A sweet taste of the sea

 

Murphys Ice Cream has spread its wings from Dingle and Killarney, with two new shops in Dublin. Joint-owner KIERAN MURPHYshares his recipe for one of their new summer flavours – sea salt ice cream with chocolate sauce

WHEN IT COMES to summer, at least in memory, the days are sunny, lazy and worry-free. This year, we have already had so many sunny days that it feels like a real summer, and it’s triggering memories that have been dormant these past few years. There’s the smell of pollen, cut grass and barbecue smoke on clothes, the tired buzz of insects overwhelmed by abundance, music outdoors, ripples of contented laughter, the slipperiness of suntan lotion, the heat of the skin after a day at the beach, and the softness of truly ripe fruit. The senses awaken.

Of summer tastes, the first that comes to my mind is salt. It’s the salt of sweat, but even more so the salt of the sea; salt dried on the lips and flavouring everything consumed post-beach. We are lucky here in Ireland that the sea is never too far away that we can’t reach it when a day off coincides with sunshine. I am lucky living in Dingle, when even on a busy day I can escape to Bín Bán or Doonshean for a quick, cold dip and return to work within the hour, revived, with feet sandy in my shoes and and a thin shield of salt on my skin.

Salt, in moderation, is not only tasty, but it is a vital component of our bodies. We need it to regulate our fluid content, especially in summer, and perhaps that’s what makes salt a slightly primeval experience. John F Kennedy, at the America Cup race in 1962, said: “All of us have, in our veins, the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.”

I find it strange that most of us give salt so little thought, especially since it is a staple of the kitchen. It’s so varied, and so easy to make if you have access to the sea. Try it. When you’re leaving the beach this summer, fill up your empty water bottles with sea water after you pack away your towels, trowels and that weighty tome you’ve put off reading all year. A litre of seawater should make 40 grams of salt. You’ll find that it’s more complex and more interesting in flavour than anything you can buy in a shop. It will give you a lingering taste of your holiday and a great conversation piece at a dinner party.

Sea salt

Pass the sea water through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove any bits of sand or seaweed, then simply boil it in a pot. As the water evaporates, salt will form on the bottom, and you can use a wooden spoon to break it up. To avoid burning it, remove the pot from the heat while the salt is still quite moist, scrape the salt onto a tray and dry it on a sunny windowsill, or in the oven at its lowest setting.

Sea salt ice cream

We brought this ice cream into our shops as a lark, but it has proved quite popular. It’s not supposed to be very salty – the beauty is that it will boost the flavour of anything with which it is paired. I especially like it with caramel or chocolate. Serves eight.

120g sugar

5 egg yolks

220 ml cream

220 ml milk

2 tsp sea salt

Beat the sugar and egg yolks until thickened and lightened in colour. Bring the milk to a low simmer. Beat the milk into the egg and sugar mixture in a slow stream. Pour the mixture back into the pan and place over a low heat. Stir continuously until the custard thickens slightly (around 65 to 70 degrees celsius) and just coats the back of a spoon. Don’t over-heat it, though, because at around 76 degrees the eggs will scramble. Immediately remove the custard from the heat and allow it to cool.

Stir in the salt. Whip the cream until it has doubled in volume (you should have soft peaks; don’t over-whip it). Fold the custard into the cream. Freeze using a domestic ice-cream machine. You can also just cover it and place it in the freezer, stirring every few hours.

Chocolate sauce

150g good quality chocolate , 70% cocoa solids

75ml cream (42% fat)

20g pure cocoa

175ml milk

75g sugar

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler to between 34 and 45 degrees celsius (you can use a mixer bowl in a larger pot with water in it). Mix together the sugar and cocoa. Put the cocoa and sugar in a pan with the milk and warm to about 45 degrees celsius, until dissolved. Add the milk mixture to the melted chocolate in small parts, mixing until it’s incorporated. Keep this up until you have a smooth emulsion. The chocolate will clump at first and look dreadful, but don’t worry, trust the process. Stir in the cream. Serve warm over the sea salt ice cream.

Domini Kemp is on leave