The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

cobnut and cacao nib ice cream

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Nearly 70% of the world’s supply of cocoa comes from two west African countries, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. Despite being part of a lucrative market, cocoa farming in these countries often provides a below-poverty income for the farmers who actually produce the crop.

The west African cocoa industry also has a long and scandalous history of child labour, which still persists to the present day. In large part this is because its impoverished cocoa farmers cannot afford to pay adult wages. The children they employ work long hours and are denied an education, locking them into a vicious cycle of poverty. Of these child labourers it is estimated that around 12,000 in Cote d’Ivoire alone are victims of trafficking or slavery.

The cocoa they grow and harvest is sold to some of the major chocolate companies in the world, including Nestlé, Mars and Hershey’s. Despite their vast profits there is little evidence of these chocolate industry giants taking steps to eradicate the use of child and slave labour in west Africa. The most obvious first step would be to pay cocoa farmers a living wage for the crops they produce.

As with all food products, we consumers can exert a major influence over the actions of food producers, in this case by boycotting chocolate manufactured by companies with links to poverty wages and child and slave labour, and by buying only brands that ensure a fair wage to farmers.

cacao nibscob-nutsshelled cobnutcobnut and cacao nib ice cream scoop

Cacao nibs, which I’m using in this recipe, are the least processed, most natural form of chocolate, and they are actually healthy, being packed with antioxidants and minerals.

Cacao nibs have a more complex flavour than chocolate – sweet and distinctively chocolatey but with rich and slightly bitter undertones. Their flavour certainly works really well in this lovely vegan ice cream.

The cobnut season is at its prime right now. A once popular cultivated variety of hazelnut, cobnuts are now more often than not found growing wild. They have a milder and slightly sweeter taste compared to hazelnuts, but if you are unable to source them use the same quantity of hazelnuts in their place. Either way, this is what I would call an adult ice cream, with beautifully balanced, intricate flavours.

cobnut and cacao nib ice cream


200 g cobnuts, shelled
50g cacao nibs
1 litre hazelnut milk
40 g hazelnut butter
80 ml maple syrup


1. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the shelled cobnuts. Bring back to the boil then immediately strain through a colander and rinse under cold water. Dry the cobnuts with a tea towel or kitchen paper. Rub off the skins and chop the nuts into small pieces with a sharp knife or a mini-chopper.

2. Place 100 ml of the the hazelnut milk with the maple syrup and cacao nibs in a separate pan and bring to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.

3. In a blender combine the remaining hazelnut milk with the hazelnut butter. Process until the mixture has formed a smooth consistency. Pour into a large bowl or jug and whisk in the cacao nib, maple syrup and hazelnut mixture. Leave to cool then chill in the fridge.

3. Set your ice cream maker running. Pour in the chilled ice cream mixture. After 20 minutes add the chopped cobnuts and continue churning. Once the ice cream has started to set, pour it into a freezer proof container with a lid and freeze. Remove from the freezer for 20 minutes before serving.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan

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11 replies

  1. Another delicious looking recipe 🙂

  2. Wow, looks so amazing and delicious. Your creativity just keeps flowing with the seasons 🙂

  3. Looks fantastic – do you make or buy the hazelnut milk?

  4. You said, “Despite their vast profits there is little evidence of these chocolate industry giants taking steps to eradicate the use of child and slave labour in west Africa”. Of course not. They are interested in the profit. It would take a world wide ban on buying Chocolate products to change things. How many people you know would participate in a month long boycott.? Not many, I’ll bet.

  5. I’ve never seen cobnuts in Australia, will a straight hazelnut swap interfere with the success of the recipe? The icecream sounds sublime!


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