Totally chilled: Festive ice cream flavours are on the menu this winter - including Christmas cake and stilton

As the winter chill sets in, it might seem entirely wrong to be talking about ice cream, but Robin and Caroline Weir, frozen dessert obsessives, believe wholeheartedly in eating the stuff every single day of the year. "Of course, sales go up in the summer," Robin says, "but it most definitely isn't a seasonal product. Rich ice cream is a wonderful thing to have as a dessert in even the coldest weather."

The Weirs have a book out called Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelati: The Definitive Guide, just in time for Christmas. As if to prove their point, it's chock-full of recipes perfect for the forthcoming festive season, including cranberry sorbet, Stilton cheese cream, all manner of recipes using mulled wine, Bloody Mary, and port, and there's even a Christmas cake ice cream.

"There is a famous quote by Churchill," Robin says. "He was driving through Moscow in a thick snowstorm when he saw a queue of people outside an ice cream shop and he said, 'Any nation that would queue for ice cream in this weather will never be conquered.' It rings very true."

The book has been 10 years in the making and is a great big pink tome with more than 400 recipes that the Weirs, and a small army of testers on both sides of the Atlantic, have worked and reworked. Rather like Heston Blumenthal, who, incidentally, is a big fan, Robin takes the scientific view and is forever experimenting, tweaking and perfecting. He now lectures all over the world and is widely acknowledged to be one of the foremost experts on the subject.

For those who thought ice cream came in tubs of chocolate, vanilla or strawberry, the book is a real eye-opener. Alongside delicious-sounding recipes such as maple syrup and pecan or buttermilk and blueberry, there are savoury flavours including avocado, and pea and mint – "one of my favourites," Robin says; "the sweetness of the peas is offset by the flavour of the cream cheese and sharpened by lemon juice."

For the man who's never cooked anything in his life, Robin says, there's a really simple marmalade one. "It requires no cooking at all and will turn you into an ice cream expert overnight." For the more experimental there's olive oil gelato and a deep-fried one. "You have to be quick making it – the contrast between the crisp, hot outside and frozen ice cream inside is just wonderful." And there's even a soya milk gelato for the lactose-intolerant.

The couple, who met back in 1986 while Caroline was managing the London shop Books for Cooks, live in a house in west London crammed full of memorabilia – old shop signs, ancient ice cream makers, an original New York 1950s ice cream counter lovingly salvaged after 50 years rusting in a warehouse, as well as 10,000 books, 500 of them on ice cream. "Once the ice cream bug bites," he concludes, "it never lets you go." Here's his guide to everything ice cream and four recipes for the festive season.

Vanilla

Vanilla is the benchmark of a good ice cream maker. "Whenever I am out testing ice cream, I always order one scoop of vanilla," Robin says. "If you can't make a decent vanilla, you can't make anything." The Weirs' book features more than 10 different vanilla recipes.

Check the colour

It sounds obvious, but the colour of the ice cream should be appropriate to the flavour. Why is pistachio ice cream, for example, always bright green? If it has anything to do with the nut itself it should be a greyish colour. But it's the flavour that matters, not the colour.

Parfaits, granitas, sorbets and gelatos

We are now confronted with a bewildering array of frozen dessert choices on our menus and there are subtle but important differences between them. A sorbet is made without the addition of any dairy products. So too is a granita, which is very like a sorbet but coarser. A gelato is an ice cream made using eggs and milk instead of cream. In Sicily they make these using cornflour. "Because there isn't the fat to numb the flavour, they tend to be more pure and intense." A parfait, meanwhile is made from whipped egg yolks, sugar syrup and cream, so has an extremely light texture. "It's also the most difficult one to make – for the ice cream maker, this is the ultimate."

Commercial ice cream

Robin's ice cream obsession started years ago when he was in a supermarket with his three children. They sneaked one of the biggest tubs of ice cream they could find into the trolley. "When I got home, I sat down at the kitchen table and read all the ingredients. It was horrific. If you really must buy commercial ice cream, I'd say the best of the bunch is Haagen-Dazs. But the best ice cream is always the ice cream you make yourself, simply because it doesn't make financial sense for the big companies to put proper ingredients in."

Ice cream makers

Every ice cream in the Weirs' book can be made without the use of an ice cream maker using a stir-and-freeze method, but Robin says you can pick up an ice cream maker for about £60. "Magimix do good ones and Gaggia make self-refrigerating ones for about £250. Both are ideal," he says. "An ice cream maker will pay for itself in no time and then it will pay over and over." While you're at it, he says, it's worth checking the temperature of your freezer, as most people have the temperature set completely wrong. A fridge should be set at 4C/39F and a freezer at minus 18C/0F. "Usually, you find people's freezers are set at minus 5 instead of minus 18. Most are surprisingly warm."

