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Lemon Verbena Ice Cream (Glace à la verveine)

The French use lemon verbena leaves to make a fragrant bedtime infusion. However, infuse the leaves to make a simple yet stunning end to a summer meal.
Make this creamy Lemon Verbena Ice Cream in advance and it’s one of the lightest yet easy French desserts to produce at the last minute. Goes perfectly with peaches, apricots, raspberries or figs.

mini cup of creamy ice cream with a sprig of lemon verbena leaves

Light French Desserts

If you know me by now, you’ll know that my favourite desserts are both light and easy to make – but they also must have a little of that WOW taste factor.

The ultimate challenge while testing out this ice cream dessert has been serving it to friends who are not even fans of sweets or puddings. Yet each time it has received a surprised note of ecstatic groans around the table. Why?

It’s light, simple, with a natural, yet subtle lemony surprise. Most of all, it’s not too sweet.

cup of light green melting ice cream with a sprig of lemon verbena leaves

Can You Eat Lemon Verbena Leaves?

Although the leaves are edible it’s best instead to infuse the leaves of lemon verbena. Either infuse them in boiling water for about 10 minutes to make a herbal infusion.  For cooking, they are best infused in milk or cream to make a crème pâtissière or pastry cream. Read on to the end to see a few recipe ideas.

How do you Use Lemon Verbena?

In 2015, we planted two small lemon verbena (French: verveine) bushes in the garden. We thought it would simply be to have the best bedtime herbal infusions.  I initially didn’t even use the leaves in cooking until I experimented with this ice cream.


So, rather than just serve it as a typical herbal infusion before going to bed (N.B. if you have the fresh leaves, it beats the sachets by far, sold in supermarkets), I wanted to try it in desserts.

How to Freeze Lemon Verbena

In the Autumn, as soon as the weather turns cooler, it’s the time to preserve the leaves.  Leave them as the weather turns too cold and the leaves turn brown and die. So don’t let this happen! The fresh leaves can easily be frozen.  I simply take the leaves off the thin branches and zip-lock them in bags to enjoy over the winter for herbal infusions or this recipe.

Dried Lemon Verbena Leaves

So, fresh (or frozen) lemon verbena leaves are absolute best for this recipe. However, if you don’t have access to fresh leaves, don’t despair. Dried lemon verbena leaves are the next best thing and can be found in most health food shops or groceries.

epicerie LeGrand Paris

In Paris, Legrand Epicerie stocks them all year round, for example as does La Grande Epicerie (don’t they sound similar!). Just look out for Verveine.

dried lemon verbena leaves

Plus it’s the best way to preserve your lemon verbena if you grow your own.  Just dry the leaves for 2-3 days on their branches. When dry, store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

What Does Lemon Verbena Ice Cream Taste Like?

It’s quite simply refreshing. If you enjoy the taste of citronella, it’s on the same lines but has a more subtle lemon flavour. What we love about this ice cream is that it’s creamy but also extremely light as it uses mainly whole milk rather than heavy cream.

Lemon verbena ice cream is not bright green (if it is, you’ve either used too much or steeped it too long). Its natural subtle refreshing fragrance comes from the intriguing leaves. After the initial creamy taste comes the surprise with a hint of natural lemon.

How to Make Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

  • Weigh the verbena … It seems a lot but it needs a good amount. Use digital scales for 15g or 1/2oz.

infusing fresh lemon verbena

  • Infuse the lemon verbena leaves in the hot milk. Take off heat and cover for 30 minutes maximum then discard the leaves.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until light and creamy. Mix in a little of the verbena milk, then add the whole lot to the bowl.  Transfer back to the saucepan and on a medium heat, whisk continuously until it mousses and forms a light custard. Be careful not to boil, as it could curdle slightly. As soon as the mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spoon, it’s ready.

ice cream custard sticking to spoon to show it's ready

  • Transfer the lemon verbena mixture back to the bowl, add the cream then set aside to cool. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

verbena ice cream churning

  • Churn the ice cream in an sorbetière or ice cream maker until frozen. It doesn’t look green but the flavour will be full of lemony verbena.

