I am not sure I can explain why it is that every Summer, almost as a rule, I reach out to my stash of Ruskin Bond books. Is it because he reveals the deepest insights of life in the simplest words, laced with humour and with such clarity that it stands in stark contrast to the cacophony of complex, confusing narratives that are thrown at us every day. Is it because he revels in life's simple pleasures with an innocence not found easily in a cynical and jaded world. Is it because he writes with such deep adoration about his home, the mountains, that one place I yearn to be any time of the year but more so in the Summers. I can't say why but all I do know is that every year while Summer rages outside with a blinding Sun that sucks the life out of everything it sets its eyes on, I soothe my restless mind and agitated soul with his words.
And it could be any of his books, even the ones I pick up from the children's section of the book store. But, if I had to make a choice, it would be the ones where he writes about Nature, especially the ecosystem in the mountains. He introduces you to the whistling thrush outside his bedroom window while telling you about the ivy plant that has covered most of his bedroom wall. He revels in each season with a special mention of the singing cicadas in the rain. He enjoys the simplicity of the cosmos flower whilst failing to understand why people including his terrified postman are scared of the 'harmless' snakes. He despairs when old trees make way for new roads but will also tell you of the giant walnut tree laden with fruit that he never gets his hands on even as the mystery thief is revealed to be a grandmother, nimbly climbing trees at the young age of 75. For he writes, 'to the victor, the spoils'.
He writes about the entire ecosystem with such empathy and sensitivity that you can't help but wonder that it is this that we lack as a society. Far too often, we look upon Nature as something out there when what we need to do is develop a bond with it, as an intergral part of our daily lives. Only then can we think of developing sustainable solutions to the problems that we have created and the consequences we are living with from choked Oceans to unbearable Summers to freak snow storms to flooded cities. As long as we view Nature as external to us, we live in denial. And as Amitav Ghosh writes, denial is the biggest threat to climate change.
So, maybe we all need to read a lil bit of Ruskin Bond every now and then to remind ourselves that life needn't be that complicated. A bit like this ice cream I discovered over the past few days.
If you know me a little, then you know there is no way you would find me willingly in the kitchen in this heat. But, I did take out 5 minutes for this ice cream. I found a recipe for fresh mint and cacao nibs ice cream in Yossy's book, 'Sweeter Off The Vine'. But that recipe used a traditional custard based ice cream recipe and needed an ice cream machine which I do not own. So, I decided to use the idea and try and experiment with my eggless no-churn ice cream recipe that I usually turn to in the Summer.
More than anything, I liked the idea of using fresh mint, the only herb that has managed to survive in this brutal heat. It's not as vibrant as it was in the Winter, a bit burnt around the edges and it needs to be watered a few times a day to stop it from completely wilting away. Sounds a bit like me these days. But, unlike me, it's still managed to maintain some of its freshness and flavour and I've been using it liberally in everything from salads to bakes to raitas to drinks and now, this ice cream.
The trick lies in steeping the mint leaves in cream overnight. This infuses the cream with that bright, refreshing flavour that is mint. I did wonder if the flavour of the mint would hold up as my plant has dried up quite a bit but it did. And mixed in with chopped dark chocolate (I didn't have cacao nibs), it is a lovely ice-cream to round off a Summer's meal. Although I do think the grown-ups will enjoy the subtleties of this ice cream more than the kids or maybe the dark chocolate could be replaced by mild chocolate for them.
But, the champion of this ice cream is that fresh mint. So refreshing on the palate in a way that any artificial flavouring of mint can never aspire to.
Ideally I'd like to write a rant about Summer. Instead I leave you with these words by the man himself, "Live close to nature and your spirit will not be easily broken, for you learn something of patience and resilience. You will not grow restless, and you will never feel lonely."
Fresh Mint and Dark Chocolate Chip No-Churn Ice-Cream
serves 4 (the recipe can be doubled)
- 200 gms condensed milk (In India, one can use 'Nestle' or 'Amul Mithai Mate')
- 200 mls double cream (I use Amul cream and it works just fine!!)
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
- 1/2 - 1 cup dark chocolate chips/chunks (I'd leave the amount to your discretion)
- Gently heat the cream in a saucepan over low heat. When the cream is warmed through (tiny bubbles appear around the edges), remove from the heat.
- Pour the cream over the mint leaves placed in a glass bowl. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight. The longer you steep the mint leaves in cream, the more prominent the mint flavour will be. I left mine for almost 15 hours.
- The next morning, strain the cream through a fine mesh sieve and press gently on the mint leaves to extract all of the liquid. Be thorough with this step.
- Add the condensed milk to the cream and whisk them together with a hand blender, for approximately two minutes, until the mixture feels lighter and fluffier.
- Add the chopped dark chocolate at the last minute to the mixture as you pour this mixture into an air tight container and freeze, preferably overnight.
- Serve straight from the freezer.