Costs

Using his usual methodological approach, Robin has done some calculations. At Waitrose Haagen-Dazs costs £4.38 a litre and Ben and Jerry's costs about £8 a litre. Robin has calculated that the cost of making a litre of home-made French vanilla ice cream using good vanilla extract would cost £2.15. His everyday chocolate ice cream would cost £2.23 a litre and the rich chocolate version £4.25. "In every way, it's the cheaper option."

The ultimate ice cream parlour

Robin believes that in Britain, David Equi, who owns the Hamilton-based Equi's ice cream parlour business along with the famous Nardini café in Largs, serves the best ice cream in the country. "They do just brilliant, brilliant ice creams," Robin says. "He is third-generation Italian and it's made as ice cream should be made, using excellent ingredients, proper fruit purées and all done behind a glass screen to allow customers to watch how it's done."

Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelati: The Definitive Guide, is published by Grub Street, priced £25. To see a short film about Robin Weir's collection of ice cream memorabilia, go to independent.co.uk/icecream.

Festive recipes

Christmas cake ice cream

Makes about 1 litre

375ml whole milk
100g soft brown light sugar
3 egg yolks
185ml heavy whipping cream (36% fat)
1tbsp brandy
175g Christmas cake, diced

Combine the milk and half the sugar in a (not aluminium) pan and bring to just below boiling point. Remove from the heat, cover and leave aside. In a heatproof bowl, combine the yolks with the remaining sugar and beat until pale and thick. Bring the milk back to boiling point, then pour it slowly in a thin stream on to the egg yolks and sugar, whisking steadily as you go.

Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir frequently using a non-metallic spoon. As it heats over the water, the custard will thicken. This can take anything from 5-30 minutes. On no account let it overheat or boil as it will curdle.

As soon as the custard has thickened sufficiently, remove the pan from the heat and plunge the base into a few inches of cold water. Leave to cool, then cover and chill in the fridge. When it is cold, stir the chilled cream into the custard and add the brandy.

To still-freeze, pour into a strong polypropylene container and cover and put in the freezer. Check after about an hour that the mixture has a firm ring of ice around the sides and base and a soft slush in the centre. Then either beat for a few seconds with a hand beater or quickly process in a food processor until it has formed a uniform slush, and return back to the freezer. Repeat this process at least twice at intervals of 60-90 minutes. After the third beating, the ice will need freezing for a further 30-60 minutes.

When it's ready, sprinkle on the diced cake and stir or churn briefly to ensure even distribution. Serve within 1 hour if frozen solid; allow 30 minutes in the fridge to soften sufficiently before serving.

Mulled wine sorbet

Makes about 750ml

1 orange
1 and a half lemons
250ml red wine
3 cloves
5cm cinnamon stick
pinch grated nutmeg
2 tbsp ruby port

For the sugar syrup:

155ml water
155g sugar

Make the sugar syrup. Boil the water, pour it into a jug and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Cool, cover and refrigerate.

Scrub-dry the orange and lemons. Use a potato peeler to remove three 2.5cm x 1cm strips from the orange and one of the lemons. Cut these across very finely to give hair-like strips. Squeeze the juice out from the orange and 1 and a half lemons. Combine the wine, spices, strips of zest and orange and lemon juice in a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the port and sugar syrup. Leave to cool, then chill in the fridge.

When ready, discard the cinnamon and cloves, pour into a strong polypropylene container and cover with a lid and put in the freezer. From here, follow the instructions for stir-freezing as per the Christmas cake ice cream recipe.

Frozen Stilton cheese cream

Makes about 1.3 litres

625ml whole milk
1 clove
275g Stilton cheese
4tbsp white port
500g fromage frais

Slowly bring the milk and clove to boiling point. Meanwhile, discard the rind from the cheese and chop the rest into 1cm cubes. Add to the milk and stir over a gentle heat until completely melted. Remove from the heat and beat the mixture vigorously for about 30 seconds before adding the port. Then taste and season with a little salt or ground black pepper if necessary. Cool, then chill in the fridge.

When ready, remove the clove and gently beat the fromage frais into the cheese mixture, then follow the instructions for stir-freezing as in the Christmas cake ice cream recipe. Serve cut into slices as a starter with celery or biscuits, or after a meal with port.

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit