Category Archives: icecream

Drowned in caffè

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It takes me a long time to leave the house. Keys, phone, purse, sunglasses are never where I left them and then a sort of departure tick means I need to do something just before I go out the door; round-up the shoes littering the hall, wipe the kitchen table, push the chairs in properly even though the rest of the house is chaos. The door needs to close before I realise I’ve forgotten something, usually the knotted bag of rubbish ready to go and weeping onto the kitchen counter. As I return to collect the rubbish I notice the dead flowers that really should be taken out too, which involves unknotting the bag. As I pick impatiently at the knot I decide the vase the flowers were in needs washing with bleach because it reeks, and so it goes on. When I finally slam the front door behind me, sending a shiver up and down the lift shaft, my landlord has requested I fuss with two keys one of which requires six clunking turns. It takes me a long time to leave the house. Unless we have run out of coffee.

Having flung on clothes and scooped-up things and Luca, we were out the door and blinking in the surprising brightness of Via Galvani in record time. We walked as we do every morning past the pet shop, the canestro, the tabac, the bank and then into Barberini, the bar I have visited most days for the last nine years. Despite familiarity I will always be a straniera, a foreigner, a term I don’t mind anymore, after all, I am. Luca however, is not, he has grown up here, this is his bar. He pummels his fists on the front of the glass counter for a maritozzo, a sticky, yeasted bun and then pummels on my leg so I lift him up on to the lip that runs around the sickle shaped bar. I have barely touched the 10 centesimi coin and the receipt on the counter and Paolo puts a cappuccino in front of me, it’s frothed milk schiuma thick and resting in promising folds. Luca is given an espresso cup of the same creamy folds which he eats with a teaspoon. Here it is, one of the best moments of the day and one of the things I love most about living in Italy; standing at the bar in a Bar with a coffee before me. I drink in the moment and the contents of the cup quickly while Luca offers the man next to us a bit of half- chewed bun. Caffeine seeps into my system. Four others; a young woman, two young men who’ve clearly been up all night and a tall man who looks like Christopher Lee are all deep in breakfast contemplation at different points around the bar, together but alone. Luca disturbs the calm with a chorus of goodbye and ciao which everyone, even almost Christopher Lee, reciprocates. Then it’s over and we are back on the street blinking in the sun and it is only 8 am, on Sunday.

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Needless to say several more espressos followed, the last of which which was made at home after lunch in my well-seasoned, well-loved Moka Pot. However instead of drinking it, I tipped it over a spoonful of fior di latte gelato for something Italians call affogato al caffè or drowned in coffee, a state I am familiar with. The effect of pale and dark, of hot meeting cold, of sweet and lactic meeting a full, tannic espresso is fantastic and one of my favorite ways to end a meal. Time is of the essence, you can’t waste time taking pictures or other such nonsense, you need to plunge your spoon in quick so as to appreciate the contrast between hot and cold and the still distinct flavors before the cream melts into the dark liquid and you are left with a toffee coloured inch to be drunk from the glass.

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By the way, I am now on Instagram, where you can see more repetitive overhead pictures of my lunch and a filtered view of life in Testaccio – R

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Filed under caffè, Eating In Testaccio, gelato, icecream

Granita

granita pesca, fig and arance

Rather than berating me for my extremely overweight suitcase the security man, simply nodded knowingly and smiled approvingly at the contents of my bulging luggage- particularly the 2 kilos of almonds and the same weight of almond paste- before he quietly ushered me through the security check with a Sicilian wink whilst whispering something about making granita di mandorla.

He was right, granita, granita di mandorla (almond granita).

Our 5 fiendishly hot and wonderful days in Siracusa on the east coast of Sicily were punctuated with granita – one of the simplest and nicest of the great family of ices, a slightly slushy, grainy mass of flavoured sweetened water frozen and crushed to make something between a drink and a water ice. Taking our lead from the locals and our Sicilian hosts, breakfast each morning – in one of the bars hidden within the labyrinthine medieval streets of sultry, civilised, old Siracusa – was granita di mandorla, mopped up with a warm brioche, a gloriously delicious, cold, icy, sweet, soft, nutty, creamy, nourishing, slithers down your throat way to begin the day.

granita di mandorla w brioche

About 11 30 pleasantly weary from happily doing nothing, beginning to wilt a little under the scorching sun we would find another bar for our second granita appointment, this time choosing the clean freshness of sharp/ sweet lemon or orange, to startle and awaken our palates and bodies into some kind of lazy activity before lunch.

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Post lunch was the time for granita di cafe, crystals of very sweet strong coffee in place of espresso, sometimes indulgently topped with cream, eaten first with a spoon and then the last inch slurped pleasingly through a long straw.

Mid afternoon we took to having granita di gelsi or pistaccio, the former a deep red, rich and regal to the eye but clean and fresh in the mouth. Pistaccio smooth and creamy giving the impression of being more indulgent but in reality just as light and refreshing. It was a beautiful moment last Friday afternoon when, in between the beautifully traditional catholic wedding service we were in Sicily to be part of and the elegant reception, the entire wedding party including the bride and groom took refuge in the coolness of the local bar to inhale a granita before continuing with the wedding proceedings.

granita limone, gelsi and pistaccio

Post dinner- our friend Bruno declared as he does – was the time for granita di limone once more. I rebelled once or twice bewitched by granita di mandorla but in retrospect I think he is right, the clean citrus is right at night after a late Sicilian dinner when the scent of warm sea air hangs heavily over the dark city.

Back in Rome with almond gifts for Vincenzo who did not come back to Sicily with me this time and the taste of granita di mandorla still on my lips I set about making a primitive and rustic version for us.

I have the almonds to make some almond milk at some point but for now I used the marzipan-like almond paste I bought in Siracusa which is simply ground local almonds, sugar and just a few bitter almonds (which lend it an intense and most extraordinary flavour) bound togther into a paste with a little water.

On first glance I thought it was soap…..in a pasticceria…. what can I say, it was hot…..

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You dissolve the paste in water to make almond milk – 140g of paste to each litre of water, blast with the blender and then freeze in a large shallow container for a couple of hours pulling the container out every 30 minutes or so to agitate it with a fork to incorporate the crystals back into the liquid and obtain a rough, slightly slushy, grainy mass. You need to keep an eye on it slushy is the key word here, too long in the freezer and you have a block which you could knock someone out with.  This primitive method does not produce the creamy granita you find in Sicilian bars where it is slowly churned at carefully observed temperatures, but it is delightful just the same and pleasingly simple to make, no clutter, no cumbersome machines and all that.

It’s like slushy almond flavoured snow…..

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Then you serve it in little glasses with a little spoon and a straw if you have one, on a hot day with somone you love, you eat it slowly (as the Sicilians always remind you) or it will shock your stomach and you may faint !!

He didn’t faint and he ate with impressive speed.

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Maybe it was the company, maybe it is because I am still on holiday, maybe it’s the heat but it almost…almost tasted as good as in sicily, it needs some work, I don’t think I quite acheived the right consistency of slush but thats my fault.

Yes it needs work, but nice work, the fumbling, playing in the kitchen kind we all seem to like.

This sounds similar and nice too.

Granita di limone next and then cafè…then pesca…then pistaccio….then fig….then mint…then rose….then gelsi… then campari…I think this may well come to be known as the summer I made granita.

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Filed under food, icecream, Puddings, rachel eats Italy, recipes, sorbets and granita