Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Raspberry and rosewater sorbet

Raspberries: fresh picked, sun ripened, deep crimson. They smell like fairy-floss, their sweetness giving only the merest hint of underlying tartness. I rarely cook with raspberries because it is far too satisfying to eat them in their natural state without interference. Their colour reminds me of sunburn and they taste like heaven and explode like midsummer in the mouth.

This year, like last year, Little Chocolate Flavoured P- arranged for a ridiculous quantity of fresh raspberries to be picked for Christmas lunch. My share – a half kilo of pure, uncut, just picked summer magic.

Like the roses to which they are related, rubus idaeus are not native to Australia, where this common European bramble is a luxury summer fruit (actually, there is a native Australian raspberry but it is not commercially grown and the fruit is not commonly available. Blackberries, on the other hand, are so abundant they are considered a noxious weed and cannot be harvested in the wild in case they have been subject to poison extermination spraying).

My childhood, which featured peaches and plums and apricots negligently and gluttonously consumed whilst perched in the branches of the respective trees was strictly limited on the berry front (with the notable exception of mulberries, as both my friend Louise and I had truly enormous mulberry trees, perfect for climbing and straining school uniforms).

And yet the mere mention of raspberries and I am four or five again, scrawny and corduroy-pinafore wearing, Strawberry-Shortcake knee-high socks and wispy never-neat hair.

The kitchens of Brambly Hedge were full of activity. Cool summer foods were being made. There was cold watercress soup, fresh dandelion salad, honey creams, syllabubs and meringues. The young mice had been up early to gather huge baskets of wild strawberries.*

It is the literature, not the reality, of my childhood that induces these flashbacks. With the iconic bramble borders, which shifted with the seasons – full-fruited or blossoming or bare and sprinkled with winter snow: Brambly Hedge. It is no real mystery that the books of Jill Barklem were so influential: cute and pink and floral, the beautifully illustrated stories of the little woodland dwelling community of mice, guided by Lord and Lady Woodmouse (and their slightly naughty daughter Primrose), with its dairy and flour mill, could not have been better targeted at small and dreamy little girls.

And most importantly: they featured meticulously researched exotic fairytale foods like roasted chestnuts and elderflower syrup and crabapples and sugared violets and bramble jelly and acorn coffee. Although all real (and apparently tested) traditional English recipes, they seem to me just as fantastic as the toffee pops of Enid Blyton’s The Magic Far Away Tree and the pepper-imps and chocolate frogs of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. All these books shared nothing in common with what was normal in my childhood, like vegemite or kangaroos or summer bushfires or funnel web spiders.

In a blurring of make-believe, nostalgia and hard botanical fact, nothing is more obvious that the pairing of raspberry and roses, heady rosewater scented sugar syrup and pureed fresh raspberries, churned into a delicate and icy floral dessert.

* Jill Barklem Brambly Hedge Summer Story William Collins Sons & Co Ltd 1980

Raspberry and rosewater sorbet

1 cup castor sugar
1 ¾ water
Juice of one lemon
2 tsp rosewater
500 gm fresh (or frozen) raspberries

Heat the water and sugar together in a heavy bottom saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Cool for half an hour or so, add the rosewater, lemon juice and raspberries and puree with a bar-mix (or decant into a blender and pulse).

Strain mixture into a bowl through a mesh strainer (to remove the raspberry seeds).

Leave to cool. Taste (if too sweet, add a little more lemon juice).

Decant mixture into an ice-cream machine and churn according to the machine’s instructions. Serve as soon as a soft sorbet consistency forms (or settle it he freezer for an hour or so until firm enough for your liking)

If you don’t have an ice-cream machine, you can freeze in a loaf tin in the freezer – take out every hour or so to break up the ice crystals forming by beating with a fork. Once the mixture hardens, scrape with a fork into a pile of shaved ice and serve as a granita (as it can be difficult to get the same smooth consistency as a sorbet without a ice-cream churn).

Scatter with mint or pistachios or sugared violets or rose petals to serve.

Makes 1.5 litres

No comments:

Post a Comment