On holiday I was asked to produce a dessert at short notice. While this should not have been a problem in Italy, this was sprung on me after we had been to a market and bought lots of fresh vegetables, but alas, no fruit. So time to think creatively.
I took a look in the cupboards and found one item of use – Earl Grey tea. Quick as a flash, I made a pot of what was effectively a sweet ice tea – Earl Grey, plus agave syrup and lemon juice. Stick in the freezer, and come back every half-hour or so to break up the ice crystals into flakes rather than chunks. Simple.
If you are not familiar with granita, this Italian dessert is a rough version of sorbet. Rather than constantly churning the mixture to ensure a smooth consistency, you positively want the mixture to form into ice crystals. Come back often and stir the mixture lightly with a fork, so that the ice forms into separately crystals, and the resulting granita looks like a pile of glittering precious stones. Pomegranate looks like garnets, coffee grantia like volcanic glass and almond or lemon glitter like quartz. What is really great is that you can make a granita with nothing more sophisticated than a container and a fork. Just the thing when you are staying in a holiday house with none of your usual kitchen armoury to hand.
All in all, this worked like a dream. The weather was hot, but the dessert was cooling, tart and refreshing, providing a great prelude to the limoncello. As a “quick and easy” dessert to keep in the back pocket, this one is pretty good stuff.
For the granita:
• 3 Earl Grey teabags
• 1 litre water
• Up to 200ml agave syrup or 250g sugar, to taste
• juice of 2 lemons
Put the teabags into the cold water and allow to sit for one hour, stirring from time to time. This will extract the flavour without become too strong or bitter.
Remove the teabags, and add the lemon juice and enough sugar and/or agave syrup to taste. You want it to be just slightly sweeter than you would make ice tea, so go with what tastes right, as this will change depending on the sourness of the lemons. Stir well until the syrup and/or sugar has dissolved completely.
Pour into a container and place in the freezer. Keep checking every half hour or so for the mixture to start freezing. Once this happens, each time you check, use a fork to break up the ice crystals. Be gentle – we want them to separate, so be sure not to whisk the mixture. Towards the end, you should have a light, flaky consistency.
Serve in chilled glasses. This also keeps well in the freezer for a couple of days.
Worth making? This recipe was great on a hot day, and can be made with all the things you would have at home (as this is how I invented it!). Easily adaptable to any type of tea (green, jasmine), and can be easily customised with any other flavours or juices you happen to have to hand.