I had never heard of a tonka bean until Peter Templehoff (The Greenhouse)gave us a few at the Taste of Cape Town.
It’s a seed from the large tropical tonka tree and it’s quite difficult to describe the taste and smell. It’s pretty unique, reminiscent of vanilla but with a herby smokiness to it. Apparently, it contains coumarin and thus is banned in the US.
Tonka beans are said to ‘lighten one’s mood and be emotionally balancing’. It felt obvious to me that I should make a plain ice cream base from which their full character could shine through.
I ground up the 5 tonka beans in a pestle and mortar and added this to a cup of milk. I heated the milk to just below boiling point then turned off the heat and left to cool, allowing the beans to fully infuse with the milk.
I strained the bits out the milk and made a cream base from my Ben & Jerry’s ice cream book
- 2 eggs (free range)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups cream, heavy or whipping
Beat the eggs until fluffy for about 2 minutes.
Slowly add the sugar bit by bit and carry on whisking for a further minute or so until the sugar is incorporated.
Add the milk and cream and stir to combine.
Run the mix through an ice cream maker until ready according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
I served this ice cream with my pears poached in syrupy, spicy red wine and it was a winning and delicious combo.
Had I read all the warnings before, I may have been a bit more hesitant, or scared. Anyway, it’s too late now and the FDA is most probably concerned about consumption in large doses. The main thing is that I have survived to tell the tale and had a food first and rare eating experience. Definitely worth the risks.