Ballymaloe Ice Bowl

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


Appears in

Darina Allen's Simply Delicious Suppers

Darina Allen's Simply Delicious Suppers

By Darina Allen

Published 2001

  • About

This ice bowl was Myrtle Alien’s brilliant solution to the problem of keeping the ice cream cold during the evening on the sweet trolley in the restaurant. I quote from The Ballymaloe Cookbook.

It took me twelve years to find the solution to keeping ice-cream cold on the sweet trolley in my restaurant. At first we used to unmould and decorate our ices on to a plate. This was all right on a busy night when they got eaten before melting. On quieter occasions the waitresses performed relay races from the dining-room to the deep freeze. I dreamed about 19th-century ice boxes filled from ice houses, to my husband’s increasing scorn, and then I thought I had a solution. A young Irish glass blower produced beautiful hand-blown glass cylinders which I filled with ice-cream and fitted into beautiful tulip-shaped glass bowls. These I filled with ice cubes. Six months later, however, due to either the stress of the ice or the stress of the waitresses, my bowls were gone and so was my money.

In desperation I produced an ice bowl. It turned out to be a stunning and practical presentation for a restaurant trolley or a party buffet.


To make a Ballymaloe ice bowl, take two bowls, one about double the capacity of the other. Half fill the big bowl with cold water. Float the second bowl inside the first. Weight it down with water or ice cubes until the rims are level. Place a square of fabric on top and secure it with a strong rubber band or string under the rim of the lower bowl, as one would tie on a jam pot cover. Adjust the small bowl to a central position. The cloth holds it in place. Put the bowls on to a Swiss roll tin and place in a deep freeze, if necessary re-adjusting the position of the small bowl as you put it in. After 24 hours or more take it out of the deep freeze.

Remove the cloth and leave it for 15–20 minutes, by which time the small bowl should lift out easily. Then try to lift out the ice bowl. It should be starting to melt slightly from the outside bowl, in which case it will slip out easily. If it isn’t, then just leave for 5 or 10 minutes more: don’t attempt to run it under the hot or even the cold tap, or it may crack. If you are in a great rush, the best solution is to wring out a tea-towel in hot water and wrap that around the large bowl for a few minutes. Altogether, the best course of action is to perform this operation early in the day and then fill the ice bowl with scoops of ice cream, so that all you have to do when it comes to serving the ice cream is to pick up the ice bowl from the freezer and place it on the serving dish. Put a folded serviette underneath the ice bowl on the serving dish to catch any drips.

At Ballymaloe, Myrtle Allen surrounds the ice bowl with vine leaves in summer, scarlet Virginia creeper leaves in autumn and red-berried holly at Christmas. However, I’m a bit less restrained and I can’t resist surrounding it with flowers! However you present it, ice cream served in a bowl of ice like this usually draws gasps of admiration when you bring it to the table.

In the restaurant we make a new ice bowl every night, but at home when the dessert would be on the table for barely half an hour, it should be possible to use the ice bowl several times. As soon as you have finished serving, give the bowl a quick wash under the cold tap and get it back into the freezer again. This way you can often get 2 or 3 turns from a single ice bowl. One more point: don’t leave a serving spoon resting against the side of the bowl or it will melt a notch in the rim.

Nowadays, when we want to do something extra special, we freeze flowers, leaves or fresh herbs into the ice bowl and we’ve also done really pretty ones with berried holly for Christmas. Make sure nobody nibbles at the berries as it melts – they may well be poisonous!