One of the nice things about lockdown is sharing food with neighbours. These ice-cream sandwiches, offered at Netflix-o-clock, got a great reaction from next door. We ate the treats with just a wall between us. A flurry of messages later – discussing the merits of the anise overtones in the cream and the flavour bomb of the maraschino cherry – and the sandwiches made it into this column.
You can do other things with this prototype recipe and make any number of variations. I am especially keen on this right now as I wait for the cherry trees to blossom on hopeful spring walks in all the London parks.
All the other recipes are equally spring fresh and Easter-ready. Forgive me if they are a bit ahead of themselves. We need renewal this year more than ever. They are full of the promise of the outdoors, verdant and bursting with life.
Asparagus and potato schiacciata
Schiacciata is a thin, only sometimes vegetable-studded, oily bread. Leavened versions exist, but I also love this simple, homier, batter-based one. It is totally delicious and requires no forward planning. Serves 4
spelt flour (or other organic flour) 200g
extra virgin olive oil 50g, plus more for greasing
rosemary 2 branches
salt and pepper
Heat the (fan) oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Sieve the flour and whisk with 1 tsp of salt, the olive oil and the water – resist the temptation to overmix. Set aside to rest.
Wash the potatoes and slice very thinly, only a few millimetres thick if possible. Slice the asparagus as well. Pick the rosemary needles. Mix all three into the batter. It’s easier to do this with a wet hand than a spatula.
Line a large, shallow tray with a piece of baking paper or silicone. Organise the potatoes into a rectangle, filling the tray. Sprinkle with a little more oil, salt and pepper.
Bake for 40-50 minutes until golden around the edges. Scatter with yet more oil and eat while warm.
Tagliatelle with new broad beans
Broad beans and pancetta are a classic match. If you can’t get fresh broad beans yet where you are, this also works well with frozen. I like this especially with homemade, whole-wheat tagliatelle. Serves 4
pancetta 100g, a thick slice
garlic 1 clove
broad beans 300g, shelled
lemon zest of 1
tagliatelle enough for 4
salt and pepper
parmesan 50g, grated
Slice the pancetta width-wise into thin strips. Set the pancetta in a wide pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Turn the heat on to medium and allow the slices to fry until golden and crispy. The pan will be much oilier than when you started.
Add the garlic and quickly follow with the leeks. Soften for a few minutes and then add the broad beans and barely cover with fresh water. The amount of time they take to cook depends greatly on their size: 5 minutes if you’re lucky and you have young broad beans, up to 20 minutes for others.
Grate in the lemon zest and check the seasoning.
Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water until cooked to your liking, or a minute or so less than the cooking time stated on the packet. Add a cup of the cooking water to the beans, reserving another should you need it. Mix in the pasta, turning it over many times in the sauce with the cheese. Serve with more cheese, if you like.
Peas, clams, scallops, chilli, cream
For a treat, sweet scallops, peas and cream, set against heady herbs and the heat of chilli. Serves 2
peas 200g, fresh or frozen
garlic 1 clove, chopped
marjoram or oregano leaves 1 tbsp, fresh
scallops 4, large (hand-dived)
dried chillies 1 or 2
parsley 1 small bunch, chopped
white wine 50ml
single cream 50ml
sea salt and black pepper
Cook the peas in a wide pan with half the garlic, 2 tbsp of olive oil, the marjoram and a pinch of salt over a medium heat. Barely cover with water and let them cook for 15 minutes until they are very soft, then set them aside.
Wash the clams thoroughly in several changes of water, discarding any open ones. Dry the scallops on kitchen paper and then season well.
Heat a heavy, lidded pan over a high heat. When hot, carefully place the scallops in 2 tbsp of oil. Turn the heat to medium and leave them alone for 2 minutes, giving them a chance to sear. Turn them over, revealing a beautiful golden top. Add a little oil if necessary, and then the chilli, torn in several pieces, seeds removed if you like. Follow with the parsley, and when the chilli and herbs have fried a little, add the remaining garlic, clams and then wine. Turn the heat up, cover them and give the pan a shake. Once the clams have all opened, add the peas and cream and give the pan another shake.
Serve at once, with good bread if you have some.
Cherry ice-cream sandwiches
This is a bit of a project, but if it’s your thing, set some time aside because it’s really worth the effort. The toasted anise flavour is pervasive yet gentle. Makes 12 sandwiches
For the biscuits:
wholemeal flour 170g, plus extra for dusting
icing sugar 140g
baking powder 1 tsp
salt a pinch
butter 110g, cold and cut into cubes
milk 2 tbsp
honey 2 tbsp
For the ice-cream:
aniseed 1 tbsp
white wine 110ml
egg yolks 5
double cream 220m
maraschino cherries 100g
salt a pinch
Heat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.
For the biscuits: mix together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of your food processor. Add the butter and pulse to resemble breadcrumbs. Mix the milk and honey together and add to the dry ingredients to form a dough. Resist the temptation to overwork the dough, but move it to the surface and shape it into a ball. Move it to the fridge for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 2 and roll out each in turn, straight on to the baking paper, well dusted with flour, to a rectangle about 0.5cm thick. Move them on to your baking sheets and prick them all over with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes. Be aware if moving them around while still warm that they are very fragile till cooled.
For the ice-cream: toast the aniseed in a medium pan over a moderate heat for 3 minutes. Then add the wine, bring to the boil and turn off the heat. Leave aside to infuse for 1 hour, then pass through a sieve.
In a clean bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar until pale. Then set the bowl over the top of a pan of boiling water. Whisk continually, missing no part of the bowl. Quite quickly it will thicken and gain volume. It is ready when considerably thick and traces can be left on top. This takes roughly 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and, still whisking, place the bowl containing the egg yolks in a bath of cold water and whisk intermittently until it is cool enough to move it to the fridge. Leave it there until chilled.
Whisk the cream in another bowl to stiff peaks, then, with a spatula, carefully fold the two together. Chill again to set more. Cover one of the big biscuits with the cream and scatter with the cherries, then top with the other. Freeze for 2 hours before cutting into individual sandwiches with a sharp knife.
Wrap in pieces of baking paper and keep in an airtight container in the freezer.
Food stylist Henrietta Clancy