ArchiveAugust 23, 2003

Sorbet and granitas

While most of Europe is gasping and squirming in temperatures of 30-45 degrees Celsius, we in Ireland are enjoying gorgeous Summer days and hoping that the Pope’s prayers for rain are not answered in our ‘neck of the woods’. Several groups of friends who scrimped and saved for a ‘continental holiday’ this year came home red as lobsters with tales of woe – simply too hot to walk, talk, eat or sleep, too hot to do anything – and the pools and beaches were unbearably overcrowded. It’s an ill wind that blows no good – it’s just possible that this global warming may do wonders for Irish tourism. We may even be able to make a virtue of all that soft rain!

Trouble is this sublime weather seems to zap everyone of any sense of urgency, which is fine if one is on holidays but try to arrange a meeting and you’ll find half the country has headed for the beach, and who can blame them. It’s not much fun being cooped up in a sweltering office but spare a thought for the chefs and cooks who are slaving over the hot stoves day in day out to feed the rest of us who’d rather not spend time in the kitchen in this glorious weather.

In the midst of all this, with impeccable timing, a deliciously cool little book arrived on my desk called Granita Magic. It’s written by Nadia Roden, the multi-talented daughter of Claudia Roden, whose name is mentioned in whispered reverential tones by those of us who love her many authoritative works on Middle Eastern cooking, Italian and Jewish Food. Nadia came from a family where the kitchen was the most exciting room in the house. As a child, she often took her paints to work there while her Mum tested recipes or cooked for family and friends. Now, years later, the pleasures of cooking and tasting have inspired her to write this delightful book. At this stage, Nadia, who now lives in New York, is not only an accomplished cook in her own right but also an award-winning painter and animator who has created textile designs for the Gugenheim Museum, Metropolitan Opera and Radio City Music Hall, as well as Neiman Marcus, Harrods and Liberty of London …. among others.

Nadia brings the same sparkling creative edge to ices, sorbets and granitas with pairings of ingredients that surprise and delight - whether served as an intermezzo (aka between course palate cleaner), an appetizer, snack or dessert or even for breakfast tucked into a warm brioche.

Single flavour granita can of course be truly delicious but let’s also have fun with some sinfully delicious contemporary versions – think ginger or pomergranate, rosemary or green tea or a sauternes granita served over freshly sliced peaches or nectarines. 

The innovative use of herbs, nuts, spices, teas, wines and spirits as well as vegetables, such as red pepper and tomato, horseradish, cucumber or carrot and fruits, from plums and pears to kiwi and cranberry. Elevate these glittering frosted crystals to something absolutely irresistible. All you need is a little imagination and a little space in your freezer. Remember to taste before you freeze - all sorbets, water ices and granitas should taste sweeter than you would like them to because freezing dulls sweetness.

Strawberry Sorbet with Fresh Strawberry Sauce

Italian sorbets and granitas are legendary if I had to choose just one it would have to be strawberry.
Serves 6-8
2 lbs (900g/6 cups) very ripe strawberries
Juice of 2 lemon
Juice of 2 orange
2 lb (225g/1 generous cup) castor sugar
3 pint (150ml/generous 2 cup) water
Fresh mint leaves
A few sugared strawberries

Fresh Strawberry Sauce
14 ozs (400g/2 ¾ cups) strawberries
2 ozs (55g/2 cup) icing sugar
Lemon juice

Dissolve the sugar in the water, bring to the boil simmer for 2-3 minutes, leave to cool. Purée the strawberries in a food processor or blender, sieve. Add the orange and lemon juice to the cold syrup. Stir into the puree. Freeze in a sorbetiere or a covered bowl in a freezer, (stir once or twice during the freezing to break up the crystals). (see foolproof)

Meanwhile make the coulis, clean and hull the strawberries, add to the blender with sugar and blend. Strain, taste and add lemon juice if necessary. Store in a fridge.

To Serve
Scoop out the ice cream into a pretty glass bowl and serve with a few sugared strawberries and fresh strawberry sauce. Decorate with fresh mint leaves.

Lavender & Honey Granita

Serves 4-6
450ml (16floz) water
175g (6oz) lavender honey(225g/8oz if using Champagne)
1 ½ tablespoons lavender flower heads
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
350ml (12floz) Champagne (optional)
Gently simmer the water, honey and lavender together in a saucepan for just a minute. Cover and set the mixture aside to steep until cool.
Strain out the flowers. Stir in the lemon juice to taste and the Champagne, if using.

