Tarragon and Mint Ice Cream

July 14th, 2014

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During our recent stay in Russia, we took the time to enjoy our home region of Northern Caucasus and fell in love with it all over again. To orient you in the landscape – there is widespread steppe that rolls Southward into green hills, which eventually transition into the Caucasus Mountains. On clear days, you can see Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe, from an open point in my hometown.

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Ours is an agricultural region, known for its fertile, black soil. The steppe is home to many wildflowers and medicinal herbs, like wild thyme and sage. The herbs get steeped into teas, which many people make at home.

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Paloma and I frequented the local market, which was just a couple hundred steps away from my mom’s house. There too, mounds of spring greens and herbs – culinary and medicinal alike, were on beautiful display, asking to be taken home.

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My mom is an amazing cook and I can never compete with her when it comes to traditional Russian dishes, so I tried my best not to interfere in the kitchen very much. That being said, I can never stay away from cooking for too long, especially once I got the idea to use some of the local herbs in an ice-cream. The bushes of tarragon at the market were especially tempting – the unique flavor of tarragon always intrigues and challenges me.

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Our region is known as a melting pot of many ethnic groups - Armenians, Georgians, Azerbaijani, Karachays, Circassians, Russians and more - that have been living there side by side for many generations. Each group has a deeply rooted culinary culture, very often with a strong emphasis on herbs and spices, which make the food bright and distinct in flavor. Tarragon is one of the herbs that is in frequent use, but when I told the vendor lady at the market that I’m going to put it into ice-cream, she was clearly shocked. She hurried to let all of her pals know what she thinks about it all in Armenian. I would have payed good money to have a translator right there and then.

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In the absence of an ice-cream machine, I turned to a no-churn recipe, which I learned about from Sarah. As usual, my first choice was to use coconut milk, but the only kind available wasn’t right in quality. I ended up with the recipe below which is very easy and amazingly delicious – you will not typically find these ingredients here at Golubka, but I was working with what I had at the moment. The ice cream was a huge success among friends and family.
Back home, I re-created the ice cream into a much lighter and vegan version that requires an ice-cream maker, so I’ve included both recipes here.

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Tarragon and Mint No Churn Ice Cream

1 large bunch fresh tarragon – mostly leaves
1 large bunch fresh mint – mostly leaves
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
1 can condensed milk
pinch of sea salt

1. Bruise tarragon and mint with the back of a chef’s knife to help them release their oils. Place herbs into a medium saucepan. Pour the heavy cream over them and bring to a near boil.
2. Remove from heat, cover and let cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Strain the herbs out and cool completely in a refrigerator.
3. Combine the condensed milk with salt in a mixing bowl. Beat the chilled cream by hand or in the bowl of a stand-up mixer on high until stiff peaks form. Gently fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the condensed milk until fully combined, followed by the rest of the cream.
4. Pour into a loaf pan or another freezer appropriate dish. Cover and freeze until firm – about 6 hours or overnight. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Vegan Version

2 cans full fat Thai coconut milk
1 large bunch fresh tarragon – mostly leaves
1 large bunch fresh mint – mostly leaves (you can use just one type of herb if you wish)
pinch of sea salt
1/3-1/2 cups light agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon xanathan gum or 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder

1. Bruise tarragon and mint with the back of a chef’s knife to help them release their oils. Place the herbs into a medium saucepan and pour the coconut milk over them. Bring to a near boil.
2. Remove from heat, cover and let cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Strain out the herbs, pour the infused milk into a blender with the rest of the ingredients and blend until fully combined.
3. Chill completely in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Churn in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions – about 25 minutes.
4. Transfer into a loaf pan or another freezer appropriate dish. Cover and freeze until firm, about 6 hours or overnight. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tags: dessert, ice cream, mint, tarragon

  • Your photos are just so gorgeous! And I love the idea of using Tarragon in a dessert, I will try this now. My current favorite use for tarragon is in a gluten free pizza dough.

  • another beautiful post.. love it! thanks for sharing – i definitely am craving an ice-cream now…

  • Adrienne says:

    Such lovely photos. I’ll have to try that ice cream.

  • Anze says:

    I made strawberry tarragon swirl ice cream a few weeks ago! The flavour combination was amazing. This one’s next on my list :)

  • The ice cream looks and sounds fantastic. I am in awe of your beautiful photography.

  • Ellie says:

    Both the writing and photography in this post are absolutely beautiful. I’ve been looking for recipes with tarragon for a while as I’ve never used it in cooking and really want to branch out with my use of herbs. These flavours sound so fresh for summer! I can’t wait to try

  • A genius summer combination ;)

  • Kathryn says:

    Oh, so beautiful. Your pictures + words have totally transported me.

  • Naomi says:

    Isn’t there something so comforting and special about going ‘home’, even if you don’t live there anymore? The meadows of wildflowers are just delightful. Where I live, in Slovakia, people have a certain way they cook and find other uses for common ingredients very surprising, even if they end up liking it.

  • This looks so wonderful and even better that it doesn’t require churning. I’m always trying to find new ways to get my little guy to eat herbs and combining them in a summer treat like this is brilliantly delicious!

  • Sweet Faery says:

    Wow, this ice-cream looks delicious.Tarragon is a wonderful idea ! :-)

  • Alanna says:

    What beautiful flavors and photographs! Your hometown is just exquisite. I love that you’ve included both a vegan and dairy-full version for this lovely ice cream – both sound equally lovely. And that vendor’s reaction is hilarious!

  • Russia is definitely a country on my list of must-travel-to places and these pics have not let me down. As for the ice-cream, even mint-hating me thinks it looks pretty much divine!

  • cynthia says:

    So incredibly gorgeous! These flavors sound wonderful together, and these shots of your hometown — just stunning. Thank you so much for this. (And thank you for your wonderful book, which is inspiring so much beauty and creativity on the web these days!)

  • Tarragon ice-cream, what a stunning idea!

  • this ice cream looks incredible! The color is amazing and I’m sure the flavor is even better!!!

  • What beautiful fields. I want to just roll around in all those flowers and herbs! Love this ice cream combo. I’m very intrigued!

  • I’ve tried to master the no churn ice cream and have never succeeded. I am giving it another shot though, because this looks incredible and youve never led me astray!

    • Anya says:

      Chelsea, it was my first experience with no-churn ice-cream and I think you’ll be successful with this recipe. Please let me know how it goes.

  • Such a gorgeous post, Anya! That ice cream looks to die for; I’m sure the tarragon flavor is truly unique and obsessive. Oh and the color is just magnificent.

  • Anton Pree says:

    Hi there, I was looking exaktly for that, since I have tons of mint in my garden in Turkey. Thank you so much.

    By the way: Phantastic Blog. Congratulations.
    Regards, Anton

  • Ah, I think the flavor of tarragon is so dear to anyone who grew up in the USSR. Yet I am sure you seriously outraged the women at the market by your ice-cream idea) Love how you found your way around even with the limited ingredients.

    The fields of the wild flowers and herbs look beautiful. I am from the Volga region; we might not have such vibrant colors and bold flavors, but there is a lot of variety of wild herbs and my parents keenly forage. I always bring some back to Istanbul to make infusions and to feel connected with the place I grew up.

  • […] recently talked a bit about my home region in Russia, and its array of food cultures and cuisines. Its unique […]

  • […] for dessert? The vegan version of Anya’s tarragon and mint ice cream sounds just […]

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