yolks in a separate bowl with hand beaters. Add a small splash of the hot milk mixture and continue to beat. Keep adding small splashes of milk until most of the milk mixture is in your egg bowl. When you’ve beaten around two-thirds in, transfer all of the egg-milk-cream mix back into your original bowl. Continue to beat for another minute or two, over the boiling water, and then allow the custard to thicken, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (about 15 minutes). Pour into a jug, cover with cling film and leave to cool in the fridge. Juice the three clementines. If there’s any pulp, spoon it into the juice. Pour a third of the juice into a bowl and add the mixed peel and lemon zest, and leave to soak while the milk and cream mixture cools in the fridge. When the milk and cream mixture is fully cold, slowly stir the clementine juice into the jug until you have 500ml of liquid altogether. The mix may look like it could curdle for a few seconds, but just keep stirring and it will smooth out. Take the ice cream maker bowl out of the freezer, turn on the machine and pour the mix in slowly. Once the ice cream has started to thicken, add the ricotta and the (drained) mixed peel. When the ice cream has doubled in size, either eat it straight away if you want soft-serve, or spoon into a loaf dish and freeze further, depending on your desired consistency.
Nigella has a very enticing looking recipe for a bitter orange ice cream which could be a good option in a week or two, when the Seville oranges start appearing in shops.