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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…

Veda Bread Ice Cream

July is a hot month back home in Belfast. Not especially due to the weather, but because of the slightly heightened feeling on the streets due to the Orange Order marches held in what is known as the Twelfth Fortnight. This was the traditional summer holiday for the shipyard workers in the city and a chance to hark back and remember Catholics and Protestants knocking the pan out of each other at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. For those of us who don’t enjoy some light civil disobedience, it’s a good time to potter around at home doing all those things you’d sort of meant to do all year since you can’t really go out. Or ignore them completely and spend time watching box-sets and eating ice cream instead…

Feeling oddly left out here in London, I thought I would try and join in with a ice cream recipe with a taste of home. I’ve been wanting to make a traditional brown bread ice cream since I got my ice cream maker earlier this year, but the arrival of my mother on the week of the Twelfth with every Northern Irish exile’s request in the shape of a loaf of Veda bread, meant I decided to give it an Ulster twist and use Veda instead.

A dark delicious slightly sticky (non-fruited) malt bread, Veda makes the best toast in the world, marrying together with butter like nobody’s business. Adding sugar to bring out the natural sweetness and crisping it up with butter is what my life has been missing up until now. Using this recipe by David Lebovitz, I crumbled the Veda into smallish pieces, fried off in butter and a good unrefined caster sugar and then toasted in the oven for about 30 minutes or until I had clusters of crispy, sticky, malty heaven that were so good, I could have skipped the ice cream and just eaten them alone.

But since I had promised ice cream, I made ice cream. The recipe uses a basic custard, but with the addition of cream cheese to stop it all being just too sweet. This is much more faffy, needing a third bowl, more counter space, a sieve, a whisk and more potential for the custard to curdle as it needs to be hotter to melt the cream cheese, so in future, I don’t think I’ll bother with this addition. Otherwise, it was all pretty straightforward.

I gave this ice cream a bit of a Brixton twist and added a slug of dark rum, some vanilla and then stirred the caramalised crisped up Veda into the churned mixture about five minutes before the end. Because the Veda is stickier and maltier than regular brown bread, the crumbs clumped up more and made huge nuggets of crispiness. Fearing that I would either break my teeth or the machine, I blitzed them in the blender to make them more crumb like. Everything then went in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up and create hands down the finest ice cream ever created.

Creamy beyond belief but crunchy and chewy due to the crisped up bread crumbs and with a slightly grown up flavour from the rum, this was just magnificient. Rich with butter and with a gorgeous toffee feel, I defy you not to fall in love with this amazing ice cream and want to sneak a spoonful everytime you pass the freezer. It was declared even better than the Northern Irish ice cream institution that is Maud’s Pooh Bear Delight*.

You need to make this ice cream immediately. If you don’t have access to Norn Iron’s best kept secret, try it with some Soreen or a really good brown bread instead. This is what breadcrumbs aspire to being…

*Youse know it’d be belter in a poke.

Grapefruit, Pimm’s and Mint Sorbet

I’ve been living in England for the last ten years, and yet I still wouldn’t consider myself at all English. The Veda-loving Norn Irish in me remains predominant and I haven’t kicked my spud obsession at all, but other tastes from this green and pleasant land have filtered through to become well loved and often craved. Buttered crumpets, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, lashings of proper gravy, potted shrimp all make me very happy indeed. But my favourite English flavour is Pimm’s

Just perfect on a warm and sunny afternoon, dappled with refreshing cucumber, mint, strawberries and borage flowers, a jug of Pimm’s has replaced my previous refresher of gin and grapefruit juice as the taste of summer. Knowing the weather for the Royal Weather wouldn’t be just as glorious for sitting out as the previous glorious Easter weekend, I decided to bring some sunshine back to my life and toast the nuptials with a recipe for a Grapefruit, Pimm’s and mint sorbet and combine my favourite sunny flavours in a style suitable for an 11am start.

I have had this recipe knocking around for years, copied carefully into my handwritten recipe book from a magazine or paper, but with no evidence remaining of where it came from, but a major reason why I recently bought my ice cream maker. And I was delighted to see that it was worth the wait!

Buying the machine was the faffiest bit of the whole recipe really. Simply dissolve 100g of caster sugar in 150ml Pimm’s, around 300 ml of fresh grapefruit juice (this is around 3 large fruit) and 125ml of water. Cool the syrup in the fridge, adding in around 10 finely chopped leaves of mint. Then simply pop it all in the machine, adding a well whipped egg white and churn for around 30 minutes until you have a pale golden sorbet the texture of snow. Serve immediately or freeze until needed. It scoops perfectly from the freezer without needing to be thawed at all.

Super refreshing, the sorbet has a lovely sweet taste of Pimm’s on first taste, before you get a gorgeously tangy and incredibly refreshing grapefruit hit that works just beautifully with that quintessentially English of tastes. The mint comes through as a aftertaste, marrying the grapefruit and Pimm’s perfectly. Cleansing, refreshing and with a subtle kick from the Pimm’s, this is the most grown up way to cool down this summer. Bottoms up!

Marmalade Ice Cream

One of the best things about having an ice cream maker is that you can indulge in your own choice of flavours and make ice cream a more grown up treat than the usual selection of tubs in the supermarket offer you. Having enjoyed the salted caramel butter creation of the week before, I was keen to try something else, but not too sweet and a bit different, so when I espied the half finished jar of marmalade in the fridge, I knew exactly what to do with it…

I’m actually not a huge fan of marmalade (or jam) but I’ve never met an ice cream I didn’t like, so I thought this would be the perfect way to convert myself to this most traditional of preserves. And if I still couldn’t summon my inner Paddington, I’d simply feed it to friends and make myself very popular.

