How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats

Our love of frozen treats stretches back centuries. As early as 500 BC, the Persians were pouring grape juice concentrate over snow, collected in winter and saved in underground chambers known as "yakhchal". The ancient Chinese enjoyed frozen milk and rice during summer, and it's said that the Roman Emperor Nero was partial to chomping on ice mixed with fruit.

In Britain, the summertime go-to has long been ice cream. The first recipes appeared in the 18th century. By the Victorian era, mobile vendors were doing swift business selling "ices" from wooden carts, their motorised counterparts emerged in the early 20th century. Now adventurous cooks are creating ice cream at home, following Nigella's no-churn coffee recipe or Yotam Ottolenghi's halva ice cream with chocolate sauce and salted peanuts.

But why stop there? This summer's treats aren't limited to ice cream. Frozen yoghurt, for one thing, has become a summertime staple. The dessert hybrid, originally called "frogurt", was created by HP Hood, a New England dairy company, in the Seventies. Today, it is everywhere. According to Mintel, sales grew 117 per cent between 2011 and 2014 to reach £13m. Some three million litres are consumed in the UK each year.

A new book, Frozen Yoghurt (Murdoch Books, £14.99), by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi, owners of the hip Parisian fro-yo outfit Chez It Mylk, shows how easily it can be made at home. There are recipes for everything from cheesecake flavour to green tea frozen yoghurt. There are brownie-and-yoghurt sandwiches, and fro-yo-topped shortbreads.

"The only limit is your imagination," says Mathilde. "You can adapt pretty much any dessert recipe you love. We were inspired by our favourite French pastry recipes and memories from childhood. If you have fresh yoghurt and frozen fruit you can create a homemade dessert in five minutes." Rarely do recipes run to more than six or seven ingredients. Though some require an ice cream maker, others make do with just a blender.

 

Another frozen treat that has become increasingly ubiquitous is granita, be it flavoured with blood orange, almond or lemon. It's little more than water, fruit juice and sugar, yet utterly delicious. In Sicily, they eat it for breakfast.

Over here, summer mornings are more likely to be fuelled by iced coffee – usually in its American incarnation: espresso, milk and syrup, though Vietnamese iced coffee, made with filter coffee, condensed milk and ice has gathered a following, too.

And then there's the booze. Frozen cocktails are appearing on bar menus everywhere. There are frozen margaritas at London's Casa Negra, or Lucha Libre in Liverpool and Manchester. East London bar Coppa is serving a negroni sbagliato, made of Campari slush, sweet vermouth and prosecco. Barnyard restaurant in Fitzrovia serves a vanilla milkshake spiked with bourbon.

Part of the allure, says Barnyard's general manager Charlie Bolton, is the nostalgic appeal that frozen drinks and desserts hold: "They take you back to childhood. Adding booze to them gives grown-ups an excuse, if one is needed, to drink a kids' drink."

At the Parlour Bar near Canary Wharf, you can order "alcoholic slushies" – including a Seaside Slushy, made from rum, poppy liqueur, and passion fruit, as well as something called Cool as a Cactus, a mix of mezcal, agave, lemonade and peach bitters. Rocktails, the packaged frozen cocktails created by two Cardiff University students and featured on Dragons' Den in 2012, are now stocked in supermarkets.

Whatever next? Frozen beer? Yes, actually – a "Frozen Beer Slushie Maker," has just been created by Japanese company Takara Tomy Arts. It adds a "frozen whipped beer topping" to the head of regular beer. A similar ethos has been adopted by the bar and restaurant group Late Night London, which has created the "poptail" – a glass of prosecco garnished with a handmade fruit lolly.

There's no reason these can't be recreated at home. Another new book, Ice Kitchen: 50 Lolly Recipes, includes clementine, white wine and rose-lollies, alongside apricot and pistachio flavours. It has been written by Nadia and Cesar Roden. The former is the daughter of food writer Claudia; Cesar is her nephew. He has a gourmet lolly stall on London's South Bank and on a sunny day, can sell thousands, at £2.50 a pop.

Like boozy milkshakes, part of the appeal is the nostalgia factor: "They bring back happy childhood memories," says Nadia. "Having fun with the flavours and giving them a gourmet twist allows adults to indulge."

Even ice cubes are getting a makeover. In the US, bars sell drinks made with ice cubes made from coconut water and fresh pineapple, or Campari and rosemary. Online, you can find recipes for cucumber and basil cubes, or raspberry puree ones (ideal, according to one blogger, for adding to smoothies).

Even better – they might just be good for you. Sort of. The Atlantic recently profiled Dr Brian Weiner, a gastroenterologist from New Jersey and author of an eBook named The Ice Diet. He argues that since the body burns calories in the process of melting ice, frozen foods are less fattening than regular ones.

Whether or not the theory adds up is open to debate. Still, it does provide a convenient excuse for indulging in an icy treat while the sun's out. As if we needed one.

Cheesecake frozen yoghurt

Extracted from 'Frozen Yoghurt' by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi (Murdoch Books)

To serve 6

10 Digestive-style biscuits
170g cream cheese
250g Greek yoghurt
180g demerara sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
300g berries of your choice

Equipment:

Ice cream maker
Icing bag and nozzle

The night before, place the bowl of the ice cream maker in the freezer.

Finely crush four of the biscuits. Work the cream cheese with a fork to soften. Beat the yoghurt, cream cheese, crushed biscuits, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean paste until smooth.

Transfer to the ice cream maker bowl and churn for 20-25 minutes, depending on the consistency you prefer.

Meanwhile, wash the berries and cut them into pieces, and crumble the remaining biscuits.

Place the piping bag and nozzle in the freezer for a few minutes so that they are well chilled. If the frozen yoghurt has been in the freezer, take it out 10 minutes ahead of time to soften.

Using a spatula, fill the piping bag (nozzle attached) with the yoghurt. Pipe out the frozen yoghurt soft-serve style into six small serving bowls, then top with the crumbled biscuits and the berries. Serve immediately.

Apricot & Pistachio Lollies

Extracted from 'Ice Kitchen: 50 Lolly Recipes' by Cesar and Nadia Roden (Quadrille Publishing)

Makes 8 – 10 lollies

375ml water
130g granulated sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
500g apricots, cut in half and pitted
Half a teaspoon almond extract
35g shelled pistachios, chopped

Put the water, sugar and lemon in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Add the apricots and simmer until they have broken down – about 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Stir in the almond extract and chopped pistachios until well mixed.

Pour the mixture into your ice-lolly moulds, leaving 5mm at the top to allow the mixture to expand when it freezes. Insert the lolly sticks and freeze. Roll the lollies in pistachios before serving.

Variation: You can add 175ml double cream to the apricots after they're cooked, and only use 200ml water.

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