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Old-Skool Ice-Cream Flavours

Today has been an absolute scorcher of a day. I swear half of me has melted away!

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If I could walk around the streets of London in a string bikini, I would. But unfortunately can’t (especially not with this bod!) so I’ve had to think of other ways to beat the heat and I’ve been downing anything that’s icy cold.

And thoughts turned to all the ice-creams we used to devour as kids. It goes without saying that we loved our ice-cream. For a number of reasons, this was not a freezer staple but rather an occasional treat. There’d always be tubs of Cornish vanilla or neopolitan ice-creams at family parties and gatherings; the ice-cream man wasn’t safe when we heard the van approaching our road, and ice-cream cones always featured when my family and I hit the local park. Unsurprisingly, Mum refused to stock up on ice-cream during the winter months, so ice-cream is most definitely synonymous with summer.

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Today ice-cream means Ben and Jerry’s, Haagen-Dazs, Carte D’or and (once) unusual flavours such as salted caramel, lemon meringue pie, espresso, and toffee apple. When I asked my class recently what their favourite flavours were, ‘pistachio’ and ‘green tea; featured in the answers. And me? Well funnily enough my favourite ice-creams are three which are very hard to find in England: I love butter pecan (USA) crème caramel/flan (Spain) and brown bread ice-cream (Ireland.) I must be the only person who needs to hop on a plane every time they fancy an ice-cream cone!

Image from bbc.co.uk

Image from bbc.co.uk

 

This is all good but it’s dawned on me that many of the ice-cream flavours from my childhood have either totally disappeared or they’re very hard to come by. Ice-creams in the 1970s,1980s and 1990s wasn’t necessary high-end or ultra-sophisticated. In fact when I think about it, there were very limited in their range of flavours (generally chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla) and packaging was anything but glam. Brands were typically Wall’s, Lyon’s Maid… and not much else! But it was fun, delicious and it kept you cool.

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I absolutely love ice-cream today: there’s a never-ending variety of flavours, including savoury flavours (avocado chilli or basil, anyone?) the quality has vastly improved, and it’s that much more creamier and flavourful. But I can’t help but get all nostalgic when I think about what ice-cream looked like back in the day and those retro flavours. So as an ode to summers gone by and staying cool, here’s a list of the ice-cream flavours that were around when I was growing up in the eighties. Some of them are still around; some are hard to find, and some seem to have melted away…

1. VANILLA

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Vanilla ice-cream needs absolutely no introduction! Vanilla ice-cream might be considered a bit, well, vanilla, but back in the eighties, in a world with limited ice-cream flavours, if anyone had a tub of ice-cream in their freezer, you could bet your life it would be vanilla. It was very popular in our house although Mum tended to buy it in block form rather than a tub. I suppose one reason it was so popular was because it was – and still is – so versatile: you could pop it in a soda float; add any flavour topping to it; layer it up in a sundae, or serve it as an accompaniment to a pudding such as a cake or tart – much like we do today. However most of the people I knew used to serve it with tinned fruit salad – a real treat back then for us kids (tinned fruit was the only fruit I’d eat back then) or jelly. It might not sound very sophisticated but if someone served that up for me now I’d still scoff it!

Today, vanilla has to work hard to maintain its popularity with all these weird and wonderful ice-cream flavours around that are tempting us away from this good, old-fashioned flavour. Vanilla is still tops due to its versatility but we’re much more fussy when it comes to the quality and won’t settle for any old vanilla ice-cream. It has to be super smooth and creamy, with an intense vanilla flavour – and if it happens to be vanilla bean ice-cream, so much the better!
2. CORNISH VANILLA

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Now this was the ice-cream flavour that Mum was most likely to buy and it was always the Wall’s brand that was in our freezer. Cornish vanilla ice-cream had a much deeper cream-come-yellow colour that regular vanilla ice-cream didn’t have, and what I remember most was that deliciously buttery flavour. Even as a child I felt that Cornish vanilla ice-cream didn’t really need any sauces or toppings thanks to that unique flavour; I preferred to have it ‘plain’.

