It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, one of them. Christmas is obviously the most wonderful time of the year, but it has competition. Yep, it’s Eurovision time. Some people say that Eurovision is tacky and cheesy and that the songs are terrible. They’re right, of course, and that’s exactly what I love about it. I’m not a fan of the ballads. I like the catchy songs. The ones I can dance to. One of my favourites, Allez Ola Ole by Jessy Matador, is light on lyrics but high on ass shaking.
I wanted to make something to eat during the Eurovision. As a child one of my Eurovision treats was Love Hearts sweets dropped into 7Up. Don’t ask me why. It’s not an option these days. Prosecco is my Eurovision drink of choice now and I don’t think I could bring myself to ruin it with Love Hearts! To help with my decision, I asked my husband to choose his favourite country from the participants. He chose Italy. When we visit Italy he always tries to have tiramisu at least once, so that was his preference. I’m more of a gelato girl, though, so I decided to go with that. While I almost always go for dark chocolate gelato in Italy, I wanted something a bit lighter, so pistachio was definitely the way to go.
Gelato is ice cream’s Italian cousin. It uses less cream, less eggs and it’s churned more slowly than ice cream to give it a more dense texture. It’s also stored and served at a higher temperature. My ice cream maker churns pretty slowly, so that was in hand. Serving it at a higher temperature would just be a matter of taking it out of the freezer earlier. Choosing the ingredients was a bit more difficult. Every recipe I found on the internet was different. Some used cream and milk, and some used just milk. Some used as many egg yolks as I use in my regular ice cream recipes, and others used none. I decided to move as far away from my usual egg and double cream-heavy ice cream mix as I could and chose to use milk and cornflour.
The pistachios were next. I’d read horror stories about people ending up with red, raw hands after removing pistachios from their shells. It seemed obvious to me that I should go with shelled pistachios, but I couldn’t find them, and do you know what? My hands are fine! (My husband helped me, so that might have something to do with it!) Removing the skins was a bit of a pain, but blanching them helped. I strained the ground pistachios out for a smooth gelato, but you don’t have to. Don’t throw the leftover pistachios out though. Bake some of them in the oven (200°C for about 10-15 minutes) for a crunchy gelato topping. Throw some on top of your porridge, or into pancakes. And I read somewhere that they’re perfect in a bakewell tart instead of almonds.
This recipe is time consuming, but a lot of the time is spent waiting. Waiting for the pistachios to dry. Waiting for the milk to cool. Waiting for the pistachios to infuse in the milk. Waiting for the custard to chill. I promise you it’s worth it though. The gelato is smooth and dense. It melts slowly so you’re not left with a puddle of custard after eating only a couple of spoons. And it tastes like pistachios!
Don’t forget to watch the first Eurovision semi-final tonight (10th May), and the second one (featuring our own Nicky Byrne) on Thursday. The final is on Saturday. I can’t wait.
These ingredients made enough to fill half a 1.1l box. I’d double them in future.
200g shelled pistachios
Put the bowl of your ice cream maker into the freezer at least 24 hours before you need it. (Mine is Magimix and it’s excellent. It’s well worth buying an ice cream machine. Home-made ice cream is so much better than shop bought.)
Prepare your pistachios. Remove the shells and skins. To remove the skins easily, throw the shelled pistachios into a pot of boiling water for about 1 minute. Drain them and rub them between a folded towel. Remove any remaining skins by hand. Let the pistachios dry out before grinding them in a food processor with the sugar. Confession: I started with 230g pistachios in their shells, but once the shells were removed I only had 115gs. Don’t make that mistake! Buy enough!
Heat the milk and add the sugary pistachio sand. Simmer for a few minutes, then pour it into a jug to cool. I left mine overnight in the fridge to infuse because I was going to strain it to remove the nuts. If you’re leaving the pistachios in (personal choice; I just wanted a smooth gelato) there’s no need to leave it for so long.
Strain the the milk through a sieve into a pot. Put the nuts to one side to use in one of the ways I mentioned above. Heat the milk. Mix a tablespoon or two of the milk with the cornflour, and then add this paste back into the milk. (I put the dry cornflour into the milk by mistake and ended up with lumps!) Bring to the boil and whisk until it thickens. You want the consistency of custard.
Strain the custard through a sieve into a jug. Allow it to cool and then chill it for about an hour. Once your custard is chilled, put the ice cream machine together. Pour the custard into the machine and churn as per the instructions. Mine took only 6 minutes to go from custard to gelato. Transfer into a container and freeze until you need it. For the best scooping results, remove it from the freezer about 10-15 minutes before you plan on eating it.
Ireland may not win the Eurovision this year, but that’s not the point. Embrace the madness, find a Eurovision drinking game, and enjoy your gelato!