Nectarine and thyme granita with plums and ice-cream
Stone fruit generally arrives at the beginning of summer, whereas in a shaded corner, at altitude, in a southern orchard, those last remnants of ripe fruit can appear as late as the beginning of autumn.
Previously, I have written about how fickle truly tree-ripened stone fruit can be. Once they are picked, when they are close to ripe, the window of opportunity to use them closes quickly. A tree-ripened fruit without refrigeration has three to five days maximum, once it has been removed from the stem. But a truly sun-ripened stone fruit is the most complete dessert I can think of. You just need a plan for the fruit that has gone too far.
Ice-cream and fruit is about as far as I delve into dessert. Therefore making ice-cream has become a ritual.
There are many ways to tackle it. Finding your favourite brand or variety is one, but I strongly recommend purchasing a small machine to experiment with your own. Jump into making your greatest, creamiest vanilla ice-cream ever and I can guarantee joy and frustration in equal parts.
Buying stone fruit at this time of year can be extremely disappointing. Everything smells great and the outside temperature feels right to crunch into a ripe peach, but the fruit we are buying now has been picked early and cold-stored to capitalise on those of us prepared to pay a little more for the pleasure. Buy it in its prime and enjoy it, or freeze it in granita form to make your summer stone fruits last longer.
If you want the best version of stone fruit, eat one ripe straight from the tree before any refrigeration.
The next best version is in the form of granita, together with home-made ice-cream. Enjoy.
Serves 4 as the end to a rich meal
- 1 vanilla pod
- 400ml milk
- 400ml cream
- 8 egg yolks
- 200g sugar
- 1 bunch thyme
- 3 ripe nectarines
- 300ml water
- 200g sugar
- 4 ripe plums
- For the ice-cream, split the vanilla pod down the centre using a small knife and bring the milk and the cream to the boil with the vanilla pod added.
- Once boiling, remove the vanilla pod and scrape the insides out using the back of a knife. Add the contents back into the cream and set aside for a moment.
- Whisk the egg yolks and the sugar together, then strain the cream over the yolks, whisking until the liquid is incorporated without cooking the eggs.
- Add this mix back into the pot and then place over a low-to-medium heat to bring the ice-cream base up to temperature.
- Stir this mixture constantly using a wooden spoon until it reaches 63-72 degrees or it begins to thicken (coating the back of the spoon). Once this is up to temperature, strain it into a bowl that is placed over ice, to cool down the mixture as quickly as possible.
- Churn the ice-cream in a machine until it is set and then place into a freezer at no more than minus 18 degrees.
- Now pick the tips of the thyme and retain the stalks. Remove the stone from the nectarine by running a knife around the circumference then twisting the two sides to dislodge each cheek. The stone will remain in one side, so remove that using a spoon. Bring the water and sugar to the boil to make a syrup. Drop the thyme stalks in and remove from the heat.
- Add the nectarines to the syrup and use a stick blender or smoothie blender and process until it becomes a fine liquid. Strain this liquid into a shallow tray and freeze for at least 10 hours to later become your granita.
- Line four small coupes (about 200 millilitres in volume) with a quality plastic wrap. Then cut the plums in half and remove the stones using the same technique as for the nectarines. Finely slice the plums and then lay the slices into the base of the moulds to form a fine layer around the coupe. Spoon the ice-cream into the moulds and press flush. Freeze these coupes for no more than two hours.
- To serve, flip the moulds into the centre of a bowl and scatter the tips of the thyme leaves over the top. Remove the set granita from the freezer and use a fork to scrape it into a fine dust. Keep at it, as the more it fluffs up, the greater the flavour.
- Spoon the frozen granita dust around the ice-cream and serve with haste! This granita will melt into a smoothie quickly (which is only marginally less enjoyable).
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on March 6, 2021 as "Granita treats".
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