Cruella De Vil's dinner party took place in a room with black marble walls, on a white marble table. The food was rather unusual.
The soup was dark purple. And what did it taste of?
The fish was bright green. And what did it taste of?
The meat was pale blue. And what did that taste of?
Everything tasted of pepper, even the ice cream - which was black.
The Hundred and One Dalmatians, Dodie Smith
Like many of my generation, my first exposure to The Hundred and One Dalmatians - and inimitable villain Cruella de Vil - was via Disney. If this (and later, Glenn Close) are your only exposures to this well known story, I would recommend checking out Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel. Like I Capture the Castle, my favourite of her books, it’s a cracking read. However, unlike the scenes that inspire most of the posts on this blog, I have no interest in joining Cruella de Vil for a meal that tastes only of pepper (as much as I like it when accompanying other things), so I had to be a little creative in developing a more palatable alternative.
Last time I travelled back to see my family, I was terribly early reaching Heathrow, and three hours surrounded by Duty Free perfume wore me down - I ended up nursing a bottle of blackberry and bay scented perfume all the way back to Australia. Luckily, I adore it, and have vowed to buy only food-scented perfume from now on. It also meant the I have spent subsequent months regularly inspired to utilise this combination in baking. First was the pavlova below, and the ice-cream of this post is my new favourite iteration - the pepper lends it a little something extra. Next up on the list: blackberry and bay custard tarts…
Blackberry and Bay (and Pepper) Ice Cream
80g caster sugar (+1tbsp)
300mL double cream
1 vanilla pod
3 bay leaves
5 egg yolks
2 mixing bowls
Pepper grinder OR mortar and pestle
Ice-cream maker OR freezer-proof container and electric hand whisk
1. Place the blackberries in a bowl with 1tbsp sugar and a small pinch of finely ground black pepper. Squash the mixture around a little and then leave it for at least an hour, while you get going on the custard.
2. Place the cream and milk over a low-medium heat with the bay leaves and split vanilla pod. Bring almost to the boil, then set aside to infuse for five minutes. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until light and creamy. Strain the milk into this mixture, whisking continuously, as the milk will still be warm and you don't want to scramble the eggs.
3. Wash and dry the saucepan then pour the custard into it and place it back over a low-medium heat. Stir continuously, ensuring you get right into the sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens.
4. Once thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, transfer the custard to a bowl, cover with cling-film and cool. While the custard is cooling, squash the blackberries against the sides of the bowl, then pour into a sieve over a mixing bowl. Allow to strain, pushing the berries through if no liquid is making its way into the bowl. Keep going until you're left with some rather solid pulp in the sieve and lovely blackberry juice below.
5. Stir the blackberry juice through the custard and pour into an ice-cream maker, then follow with a couple of hours in the freezer. Alternatively, pour the custard into a freezer-proof container and place it straight in the freezer, removing it every 45 minutes for around four hours to beat with an electric hand whisk. Serve with fresh blackberries.