Few foods are as redolent of the British summer as an ice-cream or lolly. From humble choc-ice to blousy banana split, these arctic treats can lay claim to more than their fair share of "madeleine" moments, spiriting us back to sunny parks or – perhaps more likely – drizzly promenades. Yet, as a nation we are historically far better at eating the frozen stuff than we are at making it. Our much-loved though nutritionally dubious Mr Whippy, for instance, is unlikely to have the gelatai of Florence quaking in their starched collars.
Indeed, for something we enjoy so often, we are oddly reluctant to try our hand at our own version, says Tristan Welch, the 31-year-old chef patron of west London's Launceston Place. "Even at a dinner party, where everything down to the stock has been made from scratch, people tend to buy their ice-cream ready-made," admits the former Gordon Ramsay protégé. "So when you make your own, it looks incredibly smart and impressive even though it is actually very simple."
As old-school summer fare, ice-creams and lollies make perfect culinary candidates for the Welch treatment. In the two years since he took the helm at Princess Diana's preferred Kensington lunch spot, Welch has established himself as a master of "modern British", which in his hands means old favourites reworked with a lightness of touch and a staunch commitment to the best seasonal British produce.
In the chic surroundings of Launceston Place, this approach might result in the tableside theatrics of house-cured salmon served under a cloche filled with oak-scented smoke, to be lifted Houdini-style by your waiter. But it's the treats that Welch likes to serve up on balmy afternoons in the garden of his west London home that he is revealing here for The New Review. "These recipes are what I make for my family, but they are something I've made and experimented with throughout my career," he explains. "For the BBC's Great British Menu TV series I made rhubarb-and-custard ice-cream in cones and we do have a raspberry ripple and a whisky ice-cream as part of other dishes on the menu at the restaurant."
Professionally, Welch has won particular praise for his prudent use of hi-tech devices in his cooking, applying "culinary alchemy" only when it enhances his ingredients. Which is refreshing news for ice-cream-loving Luddites: "There's no need for fancy ice-cream makers here," he says breezily. "Domestic ice-cream makers are a waste of time. A top-end machine will really aerate your ice-cream and give it a great texture, but unless you are going all out, it's not worth it."
But if gadgets aren't Welch's priority, one thing he won't compromise on is produce. "It all started in my parents' home in Cambridgeshire. It was a bit like The Good Life – we had chickens, grew our own vegetables – partly out of necessity and partly out of a love of food. So at restaurants I could never understand why they might use produce that wasn't as good as we had at home. Why would I pay extra for that?"
At Launceston Place, Welch has two guiding principles: "First, we try for 100 per cent British produce. There's the occasional problem of a lemon or something – that's so frustrating, but we are tirelessly looking for alternatives. The second rule is, what grows together goes together. So you look at the core ingredient then create around that. One of our signature dishes is scallops, which are cooked in herbs from the coastline. We want a real locality about the dishes." '
Welch's recipes are consequently founded on recognisable flavour combinations that stem from times when locality and seasonality were necessities. Ironically, it's that old-fashioned culinary philosophy that the chef regards as a new marker of modernity: "Creating something that is not dictated by an arrogant chef at the stove, but by Mother Nature, feels very different from what we have become used to."
Welch's unpretentious presentation adds to the contemporary feel of his food, though in the case of his ices, this too is deceptively simple, involving nothing more than standard ice-lolly moulds, shot glasses and the inventive redeployment of old wine-bottle corks. It all looks a million miles away from the Mivvis and Cornettos of yore, while still retaining a healthy dash of childish appeal. And that, says Welch, is the point: "I try to be a bit playful across the board, but a dessert is where you can go to town. Don't muck around too much with your main course, but have all the fun you want with dessert."
Tristan Welch is chef patron at Launceston Place, London W8 (tel: 020 7937 6912, launcestonplace-restaurant.co.uk)
Caramelised honey, chocolate chip and hazelnut bar
Makes 12 servings
7 egg yolks
400ml double cream
150g dark chocolate, broken in to small, pea-size pieces
150g nibbed hazelnuts, toasted
Place the sugar and water in one pan and the honey in another, cook the honey on a medium to high heat to caramelise; in the other pan, warm the water and sugar to dissolve the two together to make a syrup.
While they are cooking, whisk the egg yolks with an electric whisk. Also whip the cream to a soft peak and set to one side.
Once the honey is caramelised and almost burnt, pour in the sugar-syrup to stop it from cooking any further, then gradually pour this mixture on to the egg yolks while whisking vigorously. Continue whisking until the mix is at room temperature.
Now fold in the whipped cream and chocolate chips and pour into a square cake tin mould and freeze.
When serving, cut into bar shapes and roll them in the nibbed hazelnuts.
Lemon, lime and cucumber with Pimm's
Makes 12 glasses
1 bunch mint
1 litre lemonade
The juice and zest of one lemon
The juice and zest of two limes
Peel and blend the cucumber and mint, then strain through a sieve so that you have a juice.
Mix the lemonade, Pimm's and cucumber juice, then add the zest and juices of the lemons and limes. Mix well and freeze.
When serving, scratch the frozen block with a fork to create a snow effect, scoop into chilled glasses and serve with a piece of mint, slice of cucumber and a dash of Pimm's.
Strawberry and cream ice-lolly
Makes about 8 lollies
500g fresh strawberries
200ml thick double cream
Wash the strawberries, cut off the green tops and blend the fruit with the sugar and glucose.
Pour the strawberry mix into eight lightly greased shot glasses. Place a lolly stick in the centre of the glass and freeze. (To keep the stick in the centre of the lolly, I slit a cork in two places, once along the bottom, which I slide on to the side of the glass, and once vertically along its side, into which I slot the stick.)
To coat the strawberry ice-lolly in the cream, once the strawberry is frozen solid remove from the shot glass, by dipping the glass in warm water – it should then slide out. Now dip the lolly in the double cream and place back in the freezer to set. It's then ready to serve or will keep for a couple of weeks in the freezer.
For the marinated rhubarb
2 sticks rhubarb
11/2 tsp icing sugar
11/2 tsp grenadine
For the vanilla ice-cream
1 vanilla pod (2 tsp of essence will do)
350ml double cream
Using a sharp knife, slice 2mm-3mm thick slices of the rhubarb lengthways and lay on a microwave-proof plate, sprinkle with the icing sugar and grenadine and cling-film tightly, making a couple of small holes to let the steam escape. Microwave this for a minute on a high setting and 10 seconds thereafter until just cooked; set to one side and allow to cool.
For the ice-cream, bring the water, sugar, glucose and vanilla pod along with the seeds to the boil. When this has dissolved, remove from the heat and place in the fridge to cool; it's important that this is cold when used in the next stage.
Whip the double cream to a soft peak, remove the pod from the syrup, and gently fold in the syrup.
To put together the ice-lollies, take eight round moulds (roughly 4cm-5cm in diameter), place on a flat tray and wrap the cooked rhubarb strips around the inside of the round moulds tightly so they'll eventually be on the outside of the ice-cream; pour in the ice-cream and balance a stick in the middle of each, and freeze for at least four hours before serving.