To freeze granita, follow one of the methods shown (see foolproof).
From Granita Magic by Nadia Roden

Tomato and Basil Granita

Serves 4-6
900g (2lb) ripe sweet tomatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon sugar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2-3 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
large handful of basil leaves, finely chopped
½ - ¾ teaspoon salt

Quarter the tomatoes and puree in a food processor with the sugar and garlic. 
Strain through a sieve to discard the seeds, then stir in the pepper, lemon juice, basil and salt to taste.
Let the mixture chill in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavours to develop. 
To freeze the granita, follow one of the methods shown (see fool proof).
From Granita Magic by Nadia Roden

Watermelon Granita

Serves 4-6
125ml (4floz) water
5-6 tablespoons sugar
½ large watermelon (2.2kg/5lb flesh)
juice and zest of 2 limes

Put the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. When the sugar has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat.

Cut the rind off the watermelon, then cut the flesh into 2-inch chunks.
Puree the melon chunks in batches in a food processor. Press the puree through a sieve; discard the seeds and fibres. Stir the syrup and the lime juice and zest into the melon liquid.
To freeze the granita, follow one of the methods shown (see foolproof).
From Granita Magic by Nadia Roden

Blackcurrant Water Ice

Sorbet au Cassis
250g (9 oz) fresh blackcurrants
80g (3 oz) castor or icing sugar

Put aside two or three handsome bunches of currants (with leaves on, if there are any). Remove the stalks from the rest of the currants and puree them in a liquidiser or with the finest blade of the mouli-legumes. Pass through a fine sieve, add the sugar, and beat it in well with a whisk Transfer the mixture to the ice-cream maker and freeze. When you serve the sorbet scoop it out in balls with a spoon dipped in hot water.

Take the bunches of currants which you have kept aside and dip them first into iced water and then into castor sugar so that they are prettily frosted. Arrange them on top of the sorbets.

Cuisine of the Sun by Roger Verge

Darina's Back to Basics

To make the perfect sorbet
You don’t have to stick to one method to make the perfect sorbet or granita. Here are a few alternatives – chose one to suit your kitchen equipment and of course your lounging time in the sun!

1. Pour into the drum of an ice-cream maker or sorbetiere and freeze for 20-25 minutes. Scoop out and serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer until needed. 

2. Pour the juice into a stainless steel or plastic container and put into the freezing compartment of a refrigerator. After about 4-5 hours when the sorbet is semi-frozen, remove from the freezer and whisk until smooth, then return to the freezer. Whisk again when almost frozen. Keep in the freezer until needed.

3. If you have a food processor simply freeze the sorbet completely in a stainless steel or plastic bowl, then break into large pieces and whizz up in the food processor for a few seconds. Add one slightly beaten egg white (optional), whizz again for another few seconds, then return to the bowl and freeze again until needed.

4. A method to prepare a granita, simply pour the mixture into ice trays, cover with cling film and allow to freeze solid. When you are ready to serve, unmould the granita cubes and whizz in a food processor to a slushy snow texture.

Sorbets may be served onto chilled plates either with a ice cream scoop or for a more natural presentation, shape sorbet using two matching dessert or teaspoons. Dip spoons in warm water before you begin to shape. Granitas can simply be served in chilled stemmed glasses of your choice.

To garnish, add a sprig of a fresh herb e.g. sweet geranium, mint leaf, some leftover fresh fruit from ingredients or a fruit coulis.

Schull Farmers’ Market 11am to 3pm on Sundays selling fresh produce including farmhouse cheese and salamis

Look out for white peaches in the shops at present, not only are they gloriously juicy but they also make the basis of a classic Bellini,

Wine Courses
Intensive Wine Course  with Mary Dowey 7th – 9th November 2003
Do you know a bit about wine but wish you knew more?
Wine Development Board of Ireland 
If you are one of the many who love a glass of wine but are perplexed by the wine list, you may be interested to know that the Wine Development Board of Ireland has announced it’s annual programme of wine courses for 2003/2004. In a major educational programme, the Board is facilitating the delivery of no less than one hundred separate courses, with more than half of these outside Dublin. Wine sales have grown tremendously in Ireland in recent years. From 1.7 million cases in 1990 to 5.5 millions cases in 2002. Wine is now a favourite tipple of 49% of all adults in Ireland, as opposed to just 28% in 1990


Cooking over an open fire is the world’s oldest cooking method, somehow it seems to reawaken our primordial instincts. Even those who wouldn’t normally be caught dead in an apron feel an urge to grab the tongs when they see a barbecue! Barbecuing means less fuss, more fun and (when one gets the hang of it) more flavour too. It’s all about easy, casual entertaining – unwinding with friends and family, while the steaks sizzle and the chicken wings crisp over glowing embers.

