I always want to be a sorbet sort-of person, but inevitably I fall (willingly) down the pistachio gelato rabbit-hole, and I almost never order gelato’s frostier and fruitier Sorbetto sister. It is not only my addiction to pistachio that is the problem, here in Sardinia (and I’m sure in much of Italy, too) in many Gelaterias, the sorbets are often too sweet or very artificial-tasting. The other problem with sorbet is that I find it can lack the body of gelato and be a little bit too light, which in some ways is perhaps stating the obvious. Most of the time I feel the need for something a bit denser. That is why this sorbet is so wonderful, because the velvety peach puree that it produces has substantial body, and doesn’t really feel flimsily light at all; instead silky, thick and luxurious.
Along with the strawberry and whole lemon sorbet previously this sorbet is one I am willing to break the gelato habit of a lifetime for. The last week or two of July, when the days are peach-sticky with heat, is when I will finally want sorbet. The peaches at this time are like the peaches of your wildest dreams, the Giant peaches of Roald Dahl’s James. Fleshy and drunk with juice and sweetness, their downy jackets paper-thin, puncturing under a careless nail when held in a hot hand.
I love using herbs in all my sweet and savoury dishes (I have written more extensively about this on p. ) and basil is the archetypal herb of high summer. I have paired it before in a peach jam, on Patience Gray’s sound advice, and I eat it in one of my favourite summer salads: prosciutto, basil and peaches (sometimes I add a burrata for gentle overkill). The combination is so good I thought it would make a good sorbet (minus the prosciutto). So here it is; maybe once you’ve tried it, you too will eschew precious Pistachio at last.
(if you want to replace the basil with mint, it also works very well)
Makes around 1 litre, 10 portions
750g very ripe peaches
2 lemons, juice and zest
20 leaves of fresh basil, washed, patted dry and torn (one bunch should easily supply this many)
Make a simple sugar syrup by placing the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bringing to the boil. Allow to simmer (swirl but do not stir to make sure the sugar has melted) for a minute. Once clear and shiny and thick, remove from the heat.
Drop in the basil leaves and then decant the syrup into a glass jug or bowl to cool. Cover.
Cut the peaches into chunks and macerate them with the lemon zest (I just peel it in strips with a swivel-peeler here as everything will be blitzed and strained eventually. You can finely zest it if you prefer) and the lemon juice.
When the syrup has cooled pour it over the peaches and leave the whole lot to infuse for a few hours at room temperature (or covered in the fridge overnight).
Blend everything (leaves, zest and peach flesh) in a blender until you have a smooth puree (there will be a few tiny flecks of basil but these will be strained out in the sieve).
Sieve the mixture, making sure to press the pulp to extract all the flavours and juices.
Churn in an ice cream maker.