It's Sunday again already. Just the family for Sunday lunch today, with the children slathering in anticipation of the treat that they knew was hiding out in the freezer. On Friday they had watched as I squeezed naartjies and excavated their skins. On Saturday as I scooped and packed the frozen sorbet into the shells, they each nominated their chosen fruit and this morning, instead of 'Hurray it's Sunday we can have chocolate after lunch' it was 'Are we going to have those naartjies after lunch today?'
From the high excitement levels you can tell that such a labour intensive and artfully presented dessert is unusual in our house. The only thing that could drive me to such lengths would be my blog! I admit it. Showing off to the world spurs me on me to far greater endeavours than does spoiling my family! The occasion today was this months WTSIM, the theme of which is 'Stuffed fruit and vegetables'. At first I struggled to find inspiration on this subject. As a mother of vegetable-averse children the effort involved in stuffing a vegetable has always seemed excessive and, though I'll happily eat someone else's efforts and appreciate their hard work, I'm far too lazy a cook to spend hours on intricate presentation.
I dived into my favourite book about fruit: Jane Grigson's Fruit Book is not just about recipes, it gives the history and background of each fruit type as well as a plethora of different ways of using it both sweet and savoury. I had a dim memory of a recipe for a citrus sorbet that is served in the fruit shells. It had reminded me of Italy, where good gelaterias always have, somewhere in their display freezers, an assortment of orange and lemon ices attractively packed in their skins. Of course the counter attractions of a sublime tartufo nero (black truffle, so called for its round shape rolled in cocoa powder) ice cream usually won - chocolate beating fresh fruit flavour hands down on the indulgence front.
So with naartjies (pronounced narchee - any sort of tangerine, mandarine or clementine is a naartjie here in South Africa) heaped high in the shops at the moment, I bought an extra bag and set to squeezing and juicing. It wasn't a hard recipe, in fact my six year old reckons she is going to make them next time, but it did leave a large amount of the kitchen and kitchen utensils coated in juice.
I should have photographed them when they were newly packed with sorbet, as the return to the freezer frosted over the skins and set the sorbet hard. I would have had to resort to one of those styling techniques that render the food inedible, such as hairspray or varnish to get the perfect shot and there was no way that a photograph was going to take precedence over the eating. I then moved them from freezer to fridge an hour before eating, so the sorbet was soft enough to excavate without risk of injury.
Jane Grigson calls these mandarines givrées and apparently they were all the rage at dinner parties in the late Seventies.
Recipe for Naartjie Ice
juice of half a lemon
100ml/ 3floz/ ½ cup water
250g/8oz/1 cup sugar
150 ml/5 fl oz/2/3 cup water
juice of ¼ lemon
Make the syrup by heating the three ingredients over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil for 2-3 minutes. Leave to cool.
Grate the zest from half the tangerines or naartjies and squeeze the juice. Cut the remaining tangerines, so they each have a lid. Scoop out the flesh with a small spoon and press out the juice (I used a sieve to do this). The skins must be left in good shape, but as long as they aren't holed you can stuff them back into roundness with the sorbet. You should end up with about 3 cups of juice altogether. Add the grated zest, lemon juice and water, then taste to see if you need any of the icing sugar. If you over sweeten, you can add a bit more lemon juice to sharpen the flavour again. Freeze this in a plastic container. I usually take it out after a couple of hours to beat it with a fork, then freeze again until it is firm.
Scoop all the leftover pulp from the shells so they are clean inside. Chill them and when the sorbet has set quite firm, beat it again and scoop it into each shell, packing it down quite firmly. Replace the lids, wrap the whole fruit in cling film and freeze again until needed.
Our naartjies were large, the size of small oranges, so I only used 10 altogether and got five filled fruit from that quantity. They were generous portions and most of us returned the other half to the freezer for another day. I managed to battle on and finish mine without too much strain though. It was quite delicious and well worth the effort, very cleansing on the palate and left us all feeling like we'd had a really special meal.
I was left fantasising about an elegant dinner, where small clementine or tangerine sorbets would be followed by a bitter chocolate torte and coffee with petit fours...