The inspiration for this week’s ice cream recipe is an ingredient I obtained while travelling in Vietnam last year: Phu Quoc Peppercorns.
Last year, the Official Taster and I travelled to Vietnam and Cambodia. Hands down, the favourite part of our trip was a few relaxing days at Freedomland, a homestay resort on Phu Quoc Island in southwestern Vietnam. While Freedomland is truly a little piece of paradise in and of itself, the highlight of our stay was definitely the food. Peter and Rita (the owners) and their staff do an amazing job every night cooking for up to 30 guests. Peter is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about food, and having travelled and lived in so many parts of the world (including Vancouver!), this was Vietnamese fusion cuisine at its best. Each dish was so fresh, flavourful, and exquisitely prepared and plated. He really ought to have his own cooking show.
Phu Quoc peppercorns made their way into many of Peter’s dishes. Vietnam, I learned, is the leading global exporter of black peppercorns, and the best quality peppercorns come from Phu Quoc. Peter — sensing my extreme enthusiasm for all things food — was kind enough to get me a huge bag of peppercorns from a local pepper farm. Don’t buy it from the market, he warned. It’s mixed with the cheap stuff!
Phu Quoc peppercorns are wonderfully aromatic and spicy — like no other peppercorns I’ve ever tasted. Finish any Southeast Asian dish with freshly ground Phu Quoc peppercorns and a squeeze of lime juice and it comes to life! A perfect flavour combination, and a perfect combo for ice cream.
If you can’t source Phu Quoc peppercorns from your local Vietnamese grocer for this ice cream recipe, substitute with the freshest, highest quality black peppercorns you can find. Also, be sure to infuse the custard with the peppercorns overnight if you want a spicier ice cream. You will find many peppercorn ice cream recipes instructing you to strain out the peppercorns after one hour, but why be apologetic in its use?
Lime and Phu Quoc Peppercorn Ice Cream (makes about 1 L)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
1 tablespoon lime zest
1 tablespoon coarsely ground Phu Quoc peppercorns
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups half-and-half cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- In a heavy saucepan, whisk together the first five ingredients.
- Slowly whisk in 2 cups of the half-and-half, taking care that the mixture does not curdle.
- Cook the mixture over medium-low heat stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (170 degrees F / 77 degrees C).
- Remove from heat immediately and add the remaining half-and-half to stop the cooking. Place the saucepan into an ice bath to cool the custard rapidly.
- Stir in the vanilla.
- Cool and chill overnight in the fridge.
- Strain the custard through a fine sieve into a bowl to remove the zest and pepper. If some of the pepper escapes, that’s okay!
- Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and prepare according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Garnish with freshly ground pepper and slice of lime.