‘Drop’ or licorice is a unique flavour that the Dutch famously can’t seem to get enough of; used in combination with sweet flavours as well as surprisingly salty ones alike. Having recently visited Amsterdam we couldn’t throw a stone(r) without hitting some form of the stuff- both knowingly, like when we ordered a remarkably delicious licorice infused creme brulee, or unknowingly when we got to the centre of a complimentary end-of-meal lollypop with the equivalent of a licorice flavoured salt lick inside (*shudders*) . Many might say it’s an acquired taste.
I had been waiting for a ‘re-do’ of my experience of Amsterdam for nearly 20 years now, having visited the city back when I was in college with my then-boyfriend and a few friends. Despite having the same itinerary goals (a trip to the Van Gogh museum and Ann Frank’s house), back then I never bothered to express my desires, or if I did it was in the most casual of ways, so as to not seem to be any trouble or hassle. Consequently twenty-year-old me spent that trip being dragged around to every damn coffee shop in town, trying to convince myself that I was ‘totally fine’ just to have a couple puffs and then entertain myself with some freshly squeezed juice to combat my dry mouth while I waited for everyone else’s kid in a candy store experience to wrap up . Back then, I was afraid to speak up and make my preferences known, not wanting to be seen as anything less than go-with-the-flow, to the extent that I didn’t even bother to grab a map (yes a MAP pre-smartphone days) and make my own way to my desired destinations by myself.
Metaphorically, this is how I spent a great deal of my twenties: attempting to not have preferences; to be accommodating, to be ‘cool’ or ‘chill’; so I would be included in work opportunities, fit in with friendship groups, with romantic partners etc. I still struggle with this sometimes now – the idea of having preferences. The combination of being a woman, a mother, a foreigner, and a people pleaser on top of it all only works to feed into my desire to want to appear easy breezy and adaptable, rather than having a preference which might make me seem anything less than accommodating. I imagine this idea might resonate with a lot of people reading this.
This light bulb moment of preferences came about after listening to a podcast with the incredible writer Ashley Ford. As she discussed the practice of having and expressing her preferences and I physically sat up in my chair and shouted out loud “YES! ME TOO!”.
I still need to remind myself regularly that it’s ok to have preferences, but the side-by-side comparison of these two trips serves as living example that preferences are a welcome part of being an individual, and one that I will continue to grow into with age and time. It doesn’t make me difficult or hard to work with (most of the time anyhow), it makes me, me. As it turns out, I actually like licorice, including the reinterpretation with the ice cream recipe I’ve made here (using the root rather than black licourice) – I would just prefer not to eat it with every meal.
Note: licorice root produces a very different flavour to black licorice. It’s naturally sweet and tastes a bit herbal, almost sassafras-like. I’ve balanced this out by adding star anise for the deeper licorice candy flavour. If black licorice is your thing feel free to double down on the quantity of star anise.
Licorice & Star Anise No Churn Ice Cream
4 sticks licorice root
4 star anise
250ml/1 cup water
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
600ml heavy cream, double cream or whipping cream
1 tin/360ml condensed milk (I used a coconut condensed milk here)
a drop or two of food colouring of your choice (I went for a pale purple)
appropriate sized tupperware for freezing
In a small pot over a medium heat add your licorice root, start anise and water and bring to a low simmer. You’ll want to infuse and reduce the amount of liquid until you have just around 50ml or about 1/4 cup of water left in the pot- the liquid should be a caramel colour. Once your infusion has reduced strain the liquid into an appropriate sized bowl and leave to cool completely. I popped mine into the freezer for 10 minutes or so.
In a mixing bowl pour in your whipping cream, five spice, any food colouring you’d like to use and cooled licorice/anise infusion and whip either by hand or with a hand-held or standing mixer until soft peaks are formed. Gently fold in the condensed milk and fold to combine.
Pour your mixture into tupperware, lid and freeze for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight. Let defrost for 5 minutes or so before serving.