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

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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