Lemons are pretty hard to find in Melbourne at the moment. The Victoria Market was selling them today at 3 for $2.00. I had a craving for chilled lemon sorbet probably due to the extreme Melbourne heat, so I decided to buy some beautiful waxy yellow lemons with which to make this icy delight.
Lemons are used to make a popular drink called Limoncello which is sold on the most improbable street corners in tiny towns in southern Italy and and it is the perfect chilled drink to quench your thirst in the summer heat. But beware it is alcoholic, though that is kind of nice when it is hot and you are in Italy on holidays! I am not sure how they get away with selling it from small rickety stands by the side of a narrow road, but then again, it is Italy, no one follows rules very much.
The other gorgeous way to use lemons is in sorbetto al limone (lemon sorbet). You can have sorbetto between courses as a palate cleanser. If you want to be really grown up about it, you can add vodka for a delightfully boozy refreshing dessert to have after your meal. This what I did today – made sorbetto al limone with candied lemons. The preserved lemons are sweet, slightly sour and bitter all at the same time, and look beautiful sitting on the sorbetto.
The recipe is easy – you need sugar syrup, lemons, sparkling mineral water and egg whites (and vodka if you want the alcoholic version). If you don’t have an ice-cream churner you can do it the old fashioned way. You will just have to start making it a few hours earlier.
Sorbetto al limone
Sugar syrup – 400 g sugar and 400g water. Place in a saucepan on low heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and place in the fridge until it is completely cold.
Rind of 2 lemons (finely grated on a microplane), 250ml fresh lemon juice (strained), 250 ml chilled sparkling mineral water (I used S.Pellegrino) – add these to the sugar syrup and place in an ice-cream churner. Churn until it is almost completely set. Remove 2 or 3 tablespoons of the mixture and add it to an egg white. Beat these with a hand-held electric beater and return the mixture to the sorbet in the ice cream churn. Add 50-75ml vodka if you are making the alcoholic version. Continue to churn until it is the desired consistency. It should be like a soft gelato.
If you don’t have an ice cream churner, place the sugar syrup and lemon mixture in the freezer in a metal container. Remove after 30 minutes or so and give it a good hard whisk to break up the crystals. Add one egg white (beaten to soft peaks) to the mixture, fold it through and place back in the freezer. Remove it after another 30 minutes, whisk in the vodka (50-75 ml) if using, and replace in the freezer. Check after about an hour to make sure it has reached the desired consistency. If it hasn’t, leave it a bit longer.
Candied lemons – these make the sorbetto look fancy. Slice a lemon into discs 2-3 mm thick. Heat 100ml water and 100g sugar in a small saucepan. When the sugar has dissolved and is simmering, reduce the heat, add the lemon slices and simmer about 10 minutes. Allow to cool and place in a glass jar in the fridge. Arrange one or two pieces of candied lemon on your sorbetto, which I like to serve in special dessert wine glasses.
It’s like having a little bit of Italy at home.
*adapted from recipe by Gary Mehigan