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Ice, Ice Baby

Friday, May 01, 2015

Delicious, light, ice-cold and refreshing, a sorbet is the perfect summer treat! Dev Goswami & Sara Shah explain everything you need to know about this icy delight, bring you a few recipes and also tell you where you can get your hands on a sorbet in the city

The history of sorbets
Tracing the history of any type of food is difficult. But, it is particularly hard when it comes to sorbets, thanks to the fact that their origin is intermingled with that of ice cream, which may be similar, but has striking differences — see our box on sorbets vs. ice cream for more about that. The history of ice cream itself includes several half-truths and myths and chronicling the history of the sorbet is no different. Popular beliefs (which most historians consider to be myths) include a story where Roman emperor Nero maintained a line of runners who brought him ice from Italy’s mountains and the story that Catherine de Medici brought sorbets to France when she married the Duke of Orleans (the future King Henri II of France) in 1533. Another story suggests that it was Marco Polo who discovered sorbets in China during his world travels, and brought his love of them back to Europe. However, historians doubt that the merchant traveller ever even visited China.

What is widely known, however, is that by the 17th century, European nobility, especially those in France, England and Italy, were particularly fond of sorbets. Most noble families even had expensive underground ice houses built to store the ice, which was then flavoured and served at dinner parties. Sorbet as we know it today, probably came about thanks to Agnes Berta Marshall, an English culinary entrepreneur, who wrote numerous cookbooks. One of her recipes, Cornets with Cream, is believed to be the first published version of the recipe for an ice cream cone. In fact, her work with ice cream and frozen desserts led to her being labelled the Queen of Ices and she has been honoured on the menu of Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin  3-star restaurant in the UK.

Sorbets are now extremely popular and this simple dish is the mark of a chef’s ability. Don’t get us wrong; many chefs will tell you that making a sorbet is as easy as making an ice cream — and they aren’t wrong. However, achieving the correct consistency and maintaining the balance of flavour that is the mark of the perfect sorbet is difficult. The reason that making a sorbet isn’t taken as seriously is because an average or bad sorbet is also... well, pretty good!

What makes a good sorbet
We aren’t going to be food snobs and tell you how a good sorbet should taste — we’ll let your tastebuds be the best judge of that. However, this guide will help you to understand the culinary process behind creating sorbets in order to help you to make the perfect one. It goes without saying that a sorbet is something that only those who have an experience in the kitchen can attempt. But, wait! It only contains sugar, water and flavour. So, what makes it so difficult to create?

The ratio
This is the Holy Grail of making the perfect sorbet. The ratio of sugar and water will make or break your sorbet — literally! Too little sugar means that your sorbet will not hold, since the sugar is what gives the sweet treat its texture and helps it hold its shape. Dairy fat does the same job for ice cream. On the other hand, if there is too much sugar, the sorbet will resemble a big bar of flavoured ice — of course, you can call it an ice lollipop and salvage the situation!

How much is too much?
Unfortunately, there is no standard measure for too much or too little sugar. The amount of sugar that you will need depends on the fruit that you’re using. You will have to account for the sugar content in the fruit and so, the amount of sugar you use will depend on the sorbet that you’re attempting to make. Having said that, four parts fruit purée to one part sugar is usually a good ratio to aim for — you may not always get the perfect sorbet, but it won’t fall apart.

The fruit
Considering that a sorbet highlights a single flavour, you need to be certain that the fruit you’re using is full of flavour. Always use a seasonal fruit and pick the freshest of the lot in order to ensure the best flavour.     

Fresh flavours
We aren’t talking about fresh fruit any more. We’re talking about the flavour. Sorbets usually taste great, no matter what flavour you pick. And, though we agree (and love chocolate sorbets!), refreshing flavours such as lime, watermelon, raspberry and strawberry lend themselves particularly well to the sweet treat. It’s not a coincidence that tart flavours form a majority of that list — tangy, crushed ice is a simple, but delicious pleasure.

Chefs Speak
“Use fresh fruit juices or fruit pulp to make great sorbets. You can break the sweetness with a pinch of salt. If you don’t have an ice cream churner, don’t worry! Just chill the sorbet mix till it’s almost frozen, then blend it. Freeze this blended slush to prepare your sorbet.”
— Saransh Goila, celebrity chef

“Roasting or grilling fruit can bring out a wonderful, caramelised flavour. So, cook your fruits a before puréeing them for the sorbet. Don’t try to minimise the sugar content in your sorbet. Apart from adding a sweet taste, sugar gives sorbets the perfect consistency and shape, but it’s important to use the right amount of sugar. If your sorbet doesn’t turn out right, let it melt. You can then fix the proportions and churn it again as the base of the sorbet is very forgiving. Melting the sorbet in a small saucepan will allow you to warm it up enough to dissolve extra sugar or preserves, if the finished product was too icy.”
— Ranjit Surve, in-house chef at Pause Wines

“Sorbets are perfect when you’re looking for a light, refreshing way to end a summer meal. The recipe includes common ingredients such as lemon, sugar and ice shavings, and the best sorbets have a very simple approach. However, you can add an interesting twist to them by picking the right flavours and adding in citrus fruit pulps that have a tart flavour. Pay special attention to how ripe the fruit is, as the first rule of making the perfect sorbet is choosing the right type of fruit. You can also add a dash of alcohol, since it gives sorbets a smoother, less grainy texture, ensuring that your sorbet won’t turn into a chunk of fruit-flavoured ice.”
— Sachin Mylavarapu, food & beverage director, The Westin Mumbai Garden City

Sorbet Recipes
Kiwi Sorbet
Recipe by: Ranjit Surve
Ingredients: 10 kiwis, 1 cup water, ¾ cup sugar, 2 tbsps dessert wine (Ranjit prefers Pause Indian Nectar), 1 tsp fresh lemon juice


  • Mix water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil until all the sugar is dissolved.
  • Lower the heat and let it simmer until the water reduces slightly. Turn off the heat, cover it and let it cool down to room temperature.
  • Peel the kiwis and cut each one in half. Use a blender or food processor to purée the fruit until it’s smooth.
  • Combine the kiwi purée with the cooled syrup, a dash of desert wine and lemon juice. Pour into an ice cream maker and blend.
  • Stick it into a freezer and serve after an hour.

