Duke of Hamilton’s Fig Ice Cream

In the winter of 1997, my friend Angus Hamilton was sent a letter by a man who was compiling recipes from all the great aristocratic houses. Angus passed this to me, and we discussed what would be best. He was very keen that I should do something using the brown figs from the fig tree that grows against the front wall of Lennoxlove House, his family home. The figs never fail to ripen, despite the Scottish climate. This was in November, so I had to wait until the following year before figs were available. Angus Hamilton is very fond of ice cream, so I decided to make a fig ice cream, which is not as easy as it sounds, because figs do not have a very strong intrinsic flavor. However, this recipe is the result of my efforts. I hope you like it as much as I did.


  • 2 cups milk
  • A large piece of licorice root
  • 1 vanilla bean, split open lengthwise
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 preserved figs, cut into pieces (the ones that you find in jars with brandy will do very nicely for this)
  • 6 fresh figs, cut into pieces


Place the milk, licorice, vanilla bean, and half the sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Once it has boiled, cover and remove from the heat. Leave to stand for 10-15 minutes before proceeding.

Put the egg yolks and remaining sugar in a bowl and beat until the mixture thickens and will form a ribbon.

Remove the licorice and vanilla bean from the milk, place over a high heat, and bring back to a boil. Pour a little of the boiling milk into the bowl with the egg yolks and sugar, whisking constantly as the milk is added. Move the saucepan from the heat and pour the contents of the bowl into it, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula. Return the saucepan to a low heat and, stirring carefully, allow to form a custard. If you are using a thermometer, this should reach 185°F. However, the more usual test is to lift the wooden spoon and run your finger, in a line, across the film of cream that adheres to it. If the custard is properly cooked, it will nicely coat the spoon and the top end of the line will hold its shape. When the custard is cooked, it should be removed from the heat immediately.

Pour into a bowl and add the heavy cream, stirring constantly to mix well. The finished cream must now be allowed to cool completely, before being placed in the ice cream machine. To speed the cooling, place the bowl in a larger bowl that has been filled with ice cubes and water. The cream should feel cold to the touch when it has finished cooling.

Once the cream is completely cold, pour it into the ice cream freezer and start the machine. Churn for 1 minute, then add the preserved figs. Continue to churn according to the instructions on your model. When the ice cream has finished churning, remove it from the machine to a freezerproof container. At this point, stir in the fresh figs. Allow to freeze, and serve with more fresh figs on the plate.