My old chum Sarah is half Dutch. At the start of each school term I looked forward to whatever exotic comestibles she’d bring back from visits to her motherland. I remember fondly stroopwaffels, chocolate letters given at Sinterklaas and a thick and rather moreish pea and frankfurter soup (opinion was divided on the latter)…
It was much later, however, during a dreamy spell living in a Paris garret (no, really), that I discovered speculoos – a rich, gingery paste which tasted just like the tawny packeted biscuits that nestle on every cup and saucer on the Continent.
Those were the days in the early Noughties when le Pain Quotidien still felt fairly independent and Belgian, and jars of this strange brown paste adorned every communal table. Having a Belgian granny, I am rather a fan of Belgian exports in various forms (try chips with mayo, dunking Gouda on toast into a mug of milky coffee) and I am proud to be able to name 4 famous ones without really thinking too hard.
Although the above continental ramblings may seem unrelated, its because I am not entirely sure whether this delicious paste is Dutch or Belgian. Let’s just call it Flemish, shall we? Wherever it’s from, I thought it would make a rather spectacular
Italian Chinese invention: ice cream. Especially now that speculoos is easily procured at your local supermarket.
Now, don’t listen to those grinches who declare that winter is the wrong end of the year for ice cream. After all, what would you have with a warm apple tart or gooey pudding..? Dust off that ice-cream churner and go and buy a jar of Lotus Biscoff – too rich to spread straight on toast, in my opinion, this is its ideal party guise… Just empty the rest of the jar with your spoon at teatime.
I used this brilliant basic ice cream recipe from Angela Nilsen on BBC Good Food and left out the vanilla part. The result was so silky smooth that I will use it as my go-to base for all future ice-creams. (Not quite as smooth as the magicians at Salcombe Dairy make it, but the journey time is a bit shorter.)
Simply add 3 tablespoons of Lotus Biscoff paste to the pan of thickened custard mix before pouring this into the machine. You could keep a dollop back and add during churning to create a pleasing ripple. It’ll go perfectly with your pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.