You certainly don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to get started. I’ve cooked many an outdoor feast in the most basic circumstances – a circle of stones, a fire and a wire rack will get you started. The skills one needs to learn are: how to light the fire, how to judge when the heat is right for cooking, and where to position the food in relation to the source of heat.


Before you start barbecuing make sure that you’re organised – with your tongs, seasoning and dishes ready. Even though these are laidback affairs, they will only seem effortless if you’ve organised yourself a little first.

The fundamental principle of barbecuing is controlling the heat. On a barbecue, you do this by raising or lowering the grill. Because they cook more slowly, the larger the pieces of meat, the further from the heat source they need to be. So for thick steaks, chicken legs and larger cuts of meat, you are better off searing over the high heat for a few minutes before transferring the meat to the edges of the grill, where the heat is lower. Searing will seal the meat, so that the juices remain inside during further cooking on a low heat. Smaller pieces of food (chicken paillarde or lamb chops) can be within 10-12.5 cm (4-5in) of the coals.

It is difficult to gauge if chicken legs and wings are properly cooked through. Because of the risk of salmonella and campylobacter, it is definitely worth pre-cooking chicken drumsticks a little first – this may sound like cheating, but it’s better to be safe, particularly if you are using intensively produced meat.
As you cook, fat will drip off the meat and onto the coals, producing flames. Damp these down by spraying a little water on the coals. Avoid basting with too much oil or marinade as well, as this can also cause flames to leap up. Keep turning the meat so it does not stick, burn or dry out. Most burgers, chops and so on should be ready with 20 minutes, but do check before serving. Fish and seafood will be much quicker.


Marinades are fun to experiment with, and can be an excellent way to improve and strengthen the flavour of meat, but they are certainly not essential. If you start off with good quality fish and meat, you shouldn’t have to do very much to it. For a simple marinade, all you need is good olive oil, sea salt, a few herbs and perhaps a little lemon or lime juice, vinegar or red wine. You only need to marinade for 10-15 minutes, and be particularly aware not to leave meat in an acidic marinade for too long as it can be counter-productive and toughen it. A word of warning: avoid marinades with tomato or honey as they tend to burn. It’s a better idea to baste the meat with sauce once it’s cooked.

Food for Barbecues

Barbecues were traditionally carnivorous affairs, with perhaps the odd green salad or baked potato on the side. This is far from the case now. There are some exceptionally tasty vegetarian and non-meat options to try: vegetable kebabs and parcels, stuffed flat mushrooms, goat’s cheese wrapped vine leaves, coal-baked potatoes, prawns and fish. Remember that people’s appetites increase when they eat outdoors, and of course all those lovely aromas of cooking food will make them hungrier still. Keep your guests’ hunger at bay with some fingerfood – this will also ensure that they’re not completely sozzled if you get your timing wrong and the cooking takes longer than expected! As a rough guide, allow per person:

3-4 portions of ‘main’ course, e.g. kebabs, steak, burgers, sausages or fish parcels

2-3 portions of salads or vegetable dishes, e.g. baked potatoes, salads or vegetable parcels

1-2 portions of dessert

3-4 drinks

Try to have some standby food on hand, such as extra sausages (which can be frozen later if they’re not used) and bananas or tomatoes which can be wrapped in streaky baacon.

Pork Ribs with quick Barbecue Sauce

(recipe from Bord Bia recipe collection no. 33 – see top tips)
These ribs are par-boiled before barbecuing, this will reduce the fat and ensure that they are fully cooked. 
Serves 4

1kg (2lbs) pork ribs
Boil the ribs in a large pan of boiling water for 10 minutes. You can flavour the liquid with onion and a half teaspoon of 5 spice powder. Drain and leave in the fridge until ready.
Quick Barbecue Sauce
4 tablesp. tomato ketchup
1 tablesp. honey
1 tablesp. wine vinegar
1 tablesp. Worcestershire sauce
dash of Tabasco
salt and pepper

To barbecue:
Mix all the sauce ingredients together.
Cook the ribs for 6-7 minutes on each side. Brush a little of the sauce over the ribs towards the end of the cooking time.

