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Sweet tart: Lemon Sorbetto

Posted in Food, and Food & Entertaining

Lemon Sorbet on Plastic Wicker
Lemon Sorbet on Plastic Wicker

I’ve not been very successful with my ice-cream making. Mainly because I haven’t gone the gelato route and created a custard to start the process. The simple start-out recipes I have been using mean I’ve literally been freezing cream – and the results aren’t great. I’m keeping at it – but a chance encounter with a mango sorbet the other day got me thinking along non-dairy lines. And lemon sorbet seemed the place to start. Except that citrus isn’t in season in SA right now.

Undeterred I prowled around our local supermarket picking through the lemons until I put 14 decent looking specimens together. This recipe came from a serious troll through the myriad options on the internet … via The Guardian, a newspaper I’ve always trusted. The writer, Felicity Cloake – a seasoned sorbettista – tested all manner of recipes, settling finally on Caroline and Robin Weir’s version as the perfect version.

The Weirs (authors of the aptly titled Ices: the Definitive Guide) emphasise that lemons vary in taste and size so the lemon content is really to personal taste. Felicity recommended I spent time tweaking the balance of sweet and sour until it suited me – and then beat it into submission. I took her advice on the first point – mindfull that freezing blunts the taste somewhat, but forgot to do the second and had a less than totally smooth result.

But the sorbet is delicious – almost a little perfumed, but not talc-y like some store-bought versions. It has a lovely fullness to it … and the zest gives it a little texture – but not too much that it sticks in your teeth. The girls went back for spoon after spoon – something they didn’t do with my ice-cream attempts. Little faces puckering delightedly at the tart sourness.

Dinner guest Rudi commented “this would be delicious blended with vodka” – so I’ve set a little aside to try that out. I have fond memories of many Italian meals that ended with that combo as a palate cleanser. Happy Days.

All in all – not bad for a first attempt.  Next time – green apple.


Serves 6-8

350g caster sugar

14 lemons, at least 5 unwaxed


1. Put 250g caster sugar into a pan with 250ml boiling water and heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.
Allow to bubble for a couple of minutes until slightly thickened, then set aside and allow to cool completely.

2. Zest the unwaxed lemons and finely chop the resulting zest. The finer you get the zest, the better. And use only bright yellow lemons, any green zest will make the sorbet bitter

3. Juice all the lemons and strain the juice to remove any pulp and stray pips. Do this a couple times to make sure you catch all the bits.

4. Add the chopped zest to the juice and stir in the final 100g of sugar until it is dissolved. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.

5. Add equal amounts of syrup and cold water to the juice mix: 25ml at a time. Taste continually until the flavour is to your liking – remember that freezing will mute it slightly, so it should be quite intense.

6. Return the combined mix to the fridge and chill until really cold – overnight is best.

7. Pour in an ice cream machine and churn according to instructions.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker – pour the mix into a strong plastic container and put in the coldest part of the freezer. After an hour and a half, it should have frozen round the edges. Remove and mix vigorously with a fork, electric mixer or in a food processor until you have a uniformly textured icy slush. Put back in the freezer and repeat at least twice every hour and a half, Then freeze undisturbed for at least another hour. Preferably overnight. This should give you a  lovely, smooth granita.

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  1. […] The rocking duo of Claudia and Sue (one from Milan, the other Johannesburg, both showing that a strong friendship can last the stretch of miles) illuminates my life with great design and thoughtful posts: Campari and Sofa […]

    February 24, 2013
  2. Good idea to add zest to lemon sorbet, have to try that. If you want to make ice cream without egg yolks/making custard, try banana ice cream. Bananas, cream, sugar, drop of lemon juice. That’s all, great taste and texture. (Full recipe on my blog.)

    February 23, 2013
    • Thanks Stefan – will give it a whirl.

      February 24, 2013
  3. Tried finding to recipe online but to no avail … and cookbook not in our shops in SA. Could you mail it to me and I will try it out for a column? Hazelnut ice-cream is my second fave … and a mix of it and chocolate is better than …. well – let’s just say better than most things: I also would like to use it as a filling between meringues – I had a dessert in Sicily once that had those two components – heavenly. Thanks Laura

    February 23, 2013
  4. I have also been less successful with ice cream but the walnut semifreddo recipe in the Polpo cookbook changed everything by working fabulously well with not very much effort. Look it up 🙂

    February 23, 2013
    • Will do – Choc Ice-cream is my fave! Will keep you updated

      February 23, 2013

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