Neither of us has ever been drawn to commercial banana ice cream, with its synthetic flavour and bilious yellow hue, but we really wanted to showcase bananas, which are an important crop in Oman, one of our favourite countries on the Gulf. After testing a few recipes, we became worryingly addicted to this version, especially when topped with this irresistible salted date caramel. Its an ode to Arabia!
400 g (14 oz) ripe bananas (peeled weight), chopped
240 ml (8 fl oz) milk
240 ml (8 fl oz) pure (double or heavy) cream
40 ml (1 ¼ fl oz) Amontillado or medium sherry
6 egg yolks
50 g (1 ¾ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
50 g (1 ¾ oz) liquid glucose
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch sea salt
SALTED DATE CARAMEL:
100 g (3 ½ oz) unsalted butter
100 g (3 ½ oz) light muscovado sugar
3 bay leaves
100 ml (3 ½ fl oz) pure (double or heavy) cream
1„8 teaspoon salt flakes
To make the salted date caramel, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Once melted, stir in the sugar and heat gently until it has dissolved, stirring to help it along. Add the bay leaves to the pan and simmer for a few minutes. Dont worry if it seems to be resolutely un-amalgamated at this stage, it will all come together when you add the cream. Pour it in (watching out for splutters) and stir briskly until it melts magically into a thick, glossy sauce. Add the salt and simmer for a few minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and tip the caramel into a jar until ready to use. The sauce will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. If you can resist eating spoonfuls directly from the jar, then warm it gently and serve with ice cream.
To make the ice cream, put the chopped bananas in a heavy-based saucepan with the milk and cream. Bring to a bare simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time, add the sherry. Remove from the heat and set aside for an hour to infuse. Discard half the bananas and transfer the rest, together with the infused cream, to the bowl of a food processor. Whiz to a fine puree then push through a sieve into a clean saucepan. Return to the heat and bring to a simmer.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and glucose until thick and creamy. Slowly pour on a quarter of the hot banana milk, whisking continuously. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk in briskly. Cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens to a custard consistency. You should be able to draw a distinct line through the custard on the back of a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and salt, and cool immediately in a sink of iced water. Stir from time to time to help the custard cool down quickly. Chill well in the fridge.
When ready to churn, pour the custard into an ice-cream machine and churn according to the manufacturers instructions. Transfer to a plastic container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
When ready to serve, tip the caramel into a small pan and warm through gently. Meanwhile, blanch the dates for 1 minute in boiling water. Peel and discard the skins and pits, then dice the dates finely and add them to the caramel. Serve while warm with the ice cream.
Makes around 1 litre (35 oz)
New Feast by Greg & Lucy Malouf (Hardie Grant, Â£30.00).
Photography Alan Benson