Heat, simmer, bruise, submerge.
It sounds like mad instructions for a World War II Atlantic convoy submarine battle. But no, it’s the easiest summer dessert.
My recipe instructions are becoming a cramped shorthand of little notes. This is all I have next to the sorbet headline. That and the formula for syrup.
I did a spot of sorbet research last summer as I had a glut of not only fruit; but also house guests. And feeding armies is never easy when your nearest shop is a long car drive away. So I wanted to have something put by that could be hauled out and delight the taste buds and not send me into a catering tizz. And there is something relaxed and timeless about serving your own fruit from the orchard for dessert.
Here is what I learned. You can work very hard to make a perfect sorbet. Egg whites can be invoked. Or you can cut corners and come up with my easy delicious ice.
My sorbets come in two simple parts; I make a syrup, and I puree fruit. I combine both and freeze. That’s it.
And I have a clever solution to the crystals forming while it chills (more later).
The trick for such a simple sorbet is to have knockout flavours. And for that I spike my sugar syrup with aromatics from the garden. Mint works. Lemon verbena is a winner; but very few can guess what on earth is that extra flavour in my favourite apricot sorbet. Scented pelargonium leaves.
I have an unhealthy obsession with my scented pelargonium plant. Crush the leaves and you get the most wonderful blast of Turkish Delight scent on your fingers. Truly. It’s better than any delicate wafty rose. I think it’s actually called Candy Dancer, and really, it’s pure confectionary. And you can take endless cuttings to grow into yet more plants and give them away. I keep my plants in the potting shed near the door so I can squeeze the leaves as I pass. And am forever finding crushed and dying leaves in my pockets when I eventually get round to laundering.
- 115 grams (4oz, ½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 200 ml (4.2 fl oz) water
- 2 large aromatic leaves – mint, lemon verbena or scented pelargonium
500 grams (17 oz, 2 heaping cups) of any fresh fruit.
My favourites are apricots, raspberries, plums. But you can try grapes, peaches and nectarines if the wasps haven’t beaten you to them.
Place the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Turn down to a bare simmer and bruise two aromatic herbs with a wooden spoon and then add them to the syrup and keep them submerged for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
Chop roughly and add the fruit to a good powerful blender, pour over the cooling syrup and blitz. You are aiming for flecks if you want to be daring and keep the aromatic leaves in the syrup, otherwise just remove and add the scented syrup.
Once you have reached a good puree leave it in the blender and put the whole thing in the freezer. I found I lost too many licks of puree if I sensibly placed it in a container to freeze, then poured it back into the machine an hour later, so the whole things gets chucked in the freezer for an hour. Set your timer.
One hour later, bring it out and blend again. You will break up the crystals. Do this once more. Timer, timer. And then it will be perfectly chilled and smooth. I then spoon it into a container and keep it in the freezer. It couldn’t be simpler.
To serve make sure you remove it from the freezer before you sit down to the first course of your dinner. It will need at least an hour in the fridge to defrost enough before you serve if it has gone into a deep freezer, half an hour if just in a small freezer. You could garnish with leaves of the aromatic plant with which you spiked the syrup, but I prefer to keep my guests guessing. No one yet has guessed a leaf that tastes of Turkish Delight.