Lychee & Rose Sorbet
Recipe by: Saransh Goila
Ingredients: 5 cups lychees (cleaned and deseeded), ½ cup sugar , 1 cup coconut water , 6-7 drops rose water, 1 ½ tbsp rose syrup

  • Blend the lychees and strain them to get a smooth pulp.
  • Make a light sugar syrup by mixing sugar with coconut water and cooking it on a low flame for three minutes.
  • Pour the strained lychee pulp into a large bowl and whisk in the coconut sugar syrup until it is well-mixed, then whisk in rose water, rose syrup and salt.
  • Chill this pulp in the refrigerator until very cold and almost frozen.
  • Blend it with a blender to give it a slushy feel or if you have an ice cream maker, churn this mix in the ice cream maker for 10-15 minutes.
  • Transfer to an airtight container and chill in the freezer for at least four hours before serving.

Mango & Coriander Sorbet
Recipe by: 
Saransh Goila
Ingredients: 4 cups mango pulp, ½ cup sugar, ½ cup water, ½ tsp salt, 2 tsp ginger juice, 2 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp coriander leaves

  • Make sure that the mango pulp is smooth. Strain it if you need to.
  • Make a light sugar syrup by mixing sugar with water and cooking it on a low flame for three to four minutes.
  • Pour the strained pulp into a large bowl and whisk in the sugar syrup until it is mixed well. Whisk in ginger juice, lime juice, coriander and salt.
  • Chill this pulp in refrigerator for two to three hours or until it’s cold. Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker for 10-15 minutes, then transfer it to an airtight container and let it chill in the freezer for at least four hours before serving.

Fun Facts

  • Sorbets were one of the most popular frozen desserts in Renaissance Europe and are believed to have been created by Roman and Persian inventors during the 1st century BC.
  • Sorbets were once an expensive and royal dessert, meant only for nobles in Europe.
  • You may reach for a tub of sorbet in your freezer when you’re hungry, but it’s actually just sugar, water and pulped fruits, so it’s devoid of any nourishment.
  • Sorbets began to be easily available only in the 1920s and 1930s, after modern refrigeration techniques came into existence.
  • Out of all the frozen desserts, sorbets are considered the healthiest, but only when they’re eaten in small amounts. Remember that because they do after all, contain a lot of sugar.

Sorbet vs Ice Cream
Several people use the terms ice cream and sorbets interchangeably, thinking that both of them are the same thing. However, the difference (although subtle), is important and quite apparent in the names itself. Ice cream, as the name suggests, includes cream (milk), while sorbets are made of just two ingredients — sweetened water and a flavour, which is then iced. Remember those roadside vendors that pop up this time of the year offering crushed iced golas? Well, that’s pretty similar to a sorbet. But, while golas tend to have a lot of bite to them, a perfectly made sorbet is unbelievably smooth. Not creamy (that’s ice cream), but smooth.

Sorbets in the city
Wondering where you can try a delicious, refreshing sorbet in Mumbai? We bring you a list.

Vicinia CafÉ Bar
Vicinia has two great options — the lemonade sorbet and the grapefruit sorbet, which are refreshing as well as palate cleansing.
Price Rs 285
Where Vicinia Café Bar, Chinoy Mansion, Opp St. Stephens Church, Near Gangar Opticians, Kemps Corner

Punjab Grill
A fusion of sorts, the Ganne ka ras Margarita at Punjab Grill really has our interest piqued! The sorbet includes a hint of mint, ginger and black salt. We recommend you try it before summer ends!
Price Rs 250
Where Punjab Grill outlets in Andheri (w), Palladium Mall, Vile Parle and Ghatkopar

Cheval Restaurant and Bar
From personal experience, we can tell you that Cheval makes good sorbets. Their blueberry sorbet looks really tempting and comes with a dash of vodka!
Price Rs 195
Where Cheval, Opposite Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda

Masala Library by Jiggs Karla
Do you need another reason to visit Masala Library? If you do, you’ll be treated to a complimentary Mishti Doi Lollipop, which, we can tell you from first-hand experience, will leave you wanting more!
Price Complimentary
Where Masala Library, Ground Floor, First International Financial Centre, G Block, Bandra East, Opposite Sofitel Hotel, Bandra Kurla Complex

If you’re looking for a quick treat to beat the heat, we recommend you walk into one of the Häagen-Dazs outlets where you can choose between a mango and a raspberry sorbet.
Price Rs 210 for a scoop
Where Häagen-Dazs outlets in Bandra, Powai and Lower Parel

Pondicherry CafÉ
The sorbets at Sofitel’s Pondicherry Café may be expensive, but their unique flavours make them sound really tempting. You can expect options such as lemongrass, caramel and berry.
Price Rs 500
Where Sofitel Mumbai BKC, C 57, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (e)

For a seasonal, affordable treat, try Vedge’s mango sorbet. It’s made with fresh mango juice and a dash of pepper.
Price Rs 160
Where Vedge, Fun Republic Mall, Lokhandwala, Andheri (w)

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