What Flavours Go Well With Lemon Verbena?

With French fruit in abundance in summer, what’s not to love about a blistering simple roasted nectarine from Provence with a honey syrup? This ice cream is perfect with roasted nectarines or peaches – or follow the printable recipe for baked apricots in honey, prepared in the same way as described below.

Roasted Nectarines or Peaches: Just split 6 peaches/nectarines in half, drizzle over some honey (read my top tips to tell if you’re using real honey), top with a knob of butter and roast at 180°C fan/200°C/400°F/Gas 6 for 20 minutes. Leave to cool then serve.

roasting nectarines in honey

roasted nectarines in honey with verbena ice cream

Don’t have time to roast the nectarines or peaches? Then simply serve with fresh strawberries, raspberries, apricots or figs.

close-up of melting ice cream - creamy subtle green with sprig of lemon verbena leaves

Lemon Verbena Recipes

mini cup of creamy ice cream with a sprig of lemon verbena leaves

Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

Author: Jill Colonna
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Infusing & Chilling Time2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time3 hrs 10 mins
Course : Dessert
Cuisine : French
Keyword : lemon verbena recipes, roasted nectarines, roasted peaches
Servings : 12 people
Calories : 100kcal

Description

A simple yet stunning end to a summer meal: creamy Lemon Verbena Ice Cream. Make the ice cream in advance and it's one of the easiest French desserts to produce at the last minute. Flavours match deliciously well with peaches, apricots, raspberries or figs.

Ingredients

Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

  • 500 ml (18fl oz) Whole milk
  • 15 g (0.5oz) Verbena leaves reserve 6 leaves for nectarines
  • 5 egg yolks organic
  • 115 g (4oz) Sugar
  • 100 ml (3.5fl oz) Whipping / heavy cream 30% fat

Instructions

Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

  • Bring the milk to a boil in a large saucepan with the verbena leaves (put 6 leaves aside for the nectarines) then turn off the heat and cover.  Leave to infuse for about 30 minutes then filter out the leaves.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until light and creamy. Mix in a little of the verbena milk, then add the whole lot to the bowl.  Transfer back to the saucepan and on a medium heat, whisk continuously until it mousses and forms a light custard. Be careful not to boil, as it could curdle slightly. As soon as the mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spoon, it's ready.
  • Transfer the lemon verbena mixture back to the bowl, add the cream then set aside to cool. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
  • Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions and transfer to the freezer for a couple of hours until ready to serve.

Notes

This makes a litre of ice cream.
To serve: with roasted nectarines/peaches or apricots either chilled or at room temperature. Delicious also served with fresh raspberries, apricots or figs.
Storage: The ice cream is best served within a month.

This recipe post was first published 26 August 2016 but is now updated with new images and made easier to read

Have you made this recipe?

I’d love to know how it turned out. Please let me know by leaving a review below (now you can rate it!). It means so much to have your support. On Instagram? Share a photo and tag @JillColonna and hashtag it #madaboutmacaronsÀ bientôt!

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Comments (12)

Somehow I missed this post coming through, but not too late as I’d love to make this before the summer peaches and nectarines are gone. The verbena ice cream sounds absolutely delightful, too. What a great combination, Jill and so glad to see a summer recipe instead of autumn, as many others are jumping at; we still have 3 more weeks for goodness’ sake! Brava!

Totally agree with you, Christina. Autumn is still far enough away and we still have the wonderful fruits of summer so let’s make the most of it! I hope you make this – it’s summer on a plate!

These roasted nectarines certainly have the WOW factor from me. Now, that dessert is so different from any recipe I have seen recently. The verbena ice cream is unusual too. Great combination. Wish I could be your taster.

Glad you like it and hope you do make it, Thomasina. I posted both of them together since they’re a match that’s divine!

Wow these are gorgeous and rather sexy! I think this is such an elegant dessert for summer. I hope you all had a wonderful vacation!

Isn’t that funny, Jamie? I threw a few raspberries on the plate and our guests this weekend thought it was rather suggestive! Thanks – we had a super time. Wish we could have come to Chinon but for another time soon, I hope!