Freezing at this time of year? Well, you never can predict our weather. But seriously, if ever there's a time when your freezer should come into its own, this is it. First, you'll probably have to carry out an audit of what you've got in there. In summer, when there's so much lovely ripe fruit and veg around, and less call for meaty, slow-cooked stews and so on, you don't need to keep the freezer as full as you do in winter. So, you should be able to find space in there for some cool food, and I'm not talking about stuff that needs defrosting before you eat it.
Melon water ice
It's important to use a good, ripe melon for this. Any variety will do but taste is the essence. A bland, watery melon will produce a very watery, nondescript ice. You can have this in small glasses as a refresher course, as a starter - with each guest given theirs in half a small melon, such as an Ogen or Charentais - or, of course, as dessert. You can also put the finished ice back into the scooped-out shell of a watermelon and serve it from there.
125g granulated sugar
500-700g good quality ripe melon, peeled and seeded
1 egg white
Put the sugar and water in a pan and simmer on a medium heat, stirring every so often for 5 minutes. Leave to cool. Meanwhile blend the melon to a smooth purée in a liquidiser.
Once the sugar syrup is cool, mix it with the melon and place in a container in the freezer for 3-4 hours or until it begins to freeze. Whisk the egg white until stiff with an electric mixer, or by hand. Stir the melon mixture and beat it into the egg white until you have a creamy, frothy foam.
If you want to serve it from a scooped-out melon shell, put the ice in it now. Place back in the freezer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Frozen yoghurt lemon meringue
Makes about 500ml
If you have an ice cream machine at home, it's good fun turning pudding into an ice cream. I don't mean throwing in any old leftover desserts, but you can certainly use elements of them very easily. For example, crumble chocolate brownies into an ice cream base. Yoghurt and crème fraîche make excellent ice cream, although you still need some cream in there or the texture won't be so good.
200ml double cream
500g caster sugar
50g glucose (optional)
Grated zest of 2 lemons
625g natural yoghurt
350g lemon curd, softened
In a saucepan, bring the milk, cream, sugar, glucose and lemon zest to the boil. Remove from the heat, leave to cool and whisk in the yoghurt, or blend in with a hand blender. Churn in an ice cream machine and when it's almost set, pour or spoon in the lemon curd to give a rippled effect. To serve, scoop the ice cream into serving dishes and break the meringue over them.
Iced praline balls
These were served as a little after-coffee treat when I worked at the Grosvenor House in Park Lane 20-odd years ago. Delicious as they were, they had the danger element of having to be served on crushed dry ice.
The dry ice arrived as a lump and, as young commis chefs, we had to hold it with double-layered kitchen cloths and hack bits off with a meat cleaver to serve under the praline balls for that theatrical misty effect as they arrived at the table. It's a good job everyone didn't order them at the same time, or it would have been like the Park Lane house of horrors.
You could make your own hazelnut ice cream for this by adding praline, basically a caramel made from hazelnuts, to vanilla ice cream. But as these chilly little treats are fiddly enough to make, I bought some ice cream instead.
350-400g good quality hazelnut or any ice cream you like
250g good quality 70 per cent chocolate, chopped into chunks
40g lightly toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
15-20 cocktail sticks or fancy skewers
Put a flat tray in your freezer until it's icy cold. This is so the scooped balls of ice cream don't melt when you put them on the tray. With your Parisienne scoop, make ice cream balls about the size of a cherry, or a little larger if you like, and place them on the pre-chilled tray, then put them in the freezer for at least an hour until they are really firm. Put another tray, or two smaller ones, into the freezer to chill at the same time.
Meanwhile melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring every so often. When it has fully melted, stir in the chopped hazelnuts and remove from the heat.
Take out the frozen trays. Working as quickly as you can, put a stick into each ice cream ball and dip them one by one into the chocolate (or spoon it over if that's easier) turning the stick to let any excess chocolate drip into the bowl.
Put your miniature nutty choc ices on the frozen tray, then back into the freezer in groups, depending on how quick you are, before they melt. Eat straight out of the freezer.
Gazpacho with cucumber sorbet
My friend Emma raved about this after eating it in a restaurant in Madrid. I thought it sounded great and stuck it on the menu at Le Caprice. Gazpacho is fairly ubiquitous but this makes it something special. The sorbet can be made a day or two in advance for a dinner party, and the soup itself takes no time at all.
for the gazpacho
200ml tomato juice
4 large ripe plum or round tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 red peppers, halved, seeded, stalks removed and roughly chopped
Half a small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
Half a cucumber
1 small clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2tsp cumin seeds
A good pinch of sweet paprika
1 slice of white bread, crusts removed
40ml olive oil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
for the cucumber sorbet
100ml olive oil
1tbsp caster sugar
350ml vegetable stock
12 small Greek cucumbers, or 3 normal ones
15g mint leaves
Salt and pepper
No more than a couple of days before you want to eat the soup, make the sorbet. Split the cucumbers lengthways and scrape out the seeds with a spoon, then roughly chop the flesh. Blend the cucumber with the vegetable stock, olive oil, sugar and the mint leaves until it's the consistency you like - chunky or smooth. Season to taste and churn in an ice cream machine. Leave in the freezer until you're ready to eat the soup.
The day before you'll be eating, put all the ingredients for the soup into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge. This helps the flavours merge. Liquidise in a blender until smooth and strain through a fine-meshed sieve for a smooth version, or leave as it is for a more robust soup. Chill for an hour or so.
If you like, the soup can be served with hot croutons as well as the cucumber sorbet. Fry 1cm cubes of white bread (crusts removed) in olive oil until they begin to colour, then add a clove of peeled and crushed garlic and continue frying the croutons until golden. Transfer on to kitchen paper and season with a little salt and pepper.
Serve the gazpacho in chilled soup bowls with a scoop of sorbet in the middle and, if you've made them, the warm croutons scattered on top .Reuse content