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fennel ice cream sandwiches

FAS_1617Fennel is an interesting one. For as long as I can remember a huge fennel plant has grown at the top of the vegetable patch and for many years avoided by Hebe and I like the plague. It was a funny texture with “feathery” bits mum sneaked into salads – I still recall the sense of betrayal when picking through leaves. It also had a strange flavour we couldn’t identify but reminded us of brushing out teeth with off toothpaste. So yes fennel didn’t have a lot going for it when I was wee. Recently however whilst exploring a bizarre corner of the internet I discovered that fennel was traditionally used to ‘awake’ people, or open their eyes, and for this reason was including in many Italian wedding treats symbolising that the married couple were now meeting the world with open eyes. I had at this point forgotten about my fennel phobia and thought it was such a lovely notion I such bake with it. on further research I found a cantuccini recipe in one of my books and adapted it slightly before falling head over heels myself. They were so fragrant with the fennel that all dodgy off mint connotation vanished. I then began including it in everything, from savoury dished to these perfect summer sarnies. And now that fennel and I l have made our peace its green fronds have found their way into every salad I have made this year, all senses of betrayal vanished.

Notes: I have been using fennel seeds for most of my sweet fennel recipes as they are far easier to incorporate into baking, but for the ice cream you can of course infuse the cream with the fronds, but bear in mind you will need a lot more than stated for the seeds. Add to taste but be aware that the longer the cream is cooled for the stronger the flavour will get.

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FENNEL ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

Adapted from Jamie Magazine issue no. 60

For the ice cream:

200ml double cream

2 tsp fennel seeds, finely ground in a spice bender or pestle and mortar

350ml whole milk

150g caster sugar

2 large eggs

10g cornflour

For the biscuits:

150g ground almonds

200g unsalted butter, softened

120g caster sugar

200g plain flour

1 tsp fennel seeds, again finely crushed as before

1/2 tsp salt

50g flaked almonds (optional)

Begin by making the ice cream. Crush you seeds as stated above and heat them with cream until nearly boiling. Set aside to cool, leaving the seeds to infuse. For the custard heat the milk until boiling. Whilst this is happening whisk together the eggs, sugar and cornflour until a smooth paste forms. Pour the hot milk on top and whisk constantly. Return the custard to the pan and stir continuously on a medium heat until thickened and coating the back of a spoon. Do not allow to boil as this will cause the eggs to scramble. Again set aside to cool. If you are pushed for time, fill a sink with ice and cold water and add the pan of custard submerging it so the water covers half of the sides of the pan. Stir constantly until cold to touch – roughly 4-5 minutes. Strain in the cold cream into the custard, discarding the fennel seeds, and stir until smooth and fully combined. Churn the cold mix in an ice cream maker following the manufactures instructions. Once ready to be frozen pour into a small square roasting or brownie tin and spread level. Freeze for at least 2 hours. In the meantime, begin the biscuits. The easiest way the make the dough is by blitzing all ingredients in a food processor (except for the flaked almonds) until smooth. You can then add the flaked almonds and knead until combined. If you don’t have a processor however it is no bother to cream the butter and sugar together until light then adding the ground almonds, fennel, salt and flour. Again mix until smooth before adding the flaked almonds if using. Roll out to approximately 5mm thick then cut out 6cm rounds (or whatever size you prefer). Bake at 170C for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool for ten minutes on the tray, then transfer onto a cooling rack. Using the same round cutter as for the biscuits cut out discs of the solid ice cream. Keep the ice cream discs in the freezer until ready to sandwich the cooled biscuits together. Before serving place a biscuit on the bottom and top of each ice cream disc and wrap in greaseproof if you want. You can then store them in a sealed tub in the freezer until required.

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