Bananas wrapped in Streaky Bacon 
A super standby which can become one of the most sought after items, prunes, dates or chicken livers are also great (careful not to overlap the bacon too much). 

Thin streaky rashers.
Peel the bananas and cut into chunks about 2 - 22 inches (5cm - 6.5cm) long (depending on the width of the rasher).
Wrap each piece in bacon and secure with a 'soaked' cocktail stick, toss the bananas in fresh lemon juice if prepared ahead. Cook on a grid on the hinged barbecue 4 - 6 inches (10cm - 15cm) from the hot coals for 6-10 minutes depending on the size, serve immediately.

Barbecued Flat Mushrooms 
These disappear so fast, cook twice as many as you think you’ll need.

Large flat mushrooms
olive oil
chopped fresh herbs, eg. chives, thyme, parsley and marjoram
salt and freshly ground pepper

Arrange the mushrooms on a flat dish, sprinkle with freshly chopped herbs. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Leave for ½ - 1 hour approx. Cook on the barbecue, sprinkle with sea salt as they cook. Serve as they are or with garlic or herb butter.

Chargrilled Red Onions with Thyme Leaves

Great with steaks, everyone loves steak and onions!
Serves 6
3 large onions
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper

Peel the onion, slice, cut into generous half circle. Thread the onion slices onto flat metal skewers. Brush both sides with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Allow to marinade for 15 or 20 minutes. Grill over medium heat on a barbeque or pan grill. Cook until browned on both sides and softish in the centre.

Sweet and Sticky Drumsticks

This marinade is also good for chicken thighs or breasts.
Serves 15

30 drumsticks
12 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons clear honey
10 floz (300 ml) white wine

Put the garlic, mustard, soy sauce, olive oil and honey in a food processor and whiz for about 30 seconds. Add the white wine, whizz again.
Slash the drumsticks on both sides. Marinade for 6-12 hours, turning every now and then.
Barbecue or pre-heat oven 220C/425F/Gas mark 7. Cook for 10 minutes, basting with marinade. Reduce temperature to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4-5 and give them another 30-40 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Darina Allen’s back to basics 

Basic Marinades for Meat
A good Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the most important marinade of all. Combine all the ingredients and mix well.

Olive Oil Marinade

Suitable for meat and fish makes 2 pint (300ml) approx.
8 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic crushed
4 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs eg. thyme, mint, chives, rosemary and sage
4 tablespoons parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper

Optional Extras
2 tablespoons finely grated orange rind
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

Olive Oil and Ginger Marinade
Use for Pork or chicken

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons orange rind
4 cloves garlic chopped 

Basic Marinade for Chicken and Lamb etc.

3 sprigs of tarragon, thyme or rosemary, chopped
Optional additions:
½ -1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest or
1 grated onion and a good sprinkling of cinnamon.
1 grated onion and a good sprinkling of cinnamon

Yoghurt Marinade

Suitable for lamb and chicken
Makes 18 fl ozs (525ml) approx.
16 fl ozs (475ml) natural yoghurt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint leaves
Freshly ground pepper

Hot Tips 

Seasonal produce

Fresh local food in season is what I love to feast on, full of vitamins and minerals. This week look out for sweet juicy sweetcorn. It takes just 3 minutes to cook in boiling salted water. Eat immediately sprinkled with a few flakes of sea salt and a knob of butter melting over the top. I bought some recently from Catherine and Vincent O’Donovan’s roadside stall on the main Cork to Innishannon road about a mile and a half from the Halfway Roundabout. They are open every day and hope to have sweet corn for the next month or so, and if you would like to order some for the freezer ring Vincent on 087-2486031. Their corn will also be available on the Ballymaloe Cookery School stall at Midleton Farmers Market.

Bord Bia have a tempting Barbecue Pork recipe leaflet available – kebabs, sausages, burgers, ribs and salsas – also some good tips for successful barbecuing – Tel. 01-6685155, ask for Good Food Recipe collection No 33

‘Barbecue’ by Eric Treuille and Birgit Erath - published by Dorling Kindersley – for me this is the most exciting and inspirational book for barbecueing.


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