A bowlful of summer…
I’ve been growing lemon verbena in pots from my very first year of gardening. I love it, mostly just to brush past, having as it does the most lemony of lemon scents that exist in all the whole wide world.
It’s wonderfully obliging as a plant – you just put it in a pot and leave it alone. Cut it down when the leaves turn brown and keep it frost-free and it will come back again in the spring. I grow pots of it along with scented leaved pelargoniums and bring the whole thing indoors over the winter so I always have something to look at. You can find out lots more in my book, where I extol its virtues as a herbal infusion…but now it’s September and I’m aware that change is in the air. There’s a new, brisk freshness on the breeze, and the mornings are darker. Consequently…
I have the urge to preserve.
Ice-cream isn’t exactly cozy, but put this with a hot fruit crumble and you’ve got the definition of comforting cut through with that amazing flavour of last summer.
I don’t bother with ice-cream makers, or eggs, or churning, or anything like that. Instead I adapt the recipe for lemon ice-cream from the fabulous Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to Eat’ and keep the ice-cream in small-ish quantities (the sort of quantities that will never make it back into the freezer). I also make sure I soften it inside the fridge rather than outside of it, as lack of churning etc makes it less obliging in terms of keeping its texture during harsh changes in temperature….In other words, if you want it silky-soft (which you DO) then defrost in the fridge for a good hour.
Lemon Verbena Ice-Cream
1 loosely packed cup of lemon verbena leaves (or more if you want it extra-lemon verbena-esque)
The juice of one lemon
170g icing sugar
420ml double cream (yup, you read that right)
Put the leaves, lemon juice and sugar in a food processor and wizz up until they are chopped very finely. Leave this mixture alone for half an hour or so for the flavours to deepen.
Now whip the cream with 3 tablespoons of icy water until you get sumptuous soft peaks. Add in the lemon verbena mixture and whisk it in.
Then just turn the whole lot into a suitable piece of tupperware. I find that these, 1.1l boxes, very satisfyingly, are the perfect size (with enough left over in the bowl, of course, for lickage) – and just bung it in the freezer. That is literally it. I have scattered some lemon verbena leaves, and pelargonium petals on top to make it gorgeous-er.