Over the years I gradually stopped devouring Cornish vanilla. I’m not sure if it’s because I ate bucket-loads as a child or because I was tempted away by other flavours – or maybe both! But when I’m hit by nostalgia – as I so often am – I do treat myself to some Cornish vanilla ice-cream. However, I can’t help feeling a little underwhelmed by it because that intense, buttery flavour that I remember doesn’t seem the same – no matter which brand I buy. But I live in hope of rediscovering it.

3. CHOCOLATE

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I didn’t know a kid back then who didn’t like chocolate ice-cream – and I still don’t! It’s still very much a firm favourite today with children and adults alike. When I was growing up but it was just ‘chocolate’. Now chocolate ice-cream has more varieties than Heinz: white chocolate, chocolate brownie, chocolate fudge; chocolate cookie dough; chocolate mud pie; triple chocolate; chocolate-til-it’s-coming-out-of-your-ears etc.

At secondary school, we were fortunate enough to have an ice-cream van arrive in the school yard every lunch time and home time, where after school, I would sometimes treat myself to a chocolate cone. I wonder what Mr. Oliver would make of that!

And you don’t need me to tell you, it’s still one of the most popular ice-cream flavours all over the world. But thenwith all those chocolate variations it would have to be.
4. STRAWBERRY

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My memories of strawberry ice-cream – a flavour both my parents loved back then – was that it was always an eye-catching shade of pink, from a pretty pastel shade to a very deep pink. However one thing I’m wondering about is whether any of the strawberry ice-creams I devoured contained a scrap of real strawberry at all. I suspect most of them didn’t and were simply strawberry flavoured but even if we knew that back then, I doubt we would have minded very much.

Of course today there is a real distinction between the brightly coloured strawberry flavoured ice-cream, and the frozen, creamy delicacy that’s made with real strawberries and often contains yummy chunks of strawberries – and I definitely know which one I prefer!

And as with chocolate, there are many variations today of the humble strawberry ice-cream: strawberry cheesecake; strawberry shortcake; strawberries and cream; strawberry and Champagne… oh it was all so much simpler in my day!
5. MINT CHOC-CHIP

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A childhood fave for me, as I loved anything that was mint flavoured (as a matter of fact I still do!) And contrary to popular belief, mint ice-cream tastes nothing like toothpaste. When I was around seven, I went through a phase where I would only ever eat ice-cream if it was mint choc-chip. I loved the cool, refreshing, minty taste combined with creamy texture. And those dark chocolate chips were a very welcome addition. Mint and chocolate – a winning combo if ever I heard one. And of course I loved the minty green colour too.

Mint choc chip is still readily available and although I never rush out and buy a tub anymore (I definitely overindulged when I was a child and can never finish a whole tub now) I never say no to a mint choc-chip cone.
6. RASPBERRY RIPPLE

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This was another ice-cream flavour I really liked: vanilla ice-cream swirled with raspberry sauce. Once again Mum used to by this in block form (yep, those blocks sure were popular in the eighties and nineties) which we would usually slice and serve between two wafers. I was always very fussy about which slice I got because it had to be very heavily rippled with raspberry sauce.

Thankfully this delicious ice-cream is still popular today.
7. NEAPOLITAN

Neapolitan: the ice-cream of my childhood

Whoever invented Neapolitan ice-cream is right up there with Einstein! It was a great idea to put the three popular ice-cream flavours together: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. It meant that mums could buy just one tub and know it would please the whole family, and for those who just simply couldn’t decide which one to buy – they could just go for Neapolitan. One tub fits all!

It goes without saying that a tub of Neapolitan was always very well received in our house where we all had our favourites. And whenever we had guests over for dinner and there was going to be ice-cream for afters, if it wasn’t vanilla it was almost guaranteed to be Neapolitan because let’s face it everyone was guaranteed to like at least one of the flavours (unless they were strictly mint choc-chip in which case we were screwed!)

