Wild fennel is coming up like crazy all over Seattle right now. There just so happens to be a gigantic bush on very public property growing less than a block from our apartment. We've been adding it to salads and scrambles here and there, but last weekend I decided that I wanted to do something a bit different with it. So, last night I did!
This is a very, very basic recipe that makes for a much lighter ice cream. Most call for cooking egg yolks into a custard, or using three to four different types of cream, which I don't keep on hand. This recipe simply uses milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, and fennel. Subtract the fennel and it is a good base for whatever flavors you'd like to add.
- 2 cups whole or 2% milk
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup organic sugar
- 4 six-inch stalks of wild fennel, coarsley chopped (grocery store variety fennel can be used as well- use the tops and fronds rather than the bulb)
- 1 tbsp dried fennel seeds
- 1 vanilla bean, or 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- Gently heat milk, cream, and sugar over medium heat until sugar is melted and mixture is hot but not boiling.
- Turn heat to low. Add both fresh and dried fennel, as well as vanilla bean (scrape out the insides, and add whole bean as well).
- Simmer for 15-20 minutes, carefully tasting until mixture has reached desired taste.
- Stain mixture into a bowl, pressing the liquid out of the fennel, and refrigerate until cool.
- If using an ice cream maker- pour liquid into base, and run machine until ice cream is desired consistency. I store mine in a yogurt container in the freezer.
- If you aren't using an ice cream maker- freeze mixture into a container first, then once frozen put through a food processor or blender in batches until smooth, and re-freeze.
Wild fennel is a weed, and grows well all over the place. It's easy to find in Seattle neighborhoods, and I'm sure in many other areas as well. If you aren't sure of a source that's okay to pick - ask around. I don't mind sharing my location either, if you want to send me an email (renai.marie(at)gmail(dot)com). It's easy to identify- as it has tall feathery stalks, and smells just like licorice when broken. Make sure to carefully wash any that you find, and try to avoid picking along roadways, and never out of someones yard or garden.