My deepfreeze sits forlornly behind a kitchen cupboard, an unwanted bequest from the previous owners of the house. It has always felt like a lodger I don't quite have the heart to evict. Until recently, the short white box stood symbolically empty when it suddenly became home to several trays of ice cubes, a bunch of lime leaves in a plastic bag, a tinfoil tray of pumpkin curry and a packet of French butter. Now the ice cubes taste of lime leaves (which is fine, especially in a G & T) and the butter smells of curry (which isn't). If it wasn't for my little ice-cream habit, I wouldn't give it house-room.
But what a habit. I have queued for chocolate sorbet at Bertillon on the Iles de la Cité in Paris; licked semi-freddo at Gelateria Vivoli on the Via Isole in Florence and harangued Häagan-Dazs to bring back its orange and vanilla swirl. I have eaten mango kulfi in Kerala's cardamom hills and pistachio ice in Athens, got my tongue around a Mister Whippy from a smoke-belching van in Wolverhampton and spooned elegant rose-petal sorbet from a plate at Locanda Locatelli in London. I don't honestly eat ice cream every day, but I could.
What appeals right now - what with the sun so high in the summer sky - is not ice cream but a water ice, that refreshing frozen delight made from sugar syrup churned with fresh fruit juice. You could pile it into a cornet, but I prefer mine with a bowl of the strawberries, cherries or raspberries that are scattered around the market at the moment. You could make a strawberry sorbet or, with patience, a cherry one, but there are other flavours that compliment the fruits better, such as lemon, pear or orange.
I make pure fruit water ices with oranges, puréed strawberries or pineapple juice and a simple sugar syrup made by bringing sugar and water to the boil then allowing it to cool thoroughly. Made by hand in the freezer, they tend to be a little more grainy than those I make in the ice-cream machine, but they still hit the spot.
What appeals is not just the instant hit of cold fruit ice on the tongue, but the way it hurts as it slides down the throat. Like swallowing soup that is too hot, you're not entirely sure whether you are experiencing pleasure or pain. Or perhaps it's both. Either way, I think I'd better keep the deepfreeze.
Orange yogurt water ice
The late-season Valencias are fine for this deeply refreshing ice. It compliments any summer fruit, especially lusciously ripe peaches and apricots. Perhaps the prettiest way to serve it is as I did last Sunday, the pale orange water ice surrounded by handfuls of dark red cherries from Kent still attached to their stalks. Serves 4-6.
225g caster sugar
very finely grated zest of 2 large unwaxed oranges
the juice of 4 more medium oranges
the juice of 2 lemons
480g thick natural yogurt, preferably sheep's
Bring the water and the sugar to the boil in a stainless-steel saucepan. The sugar only has to dissolve, so remove it from the heat as soon as you can no longer see the grains of sugar when you (gently) stir it. Mix in the grated orange zest and set aside to cool.
Mix together the orange and lemon juice. In a large mixing bowl, stir a little of the juice into the yogurt to loosen it, then add the rest of the juice and mix thoroughly - I use a whisk for this. If lumps of yogurt persist, no matter, they will break down with the repeated whiskings later.
Pour the mixture into a freezer box and place in the freezer. Remove after two hours and whisk the mixture firmly with a balloon whisk or electric hand-mixer, bringing the frozen edges into the middle. Now return it to the freezer for a further two hours, then repeat the whisking and freeze again.
When it is well on the way to freezing, after about a further 2 hours - beat the mixture one last time then freeze again.
Once frozen, remove from the freezer about half an hour before serving.
If you are using an ice-cream machine, get the mixture really cold, then pour half of it into the drum of the machine - there is enough for two batches - and let it churn till almost frozen. Remove quickly and place in the deepfreeze.
Pear and lemon sorbet
The few English-grown Conference pears still around from last autumn are really cheap and perfect for sorbet. Even now they have more flavour than the imported South African Packhams. This is a truly elegant water ice and exquisite with apricots that have been poached in a little light sugar syrup. Serves 4-6.
250g caster sugar
Bring the water and caster sugar to the boil in a stainless-steel saucepan. Peel the pears, cut them in half and scoop out the pips and tough core with a teaspoon. Rub each piece of pear with a cut half of the lemon.
Slide the pears and the lemon halves into the hot syrup and let them cook at a low simmer until the pears are truly tender. They should take the point of a sharp knife without you applying any pressure. Switch off the heat and leave them in the syrup until completely cool.
Put the pears and their cooking syrup - but not the lemons - into a blender and blitz till smooth and white. Now either pour into an electric ice-cream maker and churn till almost frozen, or pour the mixture into a shallow plastic freezer box and place in the deep freeze.
Leave the sorbet for a couple of hours until ice crystals are forming around the edge. Stir them into the centre with a whisk, then return to the freezer for another couple of hours. Remove, whisk again, continually bringing the frozen edges into the middle, then freeze once more. Just as the sorbet is almost frozen, give it one final beating with the whisk and leave it to freeze. Once frozen, it is a good idea to take it out of the freezer and put it into the fridge 20 minutes or so before serving.
A vivid scarlet sorbet of the purest flavour. Make it now while the berries are cheap and sweet. Serves 4-6.
125g caster sugar
the juice of half a lemon
Put the sugar in a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil. You can remove it from the heat as soon as the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Rinse and hull the strawberries, then whizz them in a blender or food processor till smooth. Add the lemon juice, then stir the strawberry purée into the cold sugar syrup. Now either pour the mixture into an ice-cream machine and churn till frozen or pour into a freezer box and place in the freezer. Leave for a good couple of hours then remove and beat the freezing edges into the middle with a whisk. Refreeze for a further 2 hours, then beat once more, again bringing in the ice crystals from the outside into the middle. Return to the freezer till firm.