|2||vanilla pods (see note 1)|
In a bowl, lightly whisk sugar and egg yolks together.
Split vanilla pods lengthwise and scrape seeds from pods. Put the seeds, the empty pods, the milk and the cream into a 2-litre saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat and bring almost to the boil.
Whisk the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the egg mixture, and then return the mixture to a clean saucepan over moderate heat.
Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon (see note 2). Do not let mixture boil. Strain through a fine sieve, then refrigerate until cold. Curn in an icecream machine.
Note 1: if you can't find vanilla beans, you can substitute a teaspoon of natural vanilla essence for each bean.
Note 2:Every single ice cream recipe I've seen talks about waiting for it to coat the back of the spoon. This is something of a problem when like me you're a bit vague about what degree of sticking to the spoon constitutes coating it. I've cooked it hardly at all, so that the custard was essentially liquid, and I've also done it on a simmer pad and cooked it until I could practically write my initials in it and have them stay there. Both times, worked out fine, couldn't tell the difference. If coating the spoon means something to you, let me know. If it doesn't, don't panic about it.
From the brilliant e'cco cookbook (that's the recipe, not the notes, obviously :-). I have no doubt that Philip Johnson knows what coating the back of a spoon looks like.)