Monday 29 June 2015

Orange sorbet

There are few things more refreshing. Orange sorbet and I go way back, sort of, in the form of an orange ice lolly at least. When I was ill as a child (rarely - that was my mother's job) an orange ice lolly (never a Mivvi!) was what I hankered after. Something about frozen citrus, the chilled, zesty juiciness, that seemed to perk me up. Doubtless it had a numbing effect on a sore throat. Maybe it balmed a feverish body? I would root around in the Wall's or Lyons Maid chiller, irrespective of the season, looking for something in a sodden paper wrapper, usually frost buried at the bottom. An Orange Maid or a Frutie. Today's choice would be a Calipo. It's still one of my very favourite things.

Sorbet. in theory is the simplest of things - there should be only two ingredients: fruit and sugar - but Sorbets are tricky to get right; harder than ice creams that's for sure. Cold cream will always churn but too little sugar and you get ice not sorbet, too much and you get a tub of slush that will never freeze. Like all great cooking, the secret is down to quality of ingredients and the technical skill of the practitioner. A simple recipe exposes both.

With any sorbet, texture is key. It must be churned like an ice cream (but no dairy of course, hence the distinction. And let's not get into the whole sorbet/sherbet thing here). It must have some density, not too light. We don't want it whipped. But not too much ice either. We're not at home to granita granularity. No, no, no.

I tried several recipes and unusually couldn't find one I liked. The sugar and fruit balance must be right naturally but it should also have an acid tang, a striking pick-me-up zest. Many commercial confections seem to lack this entirely or else it feels synthetic. When I was formulating this recipe I went to some lengths to ensure all the orange oils found in the zest ended up in the sorbet.

Oh, sidebar. You know what really winds me up? OK, too many things to list here but specifically I'm talking about citrus oils here. You order a martini and bartender asks if you want olives or a twist (or both - all kinds of wrong) and then proceeds to pare and twist the lemon zest AWAY from the drink. Gah! The whole point of a twist, the reason it's so called(!) is because you prepare it over the drink, spraying the volatile oils across the surface of the liquid. These oils are the volatile flavour compounds. You can even set them alight. It's a critical component of the cosmopolitan. Actually this isn't that much of a sidebar. With both martini and sorbet you are trying to capture a citric essence. Another comparison is their simplicity. Both martini and sorbet have only two ingredients but their execution will tell you much about the maker. If you want to know how good a cocktail bar is, ask for a martini. If they reach for the vodka, walk out. A martini is gin. It is. there's no point arguing about it. They should ask you how dry. They should chill the glass. Your opinion regarding olives and lemon zest should be sought. 
That's the difference between a great martini and something you'd buy in a Wetherspoon's.

Ah, now this is a sidebar. Did you know the name Wetherspoon was reputedly chosen by founder Tim Martin because it was the surname of a teacher at school who told him he would never amount to anything? Hoo hoo.

Orange Sorbet

Microplane grater:
best for zest
My recipe makes about two litres, mainly because that's the maximum my ice-cream maker will take. Don't attempt this without one. That nonsense about freezing and hand whisking every few hours won't work. For a start, you'll forget and be the disconsolate owner of the world's largest orange ice cube. No machine, just go granita instead.

You'll need about 1800ml of orange juice. The best option here is buying some brilliant, fully ripe oranges and hand juicing them. But this is Britain. Good luck. How many you need obviously depends on the size and juiciness of the fruit, but you're looking at at least 20. You can cheat and go half and half with that freshly squeezed juice in the supermarket. I did. BUT it must be the fresh, expensive stuff with bits in. The not-from-concentrate won't cut it. We won't even mention concentrates. You wouldn't would you? Like milking a plastic cow.

But hang on, before you cut them for juicing...

Spread out 400g of caster sugar on a baking tray or some such. Using a zester or fine grate five large oranges over this sugar. Let the zest fall into the sugar. You will see the sugar change colour to a pale orange. That's fabulous flavour that it is. Use a gentle touch. You don't want the bitter white pith just below.

You can actually grind up this sugar/zest and sprinkle it on fruit. Bloody delicious. I use just this mix on my baked rhubarb.

This is what a well zested orange looks like. Naked!
Add this sugar/zest combo to 400ml of orange juice in a sauce pan. To this add a whole 140g tube of glucose syrup. You'll find it in the home baking section. This will add some creaminess to the texture. You can make a well textured sorbet using just glucose but the cost would be prohibitive. Slowly bring juice, zest and sugars to a boil to make an orange syrup. Make sure all the caster is dissolved. Strain the syrup through fine sieve and add the rest of the orange juice. This is now ready to churn. Taste it first. You might want to add more glucose to sweeten, or more juice. Chilling deadens the sweetness remember. Chill it in the fridge for an hour at least before adding it to your machine. The faster you can freeze it, the smoother the result. It's why Heston uses super cooled liquid nitrogen. Got any of that? Nope, me neither.

After the sorbet has churned put it in a sealed container and freeze for another hour or two.

If you want more advice, using other fruit, try this article from the incomparable serious Brilliant web site.


  1. Can look at my blog and see prices, and nutritional facts of sorbet at different grocery stores.

  2. Can you tell me where l can buy Orange Frutie Ice Lolly please, l live in SW6