Breaking the Rules

October 14, 2009

...best served frozen

...best served frozen

I must confess, I’m not a rebel. I have never been tempted to have my tongue pierced and I haven’t set off a fire alarm for a joke. But, recently, I discovered that there is indeed such a thing as a rule that was made to be broken. It was H that revealed it to me and we have never looked back. This rule is the misleading, if not downright cruel, one emblazoned on the side of pots of chocolate mousse reading ‘DO NOT FREEZE’. I don’t know about you, but to someone like me, that would sort of persuade me not to freeze what is a perfectly nice dessert…

And what a mistake that would be.

You might think I’m biased in favour of the frozen dessert (why I don’t know) but honestly, just try it. Pop a chocolate mousse in the freezer, close the door before you change your mind, then return after dinner and you will see it was completely worth it. Instead of the 30-second chocolate experience afforded by an unfrozen mousse, this lasts at least 67 seconds and is a delicious pot of frozen chocolatiness that you will want to repeat again.  If you have willpower, it might even last 5 minutes. A bit like a Frusi, you can always be in the mood for a frozen chocolate mousse – it’s light but chocolatey, cold but melting. Just a note: some mousses work much better than others. Sainsbury’s Be Good to Yourself Chocolate Mousse works very well; Cadbury’s Light Chocolate Mousse doesn’t quite have the smoothness you want – you may have to experiment a bit. Generally speaking, the higher the chocolate content, the greater the likelihood of success.

Sitting here far away from my cherished ice cream partner, I could just do with a cheering frozen chocolate mousse to rally my spirits. Unfortunately, my current abode does not boast a freezer (one of those experiences where you can scarcely imagine what a loss this is unless you have gone through it yourself) and I haven’t had any form of frozen dessert for two weeks. But you can, and must.

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Ras-matazz

October 1, 2009

Sometimes natural colours are the brightest of all.

Streamvale's Raspberry Sorbet

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always regarded the sorbet as a bit of a second-class citizen in the ice cream world. There’s something about it that just screams ‘virtuous’ and ‘boring’. Even now, after I have tasted some truly superb sorbets, I still have that irrational knee-jerk reaction against sorbets when I see them displayed alongside ice creams in an ice cream parlour. And there’s no denying it. Sometimes, only a 99 will do. Or indeed, some honeycomb ice cream…

But I am feeling a bit bad about my persistent, pointless and ultimately self-defeating prejudice against the sorbet and feel I should attempt to make amends. And really, there isn’t a better place to start than with raspberry sorbet – Streamvale Farm’s Raspberry Sorbet in particular. Because, before I had tasted this, I had never had the experience of preferring a flavour in ‘sorbet’ form to ‘ice cream’ form.  But raspberries, I think, are one of those fruits that are so intense that turning them into ice cream forces you to sacrifice that ‘raspberry-ness’ which sorbet, done well, completely preserves and even enhances. And Streamvale Farm does Raspberry Sorbet like no other. Shunning those impostors ‘raspberry flavouring’ and ‘raspberry sauce’, it is immediately apparent on tasting the sorbet that the flavour is down to raspberries – and nothing else. Of course, the sugar and lemon juice coax it into life – as they do with any sorbet – but there is nothing in the sorbet you wouldn’t put in yourself.

And yet…when H and I, longing to replicate that Streamvale Raspberry experience at home, turned our hands to making Raspberry Sorbet ourselves, alas we could not quite do it. Don’t get me wrong – the flavour was superb (this isn’t boasting – it’s down to the old faithfuls Caroline Liddell and Robin Weir whose recipe this is from the book Ices: The Definitive Guide ) and, if you can bear to let it sit for a while in advance, there isn’t too much of a problem. But we just couldn’t get that smoothness Streamvale achieved. Our sorbet was harder once frozen than Streamvale’s (and it isn’t just our freezer – we bought a 500ml tub of Streamvale’s Raspberry Sorbet to have at home) and thus, scooping was much more tricky. It was also just slightly less sweet than Streamvale’s version. 

[H interrupted at this point to say that we might as well be honest and admit that it was a 750ml Streamvale tub that we bought. However, it doesn’t really matter now that it’s all gone anyway.]

