Antonio Russo parev ice cream - an ice cream dream come true
Finally, a parev iced dessert that tastes like ice cream
Many of the sacrifices made in the name of a kosher home have little impact on our lives. No seafood? Less chance of violent food poisoning. No pork? One less unhealthy animal fat to ingest. Hardly a disadvantage.
One rule can present more of a problem — the separation of milk and meat. Meat served without a creamy sauce remains delicious, but a crisp, succulent roast chicken followed by most non-dairy puddings is, to many, frankly dismaying.
There are several ready-made, ice cream-style parev desserts on the market, but none really take the place of a scoop of proper vanilla ice cream. It is all about the mouth feel. Nothing comes close to that cool, melting creaminess. Or does it?
This was a question that concerned Israel Pashkes, a prisoner doing time in Jerusalem’s Ayalon prison. Pashkes spent much of his 13 months of incarceration (for tax evasion) in the prison’s kitchens. He had been allocated work as a chef, and the air-conditioned environment there was preferable to the heat of his cell. Using basic ingredients easily found in any kitchen, he experimented making dairy-free iced desserts.
When he was released from prison, he came to London where he found work as a chef. He met Marton Braun, a marketing specialist and art collector. Braun offered hima position at Braun’s Stamford Hill home. “My wife was abroad for a long period, so I asked Israel to cook for us,” he says. “He made the most amazing parev ice creams”.
Braun was so impressed he asked Pashkes to develop the ice creams further, so they would be able to make them in large quantities. “I especially wanted him to make a coffee flavour,” continues Braun “using my favourite Blue Mountain coffee”.
So confident was Hungarian refugee Braun of the product’s success, he sold a painting from his wife’s collection at auction in order to fund product development. He also set about looking for outside investment.
This appeared from an unexpected source. He went for advice to David Russell, a close friend and PR specialist, who had looked after public relations for Braun’s international artist wife, Gitl Wallersteiner- Braun. “I asked David to proof-read a draft letter to potential investors, and he was so impressed with the product he said he also would be interested,” explains Braun.
The soft-spoken Pashkes, working with a small domestic ice cream machine, attempted to perfect the base product — of eggs, soya milk and Ambiente, a common ingredient in parev baking. After more than eight months of testing, re-testing and tasting they found the ideal recipe.
There are now seven flavours — vanilla, pistachio, chocolate, hazelnut, summer fruit, toffee and coffee. The coffee flavour — Carribatto — is Braun’s passion.
“We use Blue Mountain coffee, the most expensive on the market” he says. “It is an Arabian coffee grown in Jamaica at high altitude and matured over 12 months. It has a great aroma with no bitterness. I’ve been hooked for many years.”
Other coffee ice creams use brewed coffee, which, according to Braun, do not achieve the end result he wanted. “We use powderised coffee in the final freeze.” The result, is a smooth, powerful caffeine kick.
Caterers have been quick to snap up the frozen dessert. According to Braun, Jason Millan is already a fan. “He was begging me to sell it,” smiles Braun. The good news is that very soon, you will not have to go to a simchah to try it, as Braun and Russell are about to launch it onto the UK market under the brand name Antonio Russo. “We are not rushing, as we know it is a great product and we want to get it right — it is a potentially huge idea” he says. Watch this space for news of when it is to hit the streets. Possibly the only person not waiting with baited breath for the treat is Braun’s wife.
“She won’t touch my coffee ice cream, she hates my rocket coffee,” he moans.