Add a touch of frost with refreshing ginger granita
There’s some confusion about granita, which is to say that sometimes it’s served as a drink. In that iteration, granita is an almost-frozen drink of fruit juice – often citrus or melon – ladled from the ice-cream compartment of an Italian restaurant.
This recipe, however, is prepared as a component to a dessert, as it has also been traditionally in Italy. As a dessert, granita can vary from fine crystals to something quite runny, depending on how much sugar is used and how many times the crystals are agitated as they develop. As sugar inhibits freezing, a sweeter-style granita will be less dominated by crystals and will end up smoother.
There are a number of variations worth considering once you have the basic recipe down. One of the most common granitas in Sicily, for instance, is made with almond milk and served beside a brioche bun. And the most refreshing granita, to be served at the peak of summer, would have to be made with lemon. I find it’s best made with Meyer lemons, which are not as tart as the more common Lisbon variety. The Meyer delivers a powerful flavour without the puckering side effects. I start with 200 millilitres of water and 200 grams of sugar, which I bring to a simmer in a saucepan. I cool this, then add 500 millilitres of lemon juice and a cup of mineral water, and pour into a deep dish to place in the freezer. I recommend either a stainless steel or ceramic dish.
Every 15 minutes or so, take the tray from the freezer and break up any crystals with a fork. To obtain a finer texture, it is important to be quite diligent during this process. The number of times this needs to be done, and how long it takes, will depend on the type of freezer and the depth of the dish. You will know it’s done when there is no liquid left to freeze.
I also like to make a coffee granita, served in a glass with a dollop of whipped cream. To make it, sweeten a couple of long blacks with sugar to taste, then tip into a deep dish and follow the procedure above. One long black per person is a good measure.
To serve, make sure you have chilled glassware or dishes and get to the table as soon as possible.
Mango, pawpaw and lime salad with ginger granita
– 250g castor sugar
– finely grated zest of 1 lime
– 1 tsp finely grated ginger
– 500ml water
– 375ml ginger beer
– 170ml soda water
– 100g castor sugar
– 100ml water
– finely grated zest of 1 lime
– 1 pawpaw
– 2 mangoes
To prepare the granita, place the sugar, lime zest, grated ginger and water in a stainless-steel saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Strain the syrup into a bowl, then add the ginger beer and soda water.
Pour into a shallow container and freeze for two to three hours, until ice crystals start to appear on the surface and edges of the granita. Then, every 15 minutes, use a fork to scrape the granita and break up the ice crystals until you have a flaky, snowy granita.
While the granita is freezing, prepare the lime syrup.
In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little before adding the lime zest.
Using a teaspoon, scoop out little “petals” of mango and pawpaw flesh and set them aside in the fridge.
To serve, toss the fruit in a little lime syrup and arrange it over the base of a serving dish. Top the fruit with a pile of granita and drizzle a little more syrup around the fruit.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 21, 2015 as "A touch of frost". Subscribe here.