With temperatures hitting the 30s this week, Australia has had a taste of summer and the time is ripe to cool down with ice-cold, refreshing treats. I smiled when I saw my friend and fellow Canberra blogger Zoe's tweet with a picture of her kiddies cooling off under the sprinkler, as it reminded of some memorable water fights with family and friends, and also of one stinking hot December about four years ago when Peter and I rented a place just off ANZAC Parade. After walking home from the city in 30+ degrees every afternoon, we'd strip down to our underwear and (like a pair of children) hose each other off in the privacy of the park-like back garden. Talk about a great way to chill out!
I got to thinking about the summers of my childhood. Being European, my father eventually turned much of our back garden into concrete (God love him!). Yes, that old chestnut about Europeans is true! Of course, he took great pleasure in hosing it clean most evenings during the warmer months. There were always messy little grapes and leaves dropping from the vines on the overhead trellis, and dad was fastidious with keeping the driveway clean. He would sometimes turn the nozzle onto a fine mist and spray me while I was riding my tricycle.
One summer afternoon when I arrived home from school, the front door was locked and, to my surprise, my mum wasn't at home. I walked through the side gate and around the corner towards the back door. There, glistening in the sunshine against the stark white of the hot concrete was a little vivid blue swimming pool filled to the brim with cold water, a birthday gift from my parents. I can still remember actually rubbing my eyes to check if it was real and could barely wait to don my swimmers/togs/cozzies and dip in.
How time flies... that was almost fifty years ago and as I sit at the kitchen table on a warm December evening, my birthday approaching, reflecting and writing this post, I'm cooling off with mouthfuls of a gorgeous granita concoction from Nicola Graimes and her latest book, New Vegetarian Kitchen.
You'll need only a few ingredients for this 'grown up granita': good quality vodka, together with market fresh seedless watermelon, a lemon, a lime and a pomegranate, together with a scant amount of caster sugar. Here's my take on the recipe. It's simply delicious and too good not to share. Enjoy!
WATERMELON AND VODKA CRUSH WITH POMEGRANATE
1.5kg seedless watermelon, skin removed, flesh cut into wedges
1/3 cup vanilla infused caster sugar
5 tablespoons vodka
juice of a lemon
zest of a lime
seeds from one pomegranate*, to serve
Puree the watermelon flesh in a blender or food processor. Then press the mixture through a sieve (this is the messiest, hardest part, but hang in there). Stir in the vodka, the sugar and the lemon juice. Pour into a freezer proof container, seal and freeze. Or, pour into four to six cone shaped moulds, per the author's original recipe. Freeze for 3-4 hours, or overnight, until frozen.
Remove from the refrigerator about 15-20 minutes before you intend to serve (this will allow the mixture to soften), then run the prongs of a fork through the ice crystals. Sprinkle with lime zest and pomegranate seeds and serve. Any leftovers will keep well in the freezer. Serves 6-8.
* There is a brilliant way to remove seeds from a pomegranate here.
The process in pictures...
Drum roll please...
Incidentally, vodka sits very well with watermelon and for another adults only refresher, serve wedges of chilled watermelon with shot glasses of icy cold vodka, an idea a la Lyndey Milan. Simply delicious!
Recipe road tested with the kind permission of Simon & Schuster Australia. Thank you.
So, what's your favourite way to cool down on a hot day? And did you play under the sprinkler when you were little, or more recently? What are your plans for Christmas? ; D
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.