Neapolitan ice-cream is still around today but I wonder how many people have a tub in their freezer…
8. BROWN BREAD

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Although brown bread ice-cream was well-known during the eighties, I don’t ever recall it being available to buy in stores. Instead it seemed to be an ice-cream people were encouraged to make at home judging by the recipes I’d see in magazines and on cooking shows. At the time I remember thinking what an odd flavour it was for an ice-cream. Why on earth would anyone want to eat ice-cream made out of bread?

Well I’ve just come back from holiday where I indulged in the most gorgeous brown bread ice-cream. Words really don’t do it justice. Good on the ice-cream parlour for having brown bread ice-cream as one of its flavours. I hope other parlours and restaurants will follow.
9. RUM N’ RAISIN

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I never actually had rum n’ raisin ice-cream when I was growing up, despite it being quite popular, because I wasn’t keen on raisins and I was afraid I’d get drunk on the artificial rum flavour! How times have changed because now I love to get drunk on real rum… but I still have a love-hate thing going on with raisins. So good on rum n’  raisin for making it into the twenty first century but I really don’t think it’s something I’ll ever be wolfing down (it would have stood a better chance without the raisins.)

My mum, on the other hand, loves raisins but will never stock the freezer with rum and raisin because she hates the taste of rum!
10. BANANA

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This is an ice-cream flavour I loved back then and still do. Banana ice-cream wasn’t overly common when I was growing up – it still isn’t – but I remember that some restaurants offered it along with the top three. I really like banana ice-cream partly because I love the sweet, creamy taste of bananas but also because it made a change from vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. I’ve since discovered that banana ice-cream isn’t popular with a lot of people even now although I can’t understand why after all most people like a banana split and the flavours aren’t too dissimilar.

Never mind – I’ll still guzzle it by the bucketload!

11. TUTTI FRUTTI

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Meaning ‘all fruits’ in Italian, this ice-cream flavour containing mixed peel, dried and candied fruits was incredibly popular during the eighties and early nineties and was a huge hit with my family, especially my mum and aunts. But guess what? I HATED it! I couldn’t stand the stuff. I remember one occasion during a family get together when my five year old self had cried the house down because I wanted some ice-cream. And of all the flavours they could have brought me, they brought me a bowl of horrid tutti frutti.

“Now you eat that,” said my aunt in a very stern tone, “you asked for it, now eat it!” I didn’t dare tell her that even though I’d asked for ice-cream, I did not ask for that awful flavour.

Even though my palate has changed over the years and I now like foods I once detested, I don’t think I could ever get used to tutti frutti ice-cream. And I’m not sure I’ll ever get the chance to find out if I’m right because I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw it on sale… anywhere! In fact a lot of people I’ve spoken to have said the same. And despite my dislike of the flavour, I am sorry that it doesn’t seem to be around now as it brings back a lot of memories of my family, childhood and the eighties… and also because my mum likes it!

12. CHOC-CHIP

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Chocolate chip ice-cream is an absolute classic: smooth vanilla ice-cream combined with crunchy chocolate chips. This was a very popular ice-cream flavour as I was growing up but funnily enough I don’t remember us having this at home. On the rare occasions when we were fortune to sample a dish of choc chip, it was usually in a restaurant. And of course this flavour is still consumed by the truckload.

Right, now I’m going to stay cool with a huge tub of olive oil and bay leaf ice-cream. Bliss!

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Comfort Food #16: Banana Custard

I realise that it’s been a while since I last did a Comfort Food post and as I’ve been having thoughts about banana custard for a while, I thought now would be as good a time as any to do a new recipe post.

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Things have been a little stressful lately what with work issues and wanting to move house. I thought back to one of the most stressful periods of my life when I was in my mid-teens, and do you know what got me through it? Puddings! It’s no secret that I’ve got a sweet tooth and all sorts of sweet, warm yummy puddings proved to be a real comfort and help with all that teenage angst. And one pudding in particular that proved to be a real godsend was banana custard. Now I am well aware that banana custard might not be to everyone’s tastes and I’m sure some people might liken it to baby food and think it’s just for kids but I absolutely love it. It’s simple yet delicious and warming – although it can also be eaten cold.

