Canteloupe and winter melon ice cream

Apologies for the lack of a post last night; one of my friends had his UK Citizenship ceremony yesterday, and we were out late celebrating. (When I got home, I was arguably not in a fit state to be allowed anywhere near a keyboard.) This means you get an early morning, pre-work post.

Buying the melons for this ice cream was an interesting experience. I was casting around the supermarket for some fruit to turn into an ice cream, and saw a stack of canteloupes. Next to it was a second stack of canteloupes; these were nearly half the price. Why could this be? I picked up an expensive one. It smelled fragrant and melony, even through the skin. I picked up a cheap one. It smelled like a potato.

I don’t like potato ice cream, even potato ice cream that’s a pretty melon colour, so I went for the expensive ones.

To make this ice cream you will need:

2 canteloupe melons, seeds and skin removed
1/2 pint milk
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons honey
1 pack crystalised winter melon (see below)
2 drops vanilla essence

I started by making a custard as a base; the milk was brought to a near-simmer with the vanilla and honey (from a jar of local honey from bees from the next village), and the egg yolks were beaten in until the mixture thickened. I then pureed the melons in the Magimix, then passed them through a sieve into the custard, folded everything together, and added the winter melon, cut into tiny pieces. Refrigerate the mixture, then follow the instructions on your ice cream maker.

Candied winter melon was my favourite Chinese sweets when I was a little girl. On trips to London I would bully my parents into going to Chinatown to visit the supermarkets, so I could take a pack home. It’s tooth-achingly sweet, and the melon has a slightly crisp texture, like a water chestnut. If you’re near a Chinese supermarket, do try to get your hands on a pack for this recipe; you could also substitute Italian candied melon, but this is so good that it would be a shame if you couldn’t try it.

Winter melon grows in the summer, but has a waxy skin which means it will keep for many months, giving it its name. It’s used in Chinese cooking as a vegetable (if it’s not candied, it’s not very sweet; it’s really a gourd and not a sweet melon); it has a crisp texture and is a good carrier of flavours. Once candied, it’s sublimely good.

I was hoping to garnish the ice cream with winter melon pieces as well, but unfortunately we’d eaten the few I kept to one side by the time the ice cream was ready. (I defy you to be able to leave unaccompanied winter melon in your kitchen for long without accidentally eating it.) It was delicious; Mr Weasel made gurgling noises and said ‘it tastes like sweeties’. Most of the ice cream is now in the freezer, so we can keep people happy at Christmas.