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A few years back I was working for a chef who had just devised a new menu. On the dessert list he had created a dish that required coconut ice cream as the garnish. Charged with the task of finding a decent coconut ice cream recipe, I set forth to my library. What I found was a dearth of decent recipes. For some reason, perfectly good cookbooks faltered at the finishing line, that is with desserts and in particular, coconut ice cream. Every recipe called for canned coconut milk, coconut powder or desiccated coconut. I think you can guess the end of the story, all these recipes ended up tasting canned, powdered and desiccated.

Enter the fresh coconut. They are reasonably easy to find and the flavour they impart is irreplaceable. Don't even bother with cans if you want to make this deliciously tropical ice cream, the secret lies within the husk.


  • 500ml (1 pint) full cream milk
  • 500ml (1 pint) cream (35 % butterfat)
  • 1 coconut
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 350 gm (11 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • Method

    Crack open the coconut with a cleaver or hammer (drink the liquid inside because its yummy) and peel off the outer husk. Using a small sharp knife, remove most of the inner husk. Coarsely grate the flesh of the coconut and combine with the milk in a saucepan. Bring gently to the simmer and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes.

    Put the egg yolks and sugar into a stainless steel bowl and whisk to combine. Reheat the milk, then pour slowly onto the yolks, whisking constantly. Wipe out the saucepan and pour in the coconut mix. Set over medium heat and stir constantly until the mixture reaches 81°C (170°F) on a sugar thermometer. On the fair chance that you don't own one of these, the custard is done when it coats your stirring spoon when lifted from the pot. Be careful not to over cook as the egg yolk protein will set and form lumps.

    You now need to cool this mix as quickly as possible and there are two options. The first method is to have a bowl of iced water with a second bowl sitting on top then pour in the hot custard to cool. Alternatively have a large, low-sided tray ready and just pour the custard into that, using maximum surface area to cool the mixture.

    When the custard has cooled completely, strain and press on the coconut solids to extract as much flavour as possible. Stir in the cream and churn in your ice cream machine. Freeze for 6 hours before serving.

  • For added texture and extravagance, try shaving fresh coconut flesh and toasting it lightly before stirring through the churned but unfrozen ice cream.
  • I have not tried it, but it sounds like good advice to me, anthropod recommends freshly grated nutmeg in coconut ice cream
  • This recipe came about for two reasons: first, the continuing quest for dairy-free desserts; second, DEB's love for ice cream. Finding an entirely dairy-free ice cream recipe has proved to be a bit of a struggle. Substituting non-dairy cream for the real thing was never going to happen. We've had one experience with non-dairy cream and it was possibly one of the most bizarre and terrifying things we've ever done in a kitchen. It shall not pass our portals again. Besides, it just tastes unpleasantly synthetic. As for recipes calling for tofu, that was perhaps taking us a step too far down the non-dairy route. So we investigated, we contemplated, we amalgamated, and we contemplated some more, and we devised this. We were quite pleased with it.

    That is, we were pleased with the flavour and the texture. We were not so enamoured by the colour: it was a peculiar shade of grey. You might do well to add some food colouring to it at the adding-the-coconut-milk stage. We thought pink, to make it look like coconut ice.

    Yes, this recipe does contain raw eggs, which means that you probably shouldn't feed it to young children, pregnant women, or anyone frail or unwell. You should use the freshest eggs that you can find, and organic, too, if you can manage it. Failing organic, use free range, please. Happy chickens lay happy eggs.

    There's nothing to stop you from making this if you don't have a sorbetière. In fact, there is nothing to stop you from making any ice cream without a sorbetière. What you need is a mixer (an electric hand mixer is sufficient), a freezer, and a few spare hours.

    Ingrediments serves eight (ish)

    • 190g (6oz) caster sugar (We used golden)
    • 2x 400g (14oz) cans coconut milk
    • 2 eggs
    • 1tbsp Malibu rum (Okay, we apologise for this addition, which makes the recipe kitsch beyond belief. But trust us for the super-coconuttiness it gives, and how it prevents the ice cream from setting rock solid.)


    Whip together the eggs and sugar until thick, creamy, and doubled in volume.

    Now slowly pour in the coconut milk and the Malibu, beating constantly.

    When everything has been amalgamated, pour the mixture into something large, shallow, sealable, and freezer-proof.

    Place in the freezer for one hour.

    After an hour, remove the container from the freezer and beat the contents, incorporating all the frozen chunks that will be amassing at the sides. Return the box to the freezer.

    Repeat the process an hour later and then leave the almost ice cream to freeze for at least six hours, or overnight.

    You might find that you need to remove the ice cream from the freezer roughly half an hour before you want to serve it, so that it can ripen.

    It's ice cream. Serve it as you would any other ice cream. By itself. Or with an apple and coconut tart. Or with pineapple upside-down cake. Or as we did, with chocolate and ginger cake, still warm from the oven.

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