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I love creamy, custardy type desserts, and I’m also fond of bananas so it was inevitable that banana custard and I were going to get on well like a plate of bacon and eggs! There are many variations of this classic dessert some of which include mascarpone, chocolate, cake or biscuit pieces, whipped cream, meringue topping etc. which all sound incredibly scrummy but I still say that the simplest  and old-fashioned version is the best – home made custard with chopped or mashed bananas folded in. Of course if you’re pushed for time or you find making custard a challenge (I do understand – it’s not as easy as it looks!) you could always opt for the ready-made stuff and simply fold the bananas in yourself, though personally I do think it’s worth the effort to try and make the custard yourself. And it’s also a great way to use up bananas that are beginning to over-ripen. And it’s also quite versatile as a dessert because the banana custard can be used as the filling for a pie, cake or crumble. You can also caramelise the bananas first, and even make a baked version of this pudding.

So here’s a recipe for the dessert that made my teen years taste so much sweeter. It’s yumtastic!

BANANA CUSTARD

Serves 4

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 300 ml full fat milk
  • Contents of 1 vanilla pod
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 3 large bananas, sliced or mashed 
  • A splash of rum (optional)

 

METHOD:

1. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and place over a medium heat.

2. Add the vanilla and pod and bring the milk to the boil.

3. While the milk is heating up, tip the egg yolks into a bowl, along with the cornflour and sugar.

4. Whisk together until the mixture is thick and pale.

5. As soon as the milk comes to the boil remove the pan from the heat.

6. Scoop out the vanilla pod and pour the hot milk onto the egg mixture.

7. Whisk continuously until well combined.

8. Pour the custard mixture back into the pan and heat gently over a low heat, stirring all the time, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

9. Slice the bananas into the custard and stir to combine.

10. Add rum if desired.

11.  Pour the hot banana custard in dishes.

12. Serve hot or cold.

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4 Comments

Posted by on April 6, 2015 in This, That and the Other!

 

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Ten Ice-cream Memories That Will Hopefully Make a Comeback

It’s summertime and it’s absolutely sweltering. I don’t think I’ve ever known it to be so hot (I probably say that every summer!) and I am literally melting away!

On a more positive note, I am definitely gorging on more and more ice-cream in a bid to keep cool, and I suppose I should make the most of it. After all once the hot weather gives way to the cold, I won’t be looking at another ice-cream until next summer.

This got me thinking about the lovely ice-cream treats we used to feast on when we were kids. When we were growing up, ice-cream was not a freezer staple but something Mum got in when we were having a party or a family gathering, so it really was an occasional treat and regarded as something quite special. Back when we were kids, the weather didn’t matter a bit – we would have happily devoured ice-cream in below freezing conditions!

However, I’ve noticed that a lot of the ice-cream treats that were very popular in the ’80s and ’90s – and most probably even before then – seem to be virtually unheard of today, or at the very least they’re not as common. I’ve noticed that twenty-first century ice-cream has been given something of an image overhaul. With an array of flavours and textures, ice-cream nowadays is smoother, slicker and sophisticated and most definitely not just for kids.

But I’ve also noticed however, that despite ice-cream being given something of a revamp, most of the time it’s just an accompaniment to a dessert such as a fruit pie or tart, fudge cake, or waffles etc.

With these old time classics, however, Ice-cream is very much the star of the show.

1. JELLY AND ICE-CREAM

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The classic kids dessert. No child’s birthday party was complete without jelly and ice-cream. I haven’t been to any kids parties for quite some time now but I do hope it still features on the menu. I absolutely loved this as a kid. I didn’t care what flavour the jelly or ice-cream was; as long as one half of the bowl wobbled and the other was icy.  I’m sure jelly and ice-cream were most people’s childhood favourite dessert but while most kids grow out of it, I still have a massive bowlful most weekends as a not-so-little treat. My not-so-guilty pleasure!