Nevertheless, here is a delicious recipe for raspberry sorbet and an absolute must for those who live too far away to taste Streamvale’s own. When I say too far away this means separated by sea and/or vast continental landmass. Otherwise, there is no excuse. Try some and you’ll know what I mean.

 

Our own raspberry sorbet

Our own raspberry sorbet

 

First you’ll need to make sugar syrup: on realising this V rolled her eyes and made a face which communicated something along the lines of ‘who could be bothered faffing about with sugar syrup’ (a face she often makes, as you can imagine) until she realised how mindbogglingly simple it actually is:

 For the Sugar Syrup (which will keep for 2-3 days in a covered jug in the fridge):

Use: 

1 kilo of sugar to 1 litre of water 
                        or
5 cups sugar to 4 cups water
                       or
 2lb 3 oz sugar to 32 fl oz water

This makes 1600ml / 6 and two thirds cups / 54 fl oz of syrup.

Method:

  • boil water
  • mix sugar and water together
  • cover and allow to cool

 

Now for the Raspberry Sorbet recipe – it makes about 1 litre/4 cups/32 fl oz. According to the recipe you need to ‘pick over the raspberries, carefully discarding any suspect fruit’. We took ‘discarding’ to mean ‘eating’, and feel this is the sense in which the instruction was meant. Also, apparently, raspberries are so fragile they should not actually be washed. We didn’t wash them and we’re still alive, so I reckon this is probably good advice.

 

Ingredients:

  • 450g / 1lb raspberries
  • 375 ml / 1½ cups / 12 fl oz sugar syrup
  • Juice of 2 strained lemons

Method :

  1. Transfer berries to a food processor or blender.
  2. Pour in the measured syrup and blend to a uniform pulp.
  3. Have ready a plastic sieve positioned over a bowl.
  4. Strain the pulp, rubbing the residue through until all that remains are the seeds.
  5. Add the strained lemon juice, stir, cover and chill in the fridge
  6. When ready, start the ice cream machine.
  7. Pour in the chilled raspberry purée and continue to freeze until the sorbet is firm enough to serve. Or to store, quickly scrape into a plastic freezer box, cover with greaseproof paper and a lid.
  8. If frozen hard, allow 20-25 minutes in the fridge to soften.

  

Note: we left out instructions 3 and 4 because we didn’t mind about the seeds and Streamvale’s raspberry sorbet – the benchmark – had seeds in it. This sorbet is really nice with nectarines or on its own.

Recipe comes from Ices: The Definitive Guide (Grub Street, 1995)

Frusís in happier times

Frusí was born several years ago in the freezer compartment of all reputable UK supermarkets. From an early age, it enchanted even the staunchest ice-cream-lovers with its tantalising offer of creamy frozen yoghurt on a bed of delicious cinnamony-oaty crumble, topped by zingy fruit combinations. In its short life as a member of the Walls family, Frusí underwent several transformations, with the introduction of new flavours – of which arguably the best was ‘Raspberry and Mango’.

Although Frusí was always understated in its approach, its charms were undeniable and its contribution to dessert life will be cherished for years to come by experts in the field. Indeed, one such expert lamented: “I simply cannot describe the impact of the traumatic disappearance of the Frusí. The world in general – and the dessert world in particular – has been left infinitely poorer by its loss.”1 Unlike many of its close relatives, such as the sorbet and fresh fruit, Frusí allowed its fans that hint of creaminess and biscuit one always secretly craves. However, Frusí also found time to be singularly virtuous as it was indeed a frozen yoghurt with fruit and oats and was, therefore, always justified after any meal. Frusí was immensely popular with friends. Indeed, it was never to be seen alone, sold – as it was – in packs of two.

Its disappearance has greatly shocked all those with taste buds who report having been unable to get in contact with Frusí since last spring. Some hope remains for those in Europe, where sightings of 3-packs of Frusís have been reported in freezer sections in Brussels. However, for those in the UK who have been left without Frusí, this is of little comfort. The knowledge that any attempt to bring Frusí back from a holiday to Europe would be doomed to fail, by Frusí’s very frozen nature, only makes it harder to bear. Instead, it only remains to salute the Frusí for its invaluable service during its fleeting life and to reflect on desserts gone by.

