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Fizzy Cola Bottle Sorbet

Fizzy Cola Bottle Sorbet with vintage Coke bottle holder

My tastes were very different when I was a kid. Those were the days before I worshipped at the shrine of umami and the earthy flavours of things like mushrooms were more likely to make mealtimes a misery than anything else. Olives were awful. Capers were crap. I actually liked things that had a described colour instead of a definable flavour. Everything was better with added sugar. And some of my social standing came from how well I could handle acidic foods. It was all about the cola bottle…

I hadn’t thought about these gummy wonders for years. Not only are pick n’ mixes a thing of the past, but age has made less keen on sugar and totally unable to handle sour treats, breaking me out in a sweat if I go near a bag of Haribo. Then last year, Mister North and I made mozzarella from scratch and needed citric acid for it. Re-enacting our childhood somewhat, Mister North dared me to taste a bit of this innocuous looking white powder and my mouth exploded in a combination of nostalgia and tanginess as my mouth contorted, albeit pleasurably, round it. Once I’d recovered, it got me thinking how the sweet and slightly savoury vegetable taste of cola really works with citric acid, turning the burn to fun and how I wanted to revisit it as an adult.

While playing with the ice cream maker I bought last year, and realising it’s the big girl version of a Mr Frosty machine, the whole thing came together and I knew it would have to be a cola bottle sorbet. I also knew that it would suit the vibe of the exercise to make it up as I went along to actually create it. Resisting the temptation to return the concoctions of youth that involved adding a little bit of absolutely everything in the cupboard, I kept it super simple.

Fizzy Cola Bottle Sorbet:

  • 1.25 litre bottle of full fat Coke (Diet will not cut it here. Use cherry if you prefer.)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (sorry, but I could not be bothered weighing things for this.)
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp citric acid
  • A good slug of dark rum (optional)

Pour all the Coke into a pan and add the granulated sugar, heat gently and then reduce the volume of Coke by about a quarter by boiling it away. This intensifies the Coke flavour as things taste less strong when frozen. The added sugar makes it more of a syrup so that it will freeze properly and not resemble a sad Slush Puppie in texture. Add the rum, allow to chill well and then churn in your machine for 30 minutes or freeze directly, breaking the crystals up with a fork every hour for about 4 hours.

Put the caster sugar in the hand blender or give it a good bash with a pestle and mortar so that it is slightly finer than caster sugar but not as powdery fine as icing sugar and then depending how game you are, add in up a tsp of citric acid and mix well.

If your sorbet has frozen evenly (and mine didn’t as it needed a bit more sugar which is now adjusted) you’ll get tightly coiled scoops of sorbet. Put the sugar and citric acid mix on a plate and roll the ball of sorbet in it so it’s completely coated. Serve.

You should get an amazing hit of really icy cold intense Coke, like the way you wished ice pops were when you were wee, and then just when you think you’ve missed it, a blast of amazing mouth puckering flavour that jolts right through you and wakes you right up. You’ll be torn between making it stop and not being able to resist yet another mouthful. It’s oddly irresistable. Bring out the big kid in yourself with this most grown up of all cola bottles…

Pickles and Pizza

I like a bit of fine dining as much as anyone, but sometimes one’s tastes run a bit more on the casual side of things. I don’t mean I ever want to eat a Prawn Ring or kebab meat again and I believe ready meals to be a waste of calories. But I do have a soft spot for the kind of comfort food that borders on junk, especially that brand of Americana popularised by Nigella recently.

So when Mister North was down recently, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to indulge some homemade delights that would make a dietician weep. I’d been lusting after deep fried pickles ever since a Southern friend told me about them a few years back. Seeing Homesick Texan and Food Stories‘ recipes for them put them at the top of my to try list.

I dialled down the trashy vibe and put myself in the running for a pretentiousness award by growing my own gherkins and pickling them myself specially. (If this makes you eye roll at the sheer foodiness of it all, be comforted by the fact they didn’t taste that different to a Mrs Elswood.) Horticulturally experiments aside, these babies are super simple. I got cultured buttermilk in Sainsbury’s, but you could use yoghurt watered down instead. Do not feel tempted to substitute cream crackers for saltines. You’ll end up crying into your hot oil as all the moisture in your mouth evaporates. I used coarse cornmeal instead.

Heat your oil while you do the flour, egg, dip thing with the pickles. Fry for about a minute each side and then serve piping hot on the side of something delicious. In our case it was some leftover rollmops, a zingy homemade ranch style dressing with buttermilk, tarragon and garlic and a beer on the side. It was a heavenly plate of tanginess, crunch and sheer gluttony. I want to eat all gherkins in a crunchy coating now.

You’d think that plateful would have quelled our cravings for pig-out style food for the day, but you’d be wrong. About an hour later, we started getting ready to make a serious pizza for dinner. We used Marcella Hazan’s pizza dough recipe, leaving it to prove for several hours and turned our attention to the mozzarella. And I don’t just mean jiggling it about the bag in a slightly smutty fashion, I mean making it from scratch

Using some non-homogenised cow’s milk from Alham Wood Farms at Brixton Farmers’ Market, my fledgling cheese making skills, some citric acid that we explored all of Brixton for* and my trusty bottle of rennet, we created mozzarella magic. Surprisingly easy, especially if you have asbestos hands like Mister North for dipping the curds into the hot whey, we ended up with two beautiful bouncing balls of mozzarella in no time at all.

Buoyed by this, we turned to the pizza bases, lovingly dressing them with homemade sauce courtesy of Mister North and a glut of Blackpool tomatoes and an umami hit of anchovies, green olives, some of my home grown plum tomatoes and a finishing sprinkle of ham salt from Comfort and Spice. Unfortunately made giddy by the cheese achievement, we forgot to dust the worksurfaces with semolina as instructed and the bases stuck somewhat, leading to some creativity with a fishslice and a slightly concertina style pizza.

The pizza might have lacked finesse, but it was loaded with flavour. The tomatoes tasted of summer and the mozzarella was so soft and fresh I could have eaten the whole ball like an apple to fully enjoy the texture. It needed a touch more salt and I think it would have been even better with buffalo milk, but for a first go, it was pretty amazing.

We devoured the pizzas like kids at a sleepover, both wishing we’d had more of the mozzarella to do a tomato salad with or go retro and deep fry in a crispy coating like the gherkins. Instead we rounded off a day of gluttony with a cheeky bowl of Veda bread ice cream and a glass of wine or two, proving that sometimes the taste of home is all you need. Your own kitchen provides the greatest comfort.

*Try the Nour Cash and Carry if you need it Monday to Saturday and the Low Price Food & Wine on the corner of Brixton Road and Loughborough Road on a Sunday. We did the walking round so you don’t have to.