2. ICE-CREAM FLOAT

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A glass of soda with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. My mum introduced me to the delights of an ice-cream float when I was about five. But Hubby was horrified when he heard that Mum used cola and not root beer which he insists was the only soda used in making an ice-cream float in the States. Well over here in England, it was always cola floats – especially as we don’t really get good quality root beer over here. And I’m almost certain that Mum has used cream soda a few times as well. Though whether you use root beer or cola, they’re both equally delicious. I think so anyway! There is now a new trend for sodas and ice-creams of any flavour. Hmmm… don’t know how Hubby will feel about that!

3. ICE-CREAM SANDWICH

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This was an amazing treat when we were growing up. An ice-cream sandwich is a layer of ice-cream sandwiched between two biscuits, cookies, slices of cake, or -as in the ones Mum used to make for us – wafer. Ice-cream sandwiches have been eaten all over the world and most countries have their own version of it. Admittedly it probably wasn’t such a hit for people with sensitive teeth but it was seriously delish. We tended to use mainly vanilla, Neapolitan, or raspberry ripple ice-creams (with the latter being my fave!) Basically ice-creams which were typical of the 1980s.

Now that I think of it, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an ice-cream sandwich. Hmmm… time to start buying packs of wafers, I think!

4. ICE-CREAM CUPS WITH LITTLE WOODEN SPOONS

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I haven’t had these in England since childhood but I have stumbled across them when I visited India – and the ice-cream was delicious! These are not to be confused with miniature tubs of ice-cream which are still readily available. The ones I’m referring to were little cardboard or lightweight plastic cups of ice-cream with peel-off paper lids. These were eaten with the little wooden spoons that came with them, although they resembled paddles rather than spoons. The ice-cream was almost always vanilla but I’m sure I vaguely remember vanilla ice-cream that contained ripples of chocolate or strawberry flavoured sauce.

Mini tubs of ice-cream today don’t come the little wooden spoon, and if it does come with a spoon at all, it’s always plastic, which handy as it is, it’s just not the same. I actually think the little wooden spoon made the ice-cream taste better!

5. BANANA SPLIT

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Now who doesn’t like a good ol’ banana split? My aunt used to make a very simple version of this classic dessert which she served as afters during the summer months. Hers consisted of a banana cut into quarters served with vanilla ice-cream. Simple, not quite like the traditional version, but still very appetizing.

The classic version – which originated in Pennsylvania – involves splitting a banana lengthways and placing it in a boat-shaped dish before filling it with three scoops of ice-cream (usually strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla) before being topped with sauces, whipped cream, crushed nuts and a cherry. Many different versions of this dessert exist but one thing remains – it’s unlikely you’ll find anyone who can finish a whole one by themselves!

Banana splits can still be found in ice-cream parlours and diners, but thanks to the emergence of more sophisticated desserts, this retro pud is not as ‘talked about’. In fact three years ago, there were reports that Wimpy had dropped this dessert from their menu due to a fall in demand. Are people mad?

6. KNICKERBOCKER GLORY

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At the mere mention of a Knickerbocker Glory I’m immediately transported back to the 1980s. Another retro dessert like the banana split, a Knickerbocker Glory is an ice-cream sundae served in a tall glass which contains layers of fruit, ice-cream, jelly, cream, nuts, meringue, sauces or syrups. This dessert is as peculiar to Britain as the banana split is to America, and has been served up in ice-cream parlours across Britain since the 1930s. There is no set recipe for making a Knickerbocker Glory and flavours can vary. This was another dessert which didn’t survive the cull at Wimpy and was cut along with the banana split three years ago.

There are some things I will never understand…

7. ARCTIC ROLL

Image from dailymail.co.uk

Image from dailymail.co.uk

I must have been about seven when a friend told me that she was going to have an Arctic roll for dessert after her tea. I had no idea what an Arctic roll was at the time – but I soon found out!