I adapted the basic recipe that pretty much every ice cream recipe uses, heating a carton of double cream and the same amount of milk in a pan with the zest of an orange until about to bubble while whisking 5 egg yolks with about a quarter of a cup of sugar until they were light and fluffy. I then used the same quarter cup to pour some of the heated milk into the egg mixture to combine it, warm it up and prevent it scrambling when added to the rest of the milk as you make the custard. I then heated the whole thing a bit more, until the custard thickened slightly (don’t expect it to go the consistency of Bird’s) before taking it off the heat sharpish. Don’t linger or you’ll have an unholy mess on your hands.

Pour the custard mix into a metal bowl you have already placed inside a larger bowl full of iced water and chill the whole thing in the fridge for a few hours or overnight if you have time. Then pour into your ice cream maker and churn to make a super easy ice cream with a minimum of fuss. Or do what I did and have a moment of sheer lunacy and forget to put the arm into the machine, leaving the frozen bowl to spin as aimlessly as a 1970s drummer at his kit awaiting his solo, and creating a bizarre semi frozen mess that clings to the edges of the bowl without resembling actual ice cream. You can then defrost the entire thing in a bowl of hot water and have to rechill it all overnight before trying again.

Next morning, I gave everything another 25 minutes churn with all parts of the machine in place and was rewarded with a creamy masterpiece. I then gently heated the roughly half jar of marmalade til it went all sticky and jammy and soft, added a tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice and poured it all into the ice cream, whipping for another five or so minutes until well combined. You could also do this as a marmalade ripple if you preferred and I think I’d add a splash of rum if I was doing this. Pop the whole thing in the freezer for a couple of hours or until needed. Then prepare to taste the best ice cream in the world…

Rich and creamy beyond belief, it is spiked with tiny chewy shreds of peel just bursting with refreshingly tangy bitter citrus gorgeousness and the sunshine sweetness of fresh orange. Stunning on its own or with some dark chocolate ( I used Maya Gold in the pic), it is a very grown up and utterly sensational ice cream that has converted me so wholeheartedly to marmalade that I’m booking a ticket to Darkest Peru tomorrow…

Salt n’ sweet ice cream

Despite the legendary pronouncement as a child in a huff that I don’t like Italian gelato, I do like a decent ice cream once in a while and since Marine Ices is a right trek from my house and i haven’t made it to Gelupo yet, I have always fancied the notion of having an ice cream maker.

So when I discovered that John Lewis have a new model out for a mere £35 that comes well recommended by Which? I couldn’t resist. While waiting for it to arrive, I browsed several recipes for ice cream and compiled a list of ones to try. I also put out a batcall for other people’s favourites on Twitter and the hands down mentioned-a-million-times winner was this David Lebovitz recipe for salted caramel butter ice cream. Luckily my machine turned up sooner than expected and I had time to freeze the bowl for 24 hours prior to a friend coming for dinner during the week.

On the day, I rather tredipidiously making the recipe. Lizzie over at Hollow Legs found it tricky and since I’d spent the weekend burning sugar like it’s a superpower, I felt this might go off piste if I wasn’t careful. I decided to concentrate on the cooking carefully, so I don’t have any photos of the various stages, just the end product. The original recipe page has some though if you find that helpful.

I started off making the caramel brittle that would be used to add bite and intensity to the ice cream. This is basically sugar melted til golden brown and bubbling, infused with some Maldon sea salt and then spread out on a baking tray as thin as possible til hardened. It was surprisingly quick and easy, although since the sugar is hotter than the sun, you do need to pay attention while doing it.

Feeling positive that the first step had gone well, I started making the actual custard. More caramel was created in the same way as the brittle, but once bubbling, it come off the heat and has butter mixed in and then cream to make a gorgeous creamy toffee sauce. It was all going well, and I hoped that adding the egg yolks wouldn’t cause a problem. By following the advice to add some warm sauce to the yolks to heat them gently and then add that to the main body of the caramel sauce, preventing any tricky splitting or curdling. It then thickened very slightly and in no time I had the whole custard cooling in the fridge for three or so hours. Even if the ice cream was a disaster from here on in, I was pleased with my custard making powers!

Later on, once the custard was cooled and everything else for dinner was complete, I got the machine out and ready to go. It’s super simple to assemble and a few moments later, it was churning away with no real effort and only a low rumble of noise. I might not want to be in the same room as it while it does its thing, but if you had to you could without yelling or losing your mind. I gave it exactly 30 minutes to churn, adding the now shattered caramel brittle in five minutes before the end. Rich and icy, it looked gorgeous and would have have been lovely as it was with a sort of soft scoop finish. But as I wasn’t ready for it, I popped it in a covered bowl in the freezer for another two or so hours.

After all my nerves about the caramel, the custard and the machine, I was overjoyed to see that it had set beautifully. Just like real ice cream in fact! I left it to sit in the fridge for about five minutes to make it easier to scoop and reminded myself I must get a proper gadget for serving in the future. Because if all the ice cream I make is going to be as good as this, I’m going to be using the scoop a lot…

This was just heavenly. Very very creamy, decadently rich and utterly heavenly. The slight tang of salt stopped it being too sweet and the little nuggets of crunchy caramel both challenge and delight the tastebuds as you go. It went down well with my dinner guest and we both emptied our bowl quite quickly. It’s so rich though that much as we would have liked, we just couldn’t have managed another portion. It will keep well in the freezer and make a delightful treat after any meal (or before a meal or as evidenced at lunchtime today, instead of a meal.)

Don’t hesitate to try this very grown up ice cream, even if it means having to splash out on the ice cream maker first. You won’t regret it!