KITTY TRAVERS loves ice cream. When she was little, her mum found her rummaging in a bin at the circus licking ice cream wrappers, oblivious of the clowns and trapeze.
Now Kitty sells her exquisite handmade ice creams, sorbets and granita from an ice cream van in London. Her company La Grotta Ices was named Best of the Best in the British Street Food Awards.
More recently Kitty was chosen by Ferguson Henderson as one of the young culinary stars of the future in the über-cool Coco Cookbook where 10 chefs including Ferran Adrià, Gordon Ramsay and René Redzepi choose their most exciting up and coming chefs.
Kitty started her career in London at the French bakery Poilâne and at Villandry as a waitress. She learned French from the Gallic brigade. As luck would have it, when her Gran died she left her some money so she forked out €10,000 for a six-month professional chef programme at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York.
This led to a stint at Otto under pastry chef Meredith Kurtzman, where she learned to make ice cream from the super fresh ingredients from Union Square Green Market. Later she worked with Gabrielle Hamilton at Prune who advised her to go back to London.
There she landed a job at St John Bread and Wine with head baker Justin Piers Gellaty and had the dream job of making the daily desserts.
She travelled all over Italy and France and while she was at the American Academy in Rome, she’d cycle around gelaterias. That summer she came back to London, bought a little van and La Grotta ice cream was born. She sells at Maltby St Farmers’ Market in Bermondsey — that’s where I first met her — and at festivals and weddings.
Last time I was in London I visited her Ice Cream Shed where she hand makes all her products. More recently she came to teach at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Here are some of the ice cream and granitas she made while with us. A Kenwood sorbetière works brilliantly and costs up to €85. Kitty aged several of her ice creams in a fridge overnight. The difference in texture and flavour was dramatic.
Kitty Travers Sunrise Sorbet
Makes about 1 litre/serves 10
350g (12oz) strawberries
1 unwaxed orange boiled for 1 hour and cooled
Freshly squeezed juice of a lemon
200mls (7fl oz) sugar syrup (see recipe)
Dip the strawberries in a big basin of cold water to wash, then lay on clean tea towel or paper towel for a few minutes to dry.
Place the strawberries in large mixing bowl and cover with the sugar syrup and lemon juice for 1 hour and allow to macerate (this can also be done overnight).
Quarter the orange; add it to the strawberries and purée altogether with a stick (immersion) blender. Sieve through a fine mesh chinois to remove pips. Push the purée through sieve with the back of a ladle with a lunging motion.
Check the BRIX and if necessary adjust to 20% either by adding more sugar syrup — a tablespoon at a time to bring it up — or extra water to bring it down. Allow to chill.
Churn in an ice-cream maker or sorbetiere for 35-45 minutes then scrape the sorbet out into a freezer box, cover with waxed paper to minimise exposure to air and freeze.
The basic sugar syrup below can also be used for homemade lemonades as well as for fruit salads and compotes. It keeps for months in a fridge, or a shorter time if unrefrigerated.
Makes 825ml (28fl oz)
450g (1lb) sugar
600ml (1 pint) water
Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then leave it to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.
Kitty Travers Nectarine Leaf Ice-Cream
Makes 10 scoops
4 ripe nectarines
Freshly squeezed juice of a lemon, unwaxed if possible
250ml (9fl oz) milk
250g (9fl oz) double cream
200g (7oz) sugar
4 egg yolks
20 nectarine leaves
Halve the nectarines, collecting any juice. Remove the pit, and quarter them, then cook them lightly with a tablespoon of water for about 8 minutes or until just tender. Cool then purée with the lemon juice; push the purée through a fine sieve or chinois to remove the skin and any fibres. Keep aside until later.
Bring milk and cream to a simmer in a stainless steel saucepan and stir occasionally to avoid scorching. Pick the nectarine leaves from the branch, rinse them then as soon as the milk hits a simmer, submerge the leaves in the hot liquid. Cover the saucepan with cling film and then put it in a sink full of iced water and allow the leaves to steep for exactly 10 minutes before straining.
Re-heat the milk and cream mixture to a simmer. As it heats, whisk the sugar into the egg yolks to combine. Pour the hot milk into the yolk mixture to ‘temper’ the yolks, then return all the mixture to the pan and slowly cook out to 86C/186F stirring constantly and briskly.
