Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We're Back: Frozen Goodies

Once again, apologies for the delays between posts. Susan has been busy for the last couple of months starting up her new job, finishing her Oxford thesis, traveling to the US and then to England, and finally finishing her last term at Oxford. I’ve taken on the cooking duties and was supposed to keep up the blogging, but there have been too many distractions (okay, mostly scuba-diving!) The good news is that I have been exploring the local markets, experimenting with Asian flavors, and concocting new delicious recipes. Thus, I have lots to share!

As in real-life, it’s always best to start with dessert. Here in the sweltering tropics, frozen desserts are almost better than air-conditioning. Right now, I’ve got a liter of chocolate custard cooling in the refrigerator ready to be frozen into a gelato (at the adamant insistence of my lovely and chocoholic wife). However, for pure ice-cold refreshment nothing beats a fresh fruit sorbet.

For this treat, you need to have two kitchen gadgets: 1) an ice cream maker and 2) a fine-mesh sieve.

Ice cream makers have come a long way since the cumbersome, hand-cranked, ice and rock-salt versions of my youth. Today, most of these gadgets come with a bowl that you pre-chill in your freezer and a separate electric motorized churner that fits onto the bowl once you’ve added the ingredients. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on this, a mid-range version from Target (for our US readership) or other discount store will work fine. Our ice cream maker is a modernized hand-crank version gifted to us by a good friend and fellow foodie that works great for us considering the lack of reliable power in most of our duty stations. Most ice cream makers require you to freeze the bowl portion of the machine before adding the ingredients. The bowl should be as cold as possible to ensure the ingredients freeze properly. If possible, freeze the bowl overnight and only remove from freezer when you are ready to add your ingredients. For best results, your freezer should not be overpacked which prevents the cold air from circulating (a good rule, even when not making ice cream).

The fine-mesh sieve will be used to strain out solids from the infused syrup. The holes in a normal colander or pasta strainer will be too large to filter out lime pulp and basil leaves.

Juicing limes can be a time and labor-intensive exercise. To make things easier, make sure your limes are room temperature. To loosen up the juices before cutting, use your hand to firmly press the limes against a hard surface and roll it around. Slice the limes in half cross-wise. Hand-squeezing works but generally does not extract all the juice from the limes and will wear out your grip. We use a hand-held lemon squeezer we picked up at Sur la Table last time we were in San Francisco (this might be Susan’s favorite kitchen tool!).

The recipe also calls for grated lime-rind. Citrus rind, or zest, can provide intense flavors from the essential oils contained in the peel. However, the white pith immediately underneath the rind is very bitter. Therefore, I prefer to use a made-for-purpose rind peeler – you’ll recognize this as a hand-held device with 3 or 4 small horizontal holes. However, you’ll be fine using the medium sized holes on a standard grater – just be careful not to scrape too much of the white pith.

Okay, I bet you’re ready for the recipe!

Lime-Basil Sorbet
(Adapted from Cooking Light)
2 cups sugar (caster or super-fine is best, but granulated will work fine)
2 cups fresh lime juice, divided (the recipe says about 15 limes, but I used almost twice this number – depends on the size and juice content of limes)
¾ cup packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped
2 cups water, divided
1 tbl grated lime rind

Combine sugar and 1 cup lime juice with 2 tbsp water. Cook for 2 minutes or until sugar melts, stirring constantly. Stir in basil and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and pour into glass bowl. Add remaining 1 cup lime juice, water, and rind. Cover and chill in refrigerator until very cool. Sieve mixture, discard solids. Freeze/churn in ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Cover and freeze for 1 hour or until firm. If not using right away, scrape mixture with a wooden or plastic spoon (to avoid damaging ice cream maker) into plastic container, cover and freeze. Remove frozen sorbet from freezer and allow to soften before serving. Serve with grated lime rind and fresh basil leaves.

The balanced sweet-tart flavor of this sorbet allows its use as a palate-cleansing intermezzo served between classic summertime grilled dishes like a BBQ prawn starter and a grilled chicken main dish. Of course, it also works as dessert especially following a spicy Asian dish like a Thai green curry.

Once again, please excuse our absence and keep checking this site for updates. We'll be sharing lots of great stories about food, travel, and our many adventures in Timor-Leste and around the world. Upcoming topics include fish-on-a-stick and browsing a shopping mall food-court Thai-style.


  1. Great recipe and welcome back! I still don't own an ice-cream maker but it is on my list of things to buy. Look forward to the next post :) OB

  2. Theo -> the recipe should work equally well for a "granita" - like an Italian snow-cone that doesn't require an ice cream maker. Pour the mixture into a flat bottomed container and place in freezer. After one hour, pull mixture out and scrape up with a fork. Repeat scraping and refreezing every 1/2 hour until you reach desired consistency. Final product will be more granulated (get it, "granulated = granita"? Parlez vous Italianer?) but equally delicious.

  3. Uh huh, and when exactly are you inviting us over for dinner?!!! Er, cough cough, it's for the company though, not the ice-cream... ;) - Bree