You are probably more familiar with the Amarula liquor than the marula fruit. Legend has it that elephants sometimes get drunk eating the fermented fruits on the wild plains of southern Africa, although researchers have doubted the accuracy of such stories. In any case, the alcoholic reputation of this yellow fruit, about the size and look of a small plum, is generally greater than its culinary standing. This is a shame, as it is a delightful little gem; tart in taste and apparently packed with vitamin C.
Its relative obscurity might be due to the fact that it’s very hard to come by. In Joburg, you find street sellers offering netted bags with marula fruits only for a few weeks per year. I managed to buy some back in February, and pondered what to make with them. The most common recipes are for marula jam or jelly, although even those are few. It was still the height of summer and the fresh, slightly sour taste of the fruit made me think of my favourite ice cream lolly as a child, which was a vanilla ice cream covered in pear juice ice.
I decided to explore the possibility of making vanilla ice cream with marula ripple, and started by making a marula jam. This is a messy affair, as the fruits are covered in a hard skin and the pulp sticks quite stubbornly to the fruit kernel even after several hours of cooking. In any case, I devised the recipe below and although the marula jam I made was quite soupy in texture, it blended very well with the vanilla ice cream to make the ice lollies. The tart sweetness of the marula jam goes wonderfully with the vanilla ice cream.
The jam has kept in the fridge since then, and I use it on top of plain yoghurt for luxurious weekend breakfasts. Well worth the hard work, and a real special treat due to its scarcity. Next time the street sellers offer marula for sale again, I will make sure to get a whole lot more than just a couple of bags.
Vanilla ice cream with marula ripple (8 lollies)
For the marula jam/ripple
- 1.5 kilos of fresh marula fruits
- 500 ml sugar
- juice from one lemon
For the vanilla ice cream
- 150 g sugar
- 200 g milk
- 200 g cream
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
Wash the marula fruits and cut the skin around the fruit in a circle. Put all the fruits in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then let it simmer for about two hours.
Put the boiled fruits in a large colander or siv over a pot, and mash them so that the skins separate from the pulp. Press the fruit pulp through the colander until you have extracted it all from the skins and kernels, making sure still to keep as much of the fibre of the fruit pulp as possible.
Cook the fruit pulp with the sugar and lemon juice in a new pot until ready. The timing is best determined through a jam test (pour some of the hot jam on a cold spoon and check the texture). Beware though – the first time I tried to make marula jelly several years ago, I overcooked the jam so that it became rock solid once it cooled off. Rather err on the soupy side, especially since it doesn’t matter for the ice cream if the ripple is very solid or not.
Once the jam is ready, pour it into a sterilized jar and let it cool.
For the ice cream, whisk sugar and eggs together until they are light and foamy. Add milk, cream and vanilla paste and mix well. Pour into an ice cream maker and follow the general instructions for making ice cream. This is an Italian gelato type of ice cream recipe, using raw eggs. You can also make a standard custard-based vanilla ice cream, if you prefer (it just takes longer).
Once the ice cream is ready, swirl some of the marula jam into the ice cream and freeze. You can make ice cream lollies, cups or an ice cream cake. If you want to, add some of the marula sauce on top for serving. It’s delicious.