A common ingredient in Asian cuisines—particularly Japanese, where they are often used for confections and sweets—azuki beans are available in Asian markets and health food stores.
FOR THE AZUKI PASTE:
- 1 cup washed azuki beans
- 3⁄4 cup sugar
- 1 pinch salt
FOR THE ICE CREAM:
- 2 fresh vanilla beans
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 1⁄2 cups milk
- 1 1⁄2 cups heavy cream
- For the azuki paste: Put beans in a saucepan full of water, bring to a boil, then drain in a colander. Return beans to pan, add 3-4 cups water, cover, and simmer until beans are very soft and have absorbed all the water, 30-40 minutes. (Azukis cook faster than many other varieties of bean.) Stir in sugar and cook over low heat until sugar has dissolved and beans form a soft, chunky paste. Add salt and allow paste to cool.
- For the ice cream: Slice vanilla beans lengthwise down the center with a sharp paring knife. With your fingers, spread beans open, then scrape out and reserve black seeds, discarding pods. Put seeds in a small bowl, add ¼ cup of the sugar, and mix well.
- In a medium bowl, combine remaining ¾ cup sugar, vanilla–sugar combination, and egg yolks, and beat until mixture becomes creamy and turns a pale yellow. Add milk and cream and mix well into a custard-like consistency. Refrigerate until ready to use, preferably overnight.
- Pour custard into an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. About 10 minutes before ice cream is ready, feed ½ cup of the azuki paste into ice cream maker. Serve immediately or freeze in an airtight container to keep ice cream soft until ready to use.