 

 

1 V, speaking earlier this year.

Strange as it may seem in the middle of September (when the only shades that graced our August skies were those of grey and greyer), the sun is actually shining today, the sky is blue and it feels like summer again. So what could be more summery than strawberries and cream?

Well, possibly Strawberry (and Balsamic Vinegar) Ice Cream. You get the strawberries and the cream but then make it all so much better by making them into ice cream. Before today, I – unlike H – had never made this ice cream. Unacquainted as I was with the ways of Italian gourmets and as one who recoils at most of Heston Blumenthal’s inventions, when H told me we were going to ruin enhance our ice cream with balsamic vinegar, I was horrified as only an ice-cream-lover who has been promised the best ever strawberry ice cream can be. It is with my own reaction in mind that I, unlike the recipe book from which this fabulous recipe came (‘Ices’ by Caroline Liddell and Robin Weir (Grub Street, 1995)), put ‘and Balsamic Vinegar’ in brackets, lest anyone should not attempt this recipe and miss out on what truly did reveal itself to be the best strawberry ice cream ever!

For, today I made an invaluable discovery which has forced me to eat humble ice cream (in large quantities). By adding balsamic vinegar to the strawberries – along with a little sugar – one does not end up with a sweet-and-sour frozen experiment. Instead, the balsamic vinegar brings out the flavour of the strawberries so that the ice cream tastes like pure strawberries – it really is so, so strawberry-y – but with no vinegar aftertaste whatsoever. At the moment, the mixture is busy freezing (tastes were, of course, necessary when transferring the ice cream from the ice-cream maker to its box) and because we made so much that even the ice cream maker thought we’d overdone it, I will need to take it out in an hour or so and give it a further whisk with an electric beater. No doubt this will create some drips on the worktop that only a highly undedicated and irresponsible ice-cream-lover would allow to be swept by kitchen towel into oblivion…

This is all you need - all the components of the best strawberry ice cream!

This is all you need - all the components of the best strawberry ice cream!

 

Well, after all that build up, I suppose you’d like the recipe. We used the metric measurements, but – as Caroline Liddell and Robin Weir were kind enough to provide three versions, I’ll share those as well so that everyone the world over can enjoy this magnificent ice cream.

 

Ingredients

450g / 1 lb  Fresh Strawberries
150g / ¾ cup / 5 ¼ oz Caster/Ultra Fine Sugar
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
150ml / ½ cup plus 2 tbsp / 5 ¼ fl oz Whipping/ Heavy Cream (36% fat)

Makes about 875ml/3½ cups/28 fl oz

 

Method:

  1. Wash and hull strawberries, then dry thoroughly on kitchen towel
  2. Put strawberries in a food processor or blender, with the sugar
  3. Set the machine in motion and add the balsamic vinegar through the lid or funnel.
  4. Continue to blend until the ingredients have combined to a smooth purée, then pour this into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. (At this stage we’re told “The sugar and vinegar will bring out the flavour of the fruit”   Hooray!)
  5. When ready, combine the strawberry purée and cream and either still freeze* or start the ice cream machine.
  6. If using the ice cream machine, pour mixture into the machine and leave to churn until the ice cream has the consistency of softly whipped cream.
  7. Quickly scrape into plastic freezer boxes and cover with waxed/greaseproof paper and a lid.
  8. Finally label, then freeze.

Serving straight away? Allow to freeze for 1 hour until just firm enough to serve. According to the book, you should allow about 20 minutes in the fridge before serving if the ice cream has been frozen solid but we found this was not necessary (or bearable).

 

*Still Freezing. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, do not fear! After pouring the liquid mixture into a box, check after 1 – 1½ hours. The mixture should have frozen to a firm ring of ice around the sides and base of the box, with a soft slush in the centre. Either:

  • Beat for a few seconds with a sturdy electric hand beater until the mixture forms a uniform slush

or

  1. Quickly process in a food processor to a uniform slush.
  2. Quickly return the ice to the box, cover and put back in the freezer

 

    You’ll need to repeat this at least twice, every 1-1½ hours.