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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…

A Classic in Coke…

As a family, we don’t have many Christmas traditions (unless supping a lot of cava counts as a tradition?) but one thing has come to symbolise Christmas more than any other foodstuff and that’s a ham. More precisely, a ham cooked in Coca Cola as suggested by Nigella Lawson in her classic cookbook How to Eat.

Cooking with Coke has become quite fashionable over the past few years and the world seems to split into two camps about it, with those who are highly sceptical about it and those, like me, who embrace it wholeheartedly and seek any opportunity to add Atlanta’s finest to a dish from cake to Christmas ham. So I would be most disappointed not to get off the plane in Belfast to discover a perfect pink ham in the fridge waiting to be transformed into a smoky spicy sweet sensation in time for Christmas Eve supper.

Not only is the ham beyond tender and moist after its soft drink with vegetable extracts bath, it is also the easiest thing in the world to make. All you need is one plump piece of pork, about 2 litres of Coke and an onion or two studded with cloves, a large pot and a full stomach so as not to be driven wild as the ham infuses and cooks over the next 2 or 3 hours. Simply cover the ham in the liquid, add your onion and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer, place a lid on the pan and leave to just cook slowly at roughly an hour per kilo. I usually go off and finish wrapping my presents feeling utterly festive and increasingly hungry…

Normally we simply take the ham out to cool before serving in a selection of sandwiches, suppers and side dishes, omitting the crust Nigella mentions as it’s a bit too mustardy for our liking, but this year, we decided not to get stuck in our ways and try something new, glazing the top of the ham with a mix of black treacle, mustard and homemade quince jelly before blasting it in the oven to get a dark sticky crust to add another dimension to the barbecue influenced meat.

The glaze takes no time at all to make up, as I simply put some Meaux mustard, treacle and quince jelly in a pan to melt down, adding a splash of soy sauce and some tamarind paste and allowing it to all meld together before brushing it over the snow white fat on top of the pink porker and popping it in the oven for 15 minutes at 190 degrees. I then took it out, reglazed it and put in the oven again at 220 degrees for another 10 minutes.

After resting it for 20 minutes, it made the most amazing sandwich. Malted bread spread with mustard, the remains of the glaze and spiked with home made sweet pickles, it was soft and juicy with the right amount of salt and a delicious spiced flavour with a sticky sweet yet umami topping. The minute the sandwich was finished, we were reaching for another slice of the ham, unable to get enough of it. This is one tradition that gets better with every passing year!

Supermalt Cupcakes

A recent blog post by friend Yoruba Girl Dancing about white people’s lack of love for Supermalt got me thinking. I love the taste of malt thanks to growing up with Veda bread and working in a diner as a teenager making malted milkshakes, so I don’t really mind Supermalt, although I do find it teeth-itchingly sweet. But having never sampled it until I moved to Brixton, it’s not really part of my repetoire and I would never buy it to quench my thirst. What about cooking with it instead?

I made these Coca-Cola cupcakes for my friend G’s birthday party a few weeks ago and was impressed by how easy they were to make and how incredibly moist and brownie-esque they were. I could see no reason why they wouldn’t work with Supermalt instead of Coke. Hopefully they’d be as moist as the Coca-Cola ones, but more like a cake crossed with Soreen…

The slight risk that they might just be disgusting meant I decided to make them over the weekend for a birthday party where I knew my friend C would be bringing some of her legendary lemon and blueberry cupcakes which would take the taste away if my baking experiment went awry!

The trickiest part of this recipe was finding a small enough amount of Supermalt. It tends to come in six packs and I had to go to several shops before I could get my hands on a single can of the stuff. Mission accomplished, I got cracking on the recipe. It is best to melt the butter, cocoa powder and Supermalt together first to allow it to cool slightly to minimise the chances of the egg curdling when you mix everything together. Out of interest, the amount of Supermalt (or Coke) required comes to about 2/3 of a normal can…

The Supermalt mixes takes about 5 minutes to melt and measuring out the rest of the ingredients does the same. Then you simply mix everything together, watching the batter going from thick and fudgy to soft and smooth by the time it is all mixed and combined. It’s one of the easiest cake recipes I know and it’s difficult to over-mix this batter so it’s a good one to do with kids. It’s also nice and thick for spooning into cases so great even if you’re a bit clumsy.

I used some new square cases from Ikea that are a cross between a bun and muffin case in size (and a rather fetching print to boot) and each one took two full dessertspoons of batter. Don’t overfill your cases with these cakes as they rise a fair bit and look better not overspilling the cases. Even with the slightly bigger cases, I got 18 cakes from this batter before popping them in the oven for about 25 minutes or until I remembered what was making the lovely baked smell in my flat…

While they were cooling, I turned my attention to making a frosting for the cakes. Last time I used the Coca-Cola buttercream suggested and found it to be incredibly sweet and a bit sickly even with a fizzy Cola Bottle for a touch of tanginess. This time I thought a cream cheese frosting would go down better. I combined two packs of full fat cream cheese with a splash of leftover Supermalt and two tablespoons of cocoa powder and found I had gone too much the other way and the frosting wasn’t sweet enough. In fact it had a bitter aftertaste that jarred somewhat. I abandoned the idea of adding more Supermalt and put a teaspoon of vanilla extract and about a tablespoon of icing sugar to sweeten it slightly and this time it was perfect. Light, creamy, slightly sharp and not at all cloying.

I left the cupcakes wrapped in a teatowel overnight and then my friend C very kindly frosted them for me the next day before I added a an extra blast of sharpness with some pomegranate seeds on top before serving them up to ravenous guests. And they went down a storm! I think they were much better with the Supermalt than the Coca Cola as they were less sweet and firmer and tasted more grown up with a bite of dark chocolate, but without losing the fudgy finish that sets these aside from the average chocolate cupcake.

If you manage to have any of these fabulous cupcakes left (I only had three) they also keep amazingly well wrapped in a teatowel to protect the frosting. They ultimately didn’t taste anything like Soreen cake, but were so good I’m glad I have a second spare can of Supermalt in the fridge to make these due to popular demand! Especially if I don’t have to go camping with them!