SCOTTISH summer gardens are full of great tastes. From gooseberries to blackcurrants, rhubarb and raspberries, many families traditionally grow their own small crops, all of which seem to be ready to pick at this time of year.

Jam-making, preserving, freezing and storing soft fruits for later in the year is a great family pastime. It is very satisfying to taste the delicious results of your labours, from earth to plate. Our parents and grandparents probably made much more of these ingredients but I truly believe we should not allow these simple kitchen skills to be lost in the sands of time. There are so many recipes and instructions for cooking soft fruits to be found online, as well as in books and periodicals. This year’s garden glut should inspire everyone to have a go if you have not done so before.

As a nation we eat ice cream in enormous quantities all year round. We no longer need the excuse of summer sunshine to indulge and some say we are addicted to it. But try making a small quantity of homemade ice cream using some of your fresh fruit, puréed and mixed with nothing but fresh Scottish dairy produce and free-range eggs. This is a great-tasting treat that is definitely worth taking a little time to make. You do not have to own an ice cream machine or expensive electrical equipment as it can all be done with some clean mixing bowls, balloon whisks and a strong whipping arm.

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Most households now have a small freezer but if not it is also possible to use the freezer compartment of your refrigerator to make a small batch of ice cream for a special occasion. Just ensure you have turned it down to the lowest temperature before you begin. Once it is frozen, it can be sealed with a good lid and stored safely for a short time.

Our love of ice cream goes back a very long way but it was definitely perpetuated by the arrival of the Italians in the early 1900s. Many Italian immigrant families arrived on our Scottish shores with just a few pounds to their name. Resourceful and hard-working, they set up small businesses all over Scotland, particularly in our coastal towns and villages, selling ice cream, fish and chips and coffee unlike anything we had experienced before. Their cafes soon grew to become the legendary landmarks of many high streets and seaside promenades.

Today, their ancestors – our Scots-Italian brothers and sisters – command a special place in our Scottish communities, having integrated through the generations and playing an important part in our modern Scottish food and drink industry. Their continuing contribution to our history and heritage is very identifiable and something to be cherished.

Many restaurants are proud to serve a range of homemade ice creams and sorbets but it was many years before I became the proud owner of my first ice cream machine at The Three Chimneys. Before then, I made ice cream using a similar method to the recipe below. But I admit that the new machine made a tremendous difference to my working life. My recipes and methods changed to some degree, extending my repertoire. The simple method is a good one but please note it uses raw eggs. It is possible to buy pasteurised eggs if you prefer but for most people there is no risk to eating this ice cream, providing you take care to use fresh ingredients from a reliable source and maintain good standards of cleanliness throughout the process. Rhubarb and ginger is always a great-tasting combination so get whipping.

STEM GINGER ICE CREAM

(Serves at least 12 scoops)

Ingredients

4 large eggs

100g icing sugar

300ml fresh double cream

5 balls of stem ginger in syrup, chopped into very small pieces

2 tbsp ginger syrup (taken from the same jar)

1 tbsp orange juice squeezed from ½ a fresh orange (retain remaining half for decorating the finished dessert if liked)

Method

1. Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a clean heat-proof bowl of a size suitable to sit suspended over a small pan, half-filled with hot water. Place the whites in a larger bowl.

2. Sieve half the icing sugar into the egg yolks and whisk together. Place the bowl over a pan of continuously simmering hot water and keep whisking until the mixture becomes much paler, increases in volume and thickens. This will take at least 5-10 minutes and the mixture should fall slowly from the whisk into the bowl in a ribbon-like state. As soon as the yolk mixture reaches the correct consistency, remove the bowl from the hot water and set aside to cool, preferably in a bowl of iced water.

3. Add the ginger syrup and orange juice to the double cream and whisk until thick and floppy.

4. Whisk the egg whites together until they reach soft peak stage. Sieve the remaining icing sugar into the whites and whisk again until the mixture returns to soft peaks.

5. Combine the cooled egg yolk mixture with the double cream mixture. Fold in the whisked egg whites. Pour the mixture into a clean two-litre plastic container, cover and place in a freezer compartment as described in the article above.

6. Approximately one hour into freezing time, stir the chopped ginger into the mixture. The ice cream will be starting to freeze around the edges but will be still soft in the centre. Ensure that you have given the whole container a good mix around as you add the stem ginger.

7. The ice cream should freeze to a soft but usable state within about three hours, perhaps a little longer, depending upon your freezer. Allow it five minutes at room temperature to soften before serving with the warm pie.

Rhubarb Meringue Pie

(Serves eight)

Ingredients

450g prepared shortcrust pastry, plus a little plain white flour for rolling out

450g fresh rhubarb, washed and cut into roughly even-sized pieces, 2cm in length

1 ball of stem ginger in syrup

1 large orange, juice and finely grated zest

3 rounded tbsp. soft brown sugar

2 large eggs separated, plus 1 small whole egg for brushing the pastry case

100g caster sugar

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6.

2. Place the rhubarb in a single layer in a shallow, oven-proof dish. Add the sliced ginger. Pour over the orange juice mixed with grated zest. Sprinkle the brown sugar over and mix everything around, rearranging in a single layer once more.

3. Cover dish with aluminium foil and place in the oven for 20 minutes until the rhubarb is soft,

but still retaining its shape. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

4. Turn down the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5. Place a flat baking sheet on a centre shelf to warm.

5. Roll out the pastry and use it to line a 25cm loose-bottomed flan tin. Prick the base of the pastry case and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

6. Line the base and sides of the chilled flan case with a circle of baking parchment paper, cover with baking beans, rice or dried pulses. Place the flan tin on the hot baking sheet in the centre of the oven and bake blind for 20 minutes.

7. Remove from the oven, remove the paper and baking beans. Brush the whole flan case with whisked egg. Return to the oven for a further five minutes until crisp and golden. Set aside to cool.

8. Pour the cooled rhubarb mixture into an electric liquidiser goblet. Add the cornflour and egg yolks and blend until smooth. Alternatively, blend ingredients together with a handheld blender, or sieve the cooled rhubarb through a plastic mesh and whisk the cornflour and egg yolks into the purée.

9. Place the rhubarb purée mixture into a saucepan. Warm through gently, stirring all the time to cook the cornflour and egg yolks. The mixture should be smooth and gloopy. Pour this into the baked pastry flan case and spread it evenly to cover the whole surface. Leave to cool.

10. Whisk egg whites to stiff peak stage. Add half the caster sugar and whisk again until it returns to at least soft peak stage, if not a little bit more. Fold in the remaining caster sugar.

11. Spoon the meringue mixture over the rhubarb and swirl around, ensuring it covers the whole flan case. You can pipe the meringue over the surface in an ordered pattern if you prefer.

12. Return the pie to the centre of the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, until the meringue has risen, coloured golden and is firm to touch on the surface. Some chefs will blowtorch the uncooked meringue to brown it on the surface but baking it until crisp is preferable.