An Arctic roll is similar in appearance to a Swiss roll. It’s made of vanilla ice cream wrapped in a thin layer of sponge cake to form a roll, with a layer of raspberry flavoured sauce or jam between the sponge and the ice cream. This dessert was invented in Britain by a Czech lawyer who had emigrated here, and it has been around since the 1950s, though it became extremely popular during the 1970s.

Since being enlightened by my friend, my family and I had worked our way through quite a few Arctic rolls in our time, with the pud being a firm favourite with Mum. Production of the Arctic roll ceased for a while, beginning in the 1990s due to a slump in sales, but it resurfaced again in 2008 due to a combination of low-cost and nostalgic charm. Reviews were mixed with some regarding the dessert as too old-fashioned while the nostalgics among us welcomed it’s return. Despite it still being available to buy – with chocolate versions available as well – it’s not as popular as it once was. But at least it’s still here!

8. ICE CREAM IN A CARDBOARD BLOCK

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Those of us old enough to remember, will know that back in the day ice-cream didn’t come in rectangular plastic tubs, or  cylindrical tubs a la Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s. No, instead was available in the form of a block and wrapped in a cardboard container. Flavours tended to be vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, raspberry ripple or Neapolitan – the flavours of the day. As you can imagine, a cardboard wrapper wasn’t very practical: if you didn’t get your shopping home fast enough on a hot day, the ice-cream would melt and start to seep out of the packet. The softened ice-cream would also be at risk of being squished by heavier goods. Furthermore, if you were able to get the ice-cream home in one piece,  it was best eaten once opened, as it was impossible to seal properly and the ice-cream would develop a layer of frost in the freezer. My mum especially liked the ice-cream that came in tubs because she could store things in them after the ice-cream had long been devoured.

But there’s something extremely nostalgic about the old block-form ice-cream – and they did have their advantages: less waste and you could cut the perfect slice to put into your ice-cream sandwich. I very much doubt it’s available in the UK anymore although, I have seen them abroad – so there’s a chance that they could make they’re way back to these shores again.

9. ICE-CREAM BOMBES

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This dessert is believed to have originated during the Victorian era and it’s got something of a retro vibe. Also known as a bombe glacee, this ice-cream pud is frozen in a spherical mould so it resembles a dome, and they sometimes had a hard chocolate shell. I don’t remember Mum ever making these but I do remember her buying packs of these from Iceland (when the frozen food chain started springing up everywhere) so we clearly enjoyed them. I also remember tucking into these during an extended-family meal in a restaurant when I was about eight. It was mint flavoured ice-cream which I was crazy about at the time, served with fresh cream. Yum!
10.BAKED ALASKA

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As far as I’m concerned, Baked Alaska is the queen of ice-cream puddings. A very decadent-looking ice-cream dessert which generally consisted of ice-cream and fruit on a cake base, covered in meringue before being browned in the oven. And here’s the amazing bit – the ice-cream doesn’t melt! Baked Alaska was a very popular dessert when I was growing up and although it’s been virtually unheard of for at least fifteen years, I’m thrilled to see that Marks and Spencer have brought out their version of this classic dessert.

AND FINALLY…

I must say though, that one memory I’m glad has become a very distant one is that delightful combo of vanilla ice-cream with… tinned fruit salad! When I was a child I was obsessed with tinned fruit salad. In fact my mum used to say it was the only time I would go near a piece of fruit. I remember for school dinners, desert would sometimes consist of tinned fruit and custard (which I thought was yum!) But our family gatherings and parties weren’t any better: dessert was almost always tinned fruit and vanilla ice-cream. Don’t get me wrong; at the time I thought it was fab. But then I hadn’t developed the sophisticated palate that I have now! I have no aversion to fruit and ice-cream only now I insist on using fresh fruit rather than opening a tin.

Now if only we could bring back the other old classics…

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