“Let’s make a gin and tonic sorbet”, my friend Sophie, who’s from Wales, said one extremely warm evening. ”And why don’t we try making an ouzo granita, darling?” I countered, sticking up for our national drink.
And so the fierce World Cup rivalry and national fanaticism transferred themselves to my kitchen with an armoury of two national drinks from Greece and Britain – the goal was to win the title of the coolest sorbet; the pitch was the inside of my freezer! It might seem strange that the national British drink should be gin and tonic rather than whisky, however the reality is that the British people drink far more gin than whisky – the Greeks drink much more whisky than the British…an amount nearly double of the consumption of ouzo! Weird…
The only problem in our battle for the most refreshing and delicious sorbet was that although we already had a recipe for the gin and tonic sorbet, we would have to make one up ourselves for the ouzo granita….a little like saying I would go on the pitch without training and with Rehhagel on holiday! I had never forgotten, however, an ouzo granita made by a Belgian chef, that I’d tried years before while working in Amsterdam as head of a main brand of ouzo. All the Greeks and non-Greeks that tried it found it a revelation – a wonderfully well-balanced flavour perfect to serve between dinner courses as the perfect palate-cleanser between different dishes.
The outcome of this noble battle of sorbets, with national flags proudly held high, was that we did come up with a recipe for ouzo. Well, who won, might one ask. It was far too close to call…I will leave it up to your own judgement – make both of them and decide for yourself. In any case, the preparation is extremely simple. If Paul, the World Cup octopus was the judge, however, I have a feeling he would have gone for the ouzo just because they have a special relationship (unless, of course, he was scared of ending up on the barbeque as a side dish).
As a dessert, the two could easily be served together, one ball of each. After all, ouzo and gin are both spirits that are flavoured from some of the same seeds and plants. I reckon that makes them distant cousins with Indian roots.
Ouzo granita vs. Gin ‘n Tonic sorbet
Ingredients for ouzo granita (for 8 people)
400 ml. water
125 ml. good aromatic ouzo
100 g. sugar
3 star anise
Ingredients for gin and tonic sorbet (for 8 people)
50 ml. water
125 ml. good full-bodied gin
250 ml. tonic water
100 g sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Preparation: The only difference between the preparation of both recipes is at the beginning. For the gin and tonic sorbet, heat the water and add the sugar, stirring until the sugar has melted. However for the ouzo granita, boil the water with the star anise for 3 minutes, then remove the stars and melt the sugar in the water. From now on the procedure is the same.
Add the remaining ingredients into the sorbet/granita and stir. Pour the mixture into a container with a tight-fitting lid, such as a Tupperware box, and put into the freezer. After 2 hours take it out, whisk for 2-3 minutes to break up the ice crystals, and put back in the freezer. Repeat once or twice more (depending on your freezer’s temperature) every hour. Before serving, you will need to give it one last mix with a fork to break up the ice and give a snowy consistency.
Note: If you have an ice cream maker, you can short cut the process and follow the instructions of your appliance.