There's nothing quite like a handcrafted ice cream or a palate-cleansing sorbet to make a summer meal extra special. . . and the Italians do it best
Sorbetto di rosa rossa
Make sure your scented rose blooms are from a source that does not use chemical sprays.
One of the many uses of glycerine is to preserve flowers, and here it works its alchemy to transform the unpromising murky colour of the steeped petals into something special. As a child, I would make perfumed potions from rose petals and would always be disappointed with the colour until my mother showed me this trick. Serves 4-6
You will need
250g/9oz/1¼ cups caster (superfine) sugar
450ml/15fl oz/scant 2 cups cold water
100g/4oz heavily scented red rose petals, about 16 roses, plus extra petals for crystallising, or use the ready-made sort
6 tbsp rose essence (rosewater)
2 tsp glycerine
Juice of 1 lemon
1 egg white, lightly whisked
100g/4oz/½ cup caster (superfine) sugar
Put the sugar and 250ml/8fl oz/1 cup of the water in a saucepan and heat gently to allow the sugar to dissolve, about four minutes. Put the rose petals into the sugar syrup just to wilt them slightly, then add 200ml/7fl oz/scant 1 cup cold water and the rose essence, and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
When cooled, add the glycerine. Leave the petals to steep for five hours, or overnight, giving the petals the occasional squeeze.
Add the lemon juice and pour the mixture through a sieve set over a bowl. Churn using an ice cream machine following the manufacturer's instructions until frozen, or still-freeze following the method outlined above. Transfer to a freezer-proof container, cover and freeze for four hours before serving.
If it is frozen for longer and becomes too hard, remove the lid and transfer to the refrigerator 20-30 minutes before serving to soften.
To make the crystallised petals, paint the extra rose petals with egg white and dip into the caster (superfine) sugar. Lay them on a wire rack in a warm, dry place until crunchy, then store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Gelato di Fragole
Choose ripe red strawberries packed full of summer sun for this gelato. Do taste the mixture and add extra lemon juice if you think the flavour needs more of a lift. After churning the gelato, you can make a strawberry swirl. To do this, layer the freshly churned gelato mixture in a freeze-proof container with blobs of churned strawberry sorbetto and swirl with the end of a spoon. Serve with some sliced strawberries. Serves 6-8
You will need
300ml/10fl oz/1¼cups full-cream (whole) milk
One third cup whipping cream
4 egg yolks
150g/5oz/¾ cup caster (superfine) sugar
500g/1 lb 2oz ripe strawberries, plus extra to serve
Juice of ½ lemon
Put the milk and cream in a saucepan and gently heat until bubbles start to appear around the side of the pan. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until pale in colour. Pour in the hot milk mixture and stir well.
Wash out the pan and pour the mixture back in. Cook over a medium heat with a heat diffuser mat under the pan, stirring constantly, for 8-10 minutes. When some of the foam disappears from the surface, place a sugar thermometer in the pan and continue to stir until the temperature reads 75°C/167°F.
Do not let the mixture get any hotter, otherwise the custard will curdle. The custard will thicken a little as it cools, transfer to a wide bowl and leave to cool.
Hull the strawberries, put them into a blender with the lemon juice and process until a purée forms. Pour into a nylon sieve set over a bowl and push the purée through using a circular motion with the back of a ladle. Discard what is left in the sieve.
Add the purée to the cold custard. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Churn using an ice cream machine following the manufacturer's instructions until frozen. Transfer to a freezer-proof container, cover and freeze for four hours before serving. If it is frozen for longer and becomes too hard, remove lid and transfer to the refrigerator to soften about 30 minutes before serving.
Pour the prepared and chilled gelato or sorbetto mixture into a suitably sized, rigid, freezer-proof container, ideally one with a clearance of about 3cm (1 ¼ inches) between the liquid and the top of the container, so when you use the beaters the mixture will not fly out.
Put the container uncovered in the coldest part of the freezer directly in contact with the open bars if possible. Freeze gelato for two hours, checking after 1½ hours, and freeze sorbetto for 1½ hours, checking after the first hour. The quantities and ingredients for each recipe vary and affect precise freezing times. Then, using a fork, dig out the frozen edges and corners into the slushy centre and whisk the mixture with electric beaters or hand-whisk until it is broken up and slushy. Repeat the freezing and whisking process again, then refreeze until evenly firm but not frozen solid (about two hours).
Next, transfer to a food processor and process for 1–2 minutes until smooth. Some of the sweeter mixes will be less firm after the third freezing, but this is fine, just as long as they are slushy. If the mixture clumps together during the final processing, stop the motor, break up the lumps with a fork and continue processing.
Transfer the mixture into a freezer-proof container and follow the instructions in the recipe regarding when to add the solid ingredients, and the final freezing timings, for a perfect result. Cover and label with the name and time it takes to soften in the refrigerator should it become over-frozen.