Twenty ways with gelato
First of all, eat it. Mad if you don't. But now that we've got that out of the way, let's get creative.
The gelato and sorbet you can get these days is of such beautiful quality, it would be a crime to just devour it in a cone on the street.
Next time you succumb to the lure of a good gelateria, buy a tub of the stuff to take home and play with. Here are just 20 ideas of what to do with it. Or you could just eat it.
1: Drink it. To make sparkling lemon gelato cocktails, add a scoop of lemon gelato to chilled ( that's very important, otherwise the sparkling wine will froth up and overflow and the glasses will get all smeary) glasses, and top - carefully, slowly - with chilled sparkling wine. Serve while all frothy and gorgeous and icy cold.
2: Freeze it in fruit. Instead of just serving a scoop of gelato on a fruit dessert, serve beautifully frosty wedges of fruit filled with gelato. To make gelato fruits, cut small oranges or lemons ( or passionfruit, or honeydew melons, you get the idea) in half and scoop out the fruit ( use it for desserts), discarding any seeds or pith, leaving nice clean empty fruit shells. Soften your gelato or sorbet (try matching citrusy flavours, or go wild with berry, mango, ginger and lemongrass, chocolate, lime and coconut, etc) and fill each shell (it helps to sit them within a muffin tray or similar). Smooth the top and re-freeze. To serve, place cut-side down on a board and use a serrated knife to cut into wedges.
3: Spider it. Bring back the "spider", a brilliant summery drink that's very similar to a "float". To make a lime spider, place 2 scoops of lime gelato in a chilled glass, drizzle with 1 tbsp lime cordial, then very carefully top with icy-cold lemonade, it will froth like crazy. Add straws.
4: Frappe it. Make what is essentially a "gelato shake" with fresh summer fruit, fruit-based gelato, and milk. First, peel and chop two peaches or nectarines or similar, and whiz in a blender with 125ml cold milk. Add two scoops of gelato and whiz again until thick. Pour into a chilled glass and serve.
5: Sandwich it. Grab two biscuits - either store-bought chocolate ripples or butternut snaps, or home-made - and sandwich them together with softened gelato. Throw back into the freezer for a couple of hours to set.
6: Pimp it. Mash up your gelato with something that doesn't normally go with it and yet... sort-of should. Serve passionfruit gelato with shards of broken meringue in a deconstructed pavlova, or coffee gelato with spongefinger biscuits and a drizzle of chocolate in a nod to tira misu, or green tea gelato with red beans and coconut and those mad little jellies you can get in Chinatown.
7: Baconise it. Dabble in a little dude food by crisping up some cafe bacon and crumbling it over your gelato ( but choose the right flavour first, like peanut butter, or salted caramel). Maybe dip it in maple syrup first, to get the bacon to stick.
8: Crumb it. Break up and crush your favourite biscuit - try Butternut Snap, Chocolate Ripple, or Italian amaretti biscuits - and scatter in an even layer on a tray. Slightly soften a block of gelato and quickly coat it on all sides (except the base), then re-freeze until firm. Cut into thick slabs to serve.
9: Brunch it. Serve coffee gelato at a weekend brunch. Soften it, smash it into cute coffee cups and re-freeze for 30 minutes or until firm. Dust with instant coffee granules or bitter cocoa powder and serve with saucer and spoon. Or choose a light and healthy fruit-based sorbetto, divide amongst small ramekins and re-freeze until set, then top with a tablespoonful of crunchy granola, nuts and seeds.
10: Freshen it. Add fresh passionfruit juice to passionfruit gelato, strawberries to vanilla ice-cream, and serve lime wedges for squeezing over coconut gelato.
11: Bombe it. Make an Italian meringue, slather it over the top, and blowtorch it into golden little peaks.
12: Make it. If you find yourself nowhere near a gelataria, or without sufficient funds, then making your own ice-cream, sorbet, gelato and granita will make sure you are socially secure.
If you already have an ice-cream maker, then pull it out of the back of the guest bedroom cupboard now and set it up in the kitchen for the duration of summer. If not, all you need to do is stir the freezing mixture well several times, breaking up the ice crystals as they form.
But first, make up a simple sugar syrup as your base - bring 300g caster sugar and 500 ml water to the boil, stirring, then boil for a further 3 minutes, and allow to cool - then go for it.
Recipe one: For a rich and beautiful ice-cream, whisk 250g mascarpone with 300ml sugar syrup, 1 tbsp liqueur and 1 tbsp lemon or orange juice and churn in an ice-cream maker until frozen, or freeze in a shallow container and stir to break up the crystals every hour for 3 hours. Store in the freezer, and serve with fresh strawberries and mint.
13: See above (Recipe two): For a pretty, pastel sorbet, whiz 500g honeydew melon or rockmelon to a puree, then whisk in 500ml sugar syrup and churn in an ice-cream maker until frozen, or freeze in a shallow container and stir to break up the crystals every hour for 3 hours. Store in the freezer, and serve with fresh slices of melon.
14: See above (Recipe three): To make a summery, refreshing coconut granita, whisk 150 ml sugar syrup with 400 ml coconut milk and 1 tbsp lime juice. Freeze for two hours, or until partly frozen. Break up the crystals by scraping the surface with a strong fork, and refreeze. Repeat in 1 hour, then leave in the freezer until ready to eat. Serve with fresh mango cheeks.
15: See above (Recipe four): To make a super-fresh watermelon granita, cut 1kg seedless watermelon into chunks , put in freezer bags and freeze for 1 to 2 hours until frozen. Whiz in a food processor until smooth. Pour into an airtight plastic container and freeze for 3 to 4 hours or until firm. Using a strong fork, scrape into frozen crystals, pile into chilled glasses and serve.
16: Stonerise it. Take your favourite munchies (Caramello Koalas, Cherry Ripes, musk sticks, jelly snakes, Violet Crumbles), crunch 'em up, and layer them with scoops of gelato in big round glasses. Drizzle with chocolate or caramel sauce, add a glace cherry and serve.
17: Stick it. Fill plastic icy-pole mould trays with your favourite fruit-based gelati flavours and re-freeze. Or replace the plastic stick with a trimmed-down stalk of lemongrass (thick end in the ice) for fun.
18: Affogato it. Make your own affogato at home - just remember the coffee must be very hot, the gelato very cold, and the whole thing done at the table for the greatest effect. To make, drop scoops of gelato into four chilled heatproof glasses. Arrange on four dinner plates, alongside a shotglass of your favourite liqueur (eg Frangelico, Nocello, Cognac) and, at the last minute, a small espresso cup of hot espresso coffee. At the table, each person pours the coffee then the liqueur over the gelato and digs in.
19: Stack it. Buy a packet of sweet wafer biscuits and stack scoops of gelato, each story separated by a wafer or two, as high as you dare.
20: Chocolate-coat it. Buy your gelato in small tubs, then when you're ready to serve all you have to do is turn out each gelato onto a dessert plate, and pour some cooled, melted chocolate or white chocolate over the top.