In a few months, I will turn 25 and apart from the occasional glance at quarter-life-crisis listicles that somehow reappear at the top of Buzzfeed curiously late at night when I should be sleeping and wondering where everything is headed, I feel pretty secure where I am. I have a good job, I have lovely friends I always want to see more of, a very supportive and funny family and a fantastic other half. I also feel, for the first time in months or even years, like I understand my body. After enough health issues that make my hospital folder look like its bulked out with bricks, I’ve started to understand the mindfulness, the exercise and the food it likes and does not like, and ever so slightly when I should just not *stares at Ben and Jerry’s*.
After purchasing the Deliciously Ella book a few months ago encouraged by my Mam, who thought her health issues matched certain aspects of my own and that her approach to food would be beneficial, I began to make changes. Some I had already learned, like swapping cows milk for almond or coconut over a year ago save for the odd indulgence for a silky macaroni cheese sauce, but as I took on more pulses and vegetables and less meat and starchy carbs, I felt genuinely better. I know this because fuelled by an upcoming restricted diet this week, I stress-made and consumed an entire homemade pizza in one sitting and felt like I had been hit by a bus the next day after the high amounts of gluten and dairy I’d packed into one meal. I’m pretty sure this makes me sound incredibly boring and part of the ‘healthy eating brigade’, who are so lambasted by smirking writers I wonder if they ever read their articles, blogs or books at all. Sure, dates stuffed with almond butter won’t replace a Snickers but most are driven by health issues that mean chocolate bars or starchy mac and cheese don’t work for them, and their diets are ones they encourage readers to try at their leisure. If it helps alleviate health issues then what’s the big deal?
I must admit, I was a naysayer at the start and wondered what all the gluten free, dairy free fuss was all about. But as my body felt better, I discussed the Ella diet, which is largely vegan, with my best friend who is a fully fledged vegan, much to her delight. While I am in no way committed with veganism, eating burgers, steak and plenty of (shared) pizzas with my boyfriend, and enjoying a low gluten and dairy rather than completely restricted diet, when I cook for myself it is normally a vegetarian, if not vegan based meal. But following our girls holiday to Barcelona last year, it opened my eyes as to how much food is off limits to those whose diets restrict them, whether through choice or through illness. Even going for gelato was worrying and we weren’t entirely convinced that the scoop of strawberry sorbet she chose wasn’t dairy free. Nobody wants to feel excluded from the simple summer pleasure of ice cream.
Which is why creating a dessert that mimics the real thing without the heavy feeling of full fat cream and sugar felt like such a win. True, it’s not as smooth as it would be if it were churned, but with a freezer the height of a matchbox a loaf tin is an acceptable substitute. Cream skimmed from cans of chilled coconut milk is whipped into peaks of meringue-like softness, with roasted strawberry puree, black pepper and agave folded through into a bubbly mousse. It’s ready to serve in around 6 hours and you can either scrape away with forks for an almost granita-like dessert or heat an ice cream scoop and scoop/scrape into a glass. To be honest, my mini sundae, topped with whole roasted strawberries and their juices with a touch of mint was a tad icy but left to melt slightly it becomes a smooth, cool and flavourful soft serve. And what’s more, my sweet tooth felt perfectly satisfied without having to reach for a tub of Ben and Jerry’s my belly would no doubt hate.
Inspired by The Minimalist Baker
- You Will Need
- 2 x 400g cans full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight in the fridge
- 100g strawberries, hulled (extra if you want to top your ice cream with whole strawberries)
- 4 tbsp agave nectar
- 125ml coconut or almond milk (found near long life milk in supermarkets, I use the Koko brand)
- A twist of black pepper
- Mint, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan and place the strawberries on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little agave nectar and roast for 20-30 minutes until juicy. Remove a few to top the ice cream when serving and once cold, add to a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth.
- Place a mixing bowl in the freezer for ten minutes. Remove the coconut milk from the fridge and carefully open the cans. Scoop the thick coconut cream at the top of both cans into the cold bowl taking care not to scoop up any of the coconut water which has settled at the bottom as this will make the ice cream icy. Store the coconut water in the fridge and use for smoothies or juices. I added mine to roasted butternut squash and made soup as a substitute for stock and it was lovely!
- Using a handheld mixer, whip the cream to stiff peaks then fold through the strawberry puree, remaining agave nectar, almond or coconut milk and black pepper. Pour into a loaf tin and cover with clingfilm then tinfoil and freeze for around four to six hours. Take out the freezer and leave to melt slightly then heat an ice cream scoop in a mug of hot water and scoop up the ice cream into glasses. Top with any remaining roasted strawberries and shredded mint leaves and enjoy. Ice cream should keep for about a week in the freezer.