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NomNomNom – Experiment 2: A Trio of Granitas

One of the restrictions on our menus that the NomNomNom folks made up was that one course had to be entirely uncooked. At first this caused a bit of thinking, with Kang and I both throwing sushi and salads into the mix before we settled on pushing the uncooked to the end of the meal – granitas.

As with the rest of our menu we made sure that the description was as hand wavy as possible, listing our dessert simply as ‘A Trio of Granitas’. So, this is where my experimentation came in – what type of granita can I make that will be both nice and also not need any cooking.

Making granita is a fairly simple process – get a flavoured liquid, freeze it, smash the forming ice crystals up from time to time until it is frozen enough to eat rather than drink. Texture-wise I’m divided – I rather like chunky granitas but also like smooth sorbet like ones, so I needed to throw a bit of that into the experimentation to see how things went.

Firstly I started with a coffee one, mainly for the reason that I got home one evening and remembered that I hadn’t finished the pot of coffee that I’d made that morning. Unfortunately this experiment didn’t go all that well, with me forgetting about the quickly freezing liquid in the freezer while I watched TV and I ended smashing up the now solid block of brown ice before eating – it was refreshing, distinctly coffee and pretty good in chunky bits, looking like cold crystals of dark sugar. However, the ‘food should be seasonal’ caveat in the NomNomNom instructions kicked in as well as the ‘raw’ stipulation and I decided to leave the coffee idea to one side.

Next I decided to go for some tropical fruits – banana, passion fruit and physalis. I mashed the banana, scooped out the passion fruit, and halved and squished the physalis, sticking the skins in some water and squishing them to extract as much flavour from them as I could. I watered down my fruit pulps (with the water the skins were soaking in for the physalis) and on tasting found them a bit sour. Not wanting to do any heating I sweetened them up a bit with some watered down honey and then stuck them in the freezer, stirring them up every 10-20 minutes for about 2 hours. Results were mixed: the passion fruit was nice, looked very pretty with the black seeds contrasting against the orange of the ice, although the seeds were a bit crunchy; The banana was a write-off, tasting like mashed banana and not watery enough to be anything other than frozen mashed banana; the physalis was great – just sweet enough and very tasty.

The plan was set – physalis and passion fruit with another fruit to be chosen on the day. All nice and easy. Until the day arrived and we decided to go for something totally different – blackcurrant, raspberry and gooseberry. We saw the fruit in the market and it looked rather good, so plans were dumped and new ones made.

Berries I treated the gooseberries similar to the physalis, squidging them out of the skins and then soaking and squeezing said skins to get as much from them as possible, while Kang passed the raspberries and blackcurrants through a sieve to give us some rather nice fruit purees. We watered them to a desired concentration and sweetened them up with some honey before discovering that The Cookery School has a blast chiller and that the urgency which we had to get them into the freezer was not quite as urgent as we had thought. Every 15-20 minutes Kang or I would drag them out of the freezer and smash them about with a fork for a few minutes to keep the ice crystals smallish. We kept this up until they were starting to hold their shape, at which point we transferred them to the normal freezer so as not to ‘cook’ too much. Also in the freezer went some wet shot glassesĀ  to get frosty ready to serve the ices in. With moments to go before time ran out Kang remembered the granitas and got them prepped ready to go upstairs.

granitas The finished products were a mixed bag: they would all have been improved with some more sweetness, and the gooseberry one also needed both some more watering down and a proper pulping of the insides, rather than just a quick squish with my thumb. They ended up quite smooth – the quick action of the blast chiller meant that they formed quickly but with our obsessive smashing up of the ice the crystals were quite small. In the end the flavour of the fruit won through and I ended up drinking the warmed remains of the blackcurrant granita from a wine glass – tart, fresh and tasty.

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