I wish I was the kind of person who enjoyed the summer. I enjoy it in theory, of course: who doesn’t like the thought of lying on grass (perhaps an orchard?) in the sunshine, maybe with a beer, wearing a flippy skirt, and reading a book? The reality is more prosaic: sitting in a greenhouse-like office without air-conditioning, trying to concentrate on something other than the stifling heat. If I do make it outside, I contend with pollen, grass rash, and wasps. I am not made for British summertime.
This year has felt particularly confusing: the world outside of our windows brightens, becoming more optimistic, most insistent in its change, as we sit inside and wait and hope. It is spirit-dampening, underarm-dampening. I live on a stream of antihistamines and cold showers, looking miserably in the fridge for something that I fancy in the heat of my own home. The saving grace for me this year has been a re-found enthusiasm for granita, which is about as close as I’m going to get to sitting on a beach sipping a frozen cocktail anytime soon.
Granita is a sweet, water-based iced dish. It originated in Sicily, before spreading through the rest of Italy. Although its texture varies, it is made by scraping or agitating the ice crystals as they freeze, which produces a rougher, icier finish than a sorbet.
Granita should, above all things, be refreshing. Sweet-sharp flavours are best here: although you can technically freeze any liquid down, then scrape it up and call it a granita, fruits with a bit of a punch, a bit of zing are best. Pineapple is perfect for this, especially when combined with the zip of fresh lime juice. Pineapple cries out for booze –even in its virgin form, it tastes like a mixed cocktail – and spirits like vodka are often used in sorbets and granitas to soften the end product; here I’ve used tequila, which achieves a softer freeze, but also gives it an unmistakable hit.
You can use fresh pineapple in place of the tinned stuff (I’m, perhaps unsurprisingly on something of a canned kick at the moment), but you’ll likely need to water down the fruit purée, so try 380g pineapple flesh and then slowly add 50-70ml water to thin. Alternatively, you can use fresh pineapple juice. The combination of pineapple, lime and tequila is the taste of the summer I long for but rarely find.
The joy of granita is that you don’t need an ice cream maker for it (or, if you have one, you don’t need to find space in your freezer for the chamber, or remember to chill it down 4 hours before you want to make it). Granita’s rough and ready texture is its charm – but you can make it smoother if you want to. The texture depends on how frequently and vigorously you break down the ice crystals as it freezes. If you like a really icey, coarser granita, keep it minimal, as in the method. If you prefer it smoother, almost sorbet-like, start breaking up the ice crystals after 30 minutes of freezing, and continue at 30 minute intervals for the next couple of hours.
Makes: A pint of granita (serves 4-6)
Takes: 10 minutes, plus chilling and freezing
Bakes: No time at all
450g crushed pineapple in juice
1.5 tablespoons tequila
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
- Heat together the sugar and water, until the sugar dissolves.
- Using a stick blender or a food processor, whizz up the pineapple and its juice until it forms a smooth puree. Stir the syrup through the pineapple puree, and then stir through the tequila, salt, and lime juice. Pour the mixture into a freezable container, and chill in the fridge until completely cold.
- Transfer to the freezer, and leave for an hour. After an hour, agitate the mixture with a fork, breaking up any bits that have frozen. Repeat after another hour, and once again an hour later. Leave to freeze completely for another two hours.
Pop in the fridge ten minutes before serving; scoop with an ice cream spoon for rounded boules, or scrape with a fork for an icier finish.