The beginning of frozen everything season is celebrated with the first sighting of berries in the farmers market, ready to blitz and churn into any semblance of iced delicacy. This week’s market run saw a smash-and-grab purchase of strawberry punnets in such proportions you’d think they were the last rather than the first of the season. All in the name of this year’s granita flavour obsession.
Granita is a year round freezer basic. Without the need for an ice cream maker or any fiddly custard base, it is simple to throw together and the ideal dessert to assemble in advance ready to pull out of the freezer at the end of a meal. I’ve covered watermelon here and made blood orange on repeat all winter to accompany chocolate mousse. This roasted berry iced dream is predicted to be our 2018 summer basic with all the colours and tastes of the sunshine.
I stumbled across the idea for roasting strawberries by chance while on an important ice cream research mission. I am a huge berry consumer and could happily eat my body weight in fresh strawberries without batting an eye, but I am not usually a fan of the cooked version. I can just about tolerate strawberry jam but steer clear of baking them in tarts, cakes and crumbles. The cooked texture of strawberries doesn’t appeal at all and their flavour is usually dulled in the process. Many people roast strawberries for ice cream and sherbet for the pronounced sweet/tart balance, but the pure cooked berries in this granita introduce a whole other lip smacking love story.
Roasting the strawberries with a little sugar and vanilla intensifies their natural taste and colour, transforming even the early, smaller, less sweet varieties into a tangy treat when blitzed with lemon juice, frozen and scraped intermittently into ice magic. A traditional granita has the appearance of coloured crushed icicles, but here the roasting process produces a much more opaque and slightly thicker finished product - a little less like shaved ice and a little more like slush. And the fullness of the flavour as a result of the usually vetoed strawberry cooking method makes your mouth sing the second the spoon hits your tongue, forgiving any riff on the classic.
Here’s to welcoming the summer, a glut of berries and everything chilled.
Roasted Strawberry Granita
I use a generous amount of sugar here as it is still early in the season and the strawberries are not yet at their optimal sweetness. Taste your strawberries first. If they are very sweet, you might want to reduce the sugar a little.
Feel free to add a shot of vodka, gin, or champagne for a more adult treat.
This is also delicious with some finely chopped mint or basil stirred through. (Although watch this space as next on my list to make is a herb granita for a double scoop flavour explosion.)
1kg strawberries, hulled, large ones halved
100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp malden salt
Preheat oven to 220C.
Place hulled strawberries into a shallow oven proof baking dish where they fit quite snugly. Make sure any large strawberries are halved.
Sprinkle over sugar and vanilla and stir everything together.
Bake for 20 minutes until the strawberries are soft, slightly browned, smelling sweet and have released a good amount of syrup.
Allow to cool slightly and transfer into a blender with the salt and lemon juice and blitz until smooth.
Cool completely and pour into a shallow freezer safe container approx. 20 x 30cm (8 x 12inches) and cover with a lid or cling film.
Leave to set for 1-2 hours and then stir through with a fork creating crystals. Make sure you really get around to the edges so that it does not completely freeze. If it completely freezes, the water and fruit can separate leaving white patches in your granita, losing some of its glorious finished colour
Repeat the stirring/scraping with a fork twice more at one hour intervals until frozen into soft red crystals.
Serve in small bowls, martini glasses or eat simply out of the container straight from the freezer as the quintessential summer treat.