As soon as mixture reaches 86C/186F, plunge the pan into a sink full of iced water. Cool until ice cream base reaches room temperature. Stir in the nectarine purée then cover and refrigerate overnight to ‘age’ the base.
Blitz the base with a stick (immersion) blender to emulsify then pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and churn until frozen. Scrape out into a suitable lidded container. Cover with waxed paper to avoid exposure to air and store in the freezer for up to a month.
Kitty Travers Peach and Basil Sorbet
Makes about 1 litre or 10 scoops
4 large ripe peaches
150mls (5fl oz) simple sugar syrup (see recipe)
30mls (1¼fl oz) water
Freshly squeezed juice of a lemon
40-50g bunch of basil
Bring the sugar syrup and water to a simmer. Rinse the basil. Submerge the basil in the syrup the moment that it breaks into a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat instantly, cover the pan with cling film and place in a sink full of cold water. Allow the basil to steep in the liquid for about 12-15 minutes.
Strain the basil from syrup, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible. Reheat the syrup bringing back to a simmer. Slice the peaches in half over the saucepan (so any juices drip into the syrup). Carefully drop the peach halves into the simmering syrup and allow to poach lightly until tender for about 8 minutes.
Allow peaches to cool then slip off the skins and purée the flesh along with the lemon juice using a stick (immersion) blender until very smooth.
Push puree through a fine sieve or chinois to remove any fibres, then churn in an ice cream machine until frozen. Scrape out sorbet into a lidded container, cover with waxed paper and store in a deep freeze.
Kitty Travers’ Corn Flour Ice Cream
This ice cream is inexpensive to make and sounds dull but it was delicious and is one of the best recipes to take on flavours. Kitty also made a tarragon and lovage and celery leaf ice cream, both delicious.
Makes about 800mls/1 litre (1¾ pints) when churned/ 10 scoops
750ml (25fl oz) milk
1 vanilla pod
3 tbsp corn flour
100g (3½oz) sugar
Heat the milk and split vanilla pod together in a saucepan until it is barely breaking a simmer. Mix the corn flour and sugar in a bowl, whisk in the hot milk in a steady stream then return all the mixture to the saucepan and continue cooking over a low heat, stirring constantly until it reaches a temperature of 85C/185F.
Plunge the pan into a bath of ice water and cool to 10C/ 50F within 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate the mixture for at least four hours or preferably overnight.
Strain through a chinois, pressing with the back of a ladle to remove the vanilla pod, emulsify for 30 seconds with an immersion blender and churn in ice cream machine until frozen.
Scrape the ice cream into a freezer box, cover with waxed paper and a tight fitting lid, and freeze hard to keep for up to 1 month.
This recipe can be adapted and made with any number of culinary herbs or flowers, like tarragon, spearmint, rose petals, marigold, honeysuckle and cherry blossom. Simply replace the vanilla pod with 40-50g (1½–2oz) fresh herbs or 20g (¾oz) dried herbs such as lavender or thyme.
Bring the milk to a simmer and add the herbs, submerge and cover with cling film then allow to steep for 10 minutes (dried herbs) or 20 minutes (soft herbs and flowers) before straining and continuing with the recipe from the start, using the perfumed milk and omitting the vanilla.
Isaac’s Restaurant on Mac Curtain Street, Cork is now serving brunch every Saturday from 10.30am to 2.30pm. The a la carte menu includes Bloody Marys, freshlysqueezed orange juice, homemade granola, Kilbeggan organic oats porridge with soft brown sugar and cream, organic yoghurt, fresh seasonal fruit, Irish farmhouse cheeses, eggs benedict and a full Irish. Tel: 021 4503805; www.isaacsrestaurant.ie
Date for Your Diary: A Taste of West Cork Food Festival, Skibbereen, West Cork — Monday, Sep 10 to Sunday Sep 16. www.atasteofwestcork.com.
Summer Theatre: Enjoy homemade crisps, summer fruit popsicles and praline ice cream cones at the interval in the Grain Store.
There were rave reviews for Tuesdays With Morrie last week so don’t miss 47 Roses written and performed by Peter Sheridan.
Early dinner 6pm at Ballymaloe House and play €65.
Theatre tickets €20. Booking: 021 4652531.
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