It is a mystery to me why granita is not more popular. We all know and love the creamy delights of gelato, but its zingy, granular cousin seems to have got lost by the wayside.
This is sad. We are missing a trick here, because granita is the ultimately forgiving frozen pud. Gelato recipes are rarely successful without an ice-cream churner, and realistically few of us own those. Gelato recipes which don’t require machines require vigorous whipping of cream or egg whites (to incorporate air) or blending half way through in a blender. This is irksome.
All hail the granita. Granita is endlessly versatile. It is essentially flavoured ice, which you hash up with a fork (the work of mere moments). It is wonderfully refreshing, looks decorative in a crystal glass, and has the ability to showcase all sorts of weird and wonderful flavours.
Originally from Sicily, where almond granita is served with a brioche bun for breakfast, granita is now popular all over Italy. In the gelaterias here in Sardinia there is a luminous green mint version which the children eat. It’s foul and tastes like a spearmint slush puppy. But homemade granita can be a luxurious and lovely thing. Herbs make lovely granitas, mixed with a simple apple juice and lemon base (try tarragon or basil). Earl grey tea bags add a lovely aromatic note to a lemon or peach-based granita. Rose petals and rose geranium add a floral lift to berry fruit flavours. Thinking of drink combinations is a good place to start - gin and tonic granita, Campari and orange, peach and prosecco, the possibilities are endless.
The following recipe is just one of the latest I’ve made, though at the moment I’m averaging one a week. They’re just too damned easy and delicious.
Kitty Travers’ Blackberry & Rose Geranium Granita
I recently bought this book and love the recipes. As a life-long devotee of geranium (I sprinkle geranium oil on my pillow at night and every soap I ever buy is geranium-scented) I couldn’t resist this combination. Kitty describes it as reminiscent of Fry’s Turkish Delight. These hot-pink chocolate bars remind me of my mum, who always shared hers with me.
Kitty churns her into a sorbet. I made mine into a lazy granita instead and it worked beautifully.
Rose geranium has a lovely, peppery, sharp rosiness to it, much less blousy than rose itself. It’s totally different to normal geraniums which smell and taste truly hideous, so make sure you have a good check of the leaves before you go ahead.
I found an obliging bush down a side alley here in Oristano, and the blackberries (so early!) I foraged from the farm. This makes this an almost entirely free recipe ( the only thing I had to pay for was lemons and sugar), and what could be more satisfying than that?
The end result is bursting with tart berry flavours, complemented by the subtle whiff of exotic rose. Utterly delicious, unusual and refreshing.
6 rose geranium leaves
Juice 1 lemon
Make a simple syrup with the sugar and water.
When it boils add in the geranium leaves, take off the heat and cover.
Let it cool in a sink of iced water. Once cold chill in the fridge.
Cook the berries until just collapsing. Strain and press the juice, mix with the strained syrup, season with lemon and taste. Add more lemon if necessary.
Freeze in a shallow box/tray. Every time you think of it/pass the freezer mash the mixture up with a fork. It should freeze solid in a few hours, depending on how rigorous your freezer is. Remove a few minutes before serving, dish into glasses and eat with tea spoons.