Saturday, 15 November 2008

Earl Grey Granita with a shot of gin: good after curry

Atul Kochhar's unctuous and fragrant Almond Lamb Curry (Vadama kari kozhambu) was on the menu on Wednesday night, when my friend Bertrand, a wonderful cook, was up from Cape Town for the night. This Southern Indian recipe comes from Kochhar's brilliant book Simple Indian, which is my all-time favourite Indian cookbook, eclipsing even those of my food heroine Maddhur Jaffrey. I love the contemporary feel of Atul's food, his light and simple approach, and his extraordinary talent with spices.

Atul, the owner of London's Benares restaurant, was the first Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin star, and, Egad, Sire, I can see why.

Anyway, I was so caught up in spicing and dicing and all the whirling-dervishing that goes into making a curry that I did not give a thought to dessert, and there was nothing vaguely pudding-like in the cupboard.

Apart from sugar, tea, lemons and gin. And here was the result: a perfect zingy end to the meal.

Earl Grey Granita with a shot of gin

160 ml [3/4 cup] granulated white sugar
750 ml [three cups] boiling water
three Earl Grey tea bags
juice of one lemon
very finely grated lemon rind
a little gin, very well chilled. Bombay Sapphire is nice but Gordon's will do.

Six or so hours in advance, put a large, flat metal dish [a clean roasting pan is ideal; a ceramic one will do] in your freezer and turn the freezer to its lowest setting. Pour one cup of boiling water over the tea bags and allow to steep for ten minutes. Remove the teabags. Pour the remaining two cups of boiling water into a glass bowl, add the sugar, and stir until completely dissolved. Add the lemon juice and the tea. Allow to cool completely, then refrigerate. Two hours before serving, strain the mixture into the frozen dish, which should be smoking cold by now, and place back in the freezer. After about half an hour, or when the mixture starts to get slushy, scrape and scratch the mixture with a fork to form crystals. Continue scraping and scratching every twenty minutes or so, so you end up with a pile of icy, fluffy, crystalline flakes. Set a timer so ensure that you don't forget to scrape: if you do, the mixture will harden and you will have to start all over again.

Half an hour before serving, put some martini glasses or small dessert bowls in the freezer.

To serve, add a scoop of granita to each glass, top with a pinch of lemon rind, and trickle a tablespoon of ice-cold gin down the side of the glass, so that it pools at the bottom.

Serves 6.

Note: if you'd like a snowy, sorbet-like consistency, whip the slushy mixture with an egg beater two or three times during the freezing process.
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