I can’t believe how hot it is. I swear I’m melting away. I know England cries out for hot weather but seriously this is just too much. I feel like I’ve been locked in a sauna. People may pray for the sun but in my opinion, hot weather is so overrated – and that’s coming from a summer baby! Beach babes are able to look effortlessly hot as the temperature soars, and I’m no different. I’m able to look like a hot, sweaty mess with no effort at all!
So in this heat, it’s no wonder my thoughts have turned to keeping super cool. For me it’s cold drinks – and I’m knocking them back like there’s no tomorrow. And cold drinks mean ice, which right now is a necessity. The summer season means parties, weddings, barbeques etc where ice and drinks will go hand in hand. But the problem with ice cubes is that they can be pretty boring to look out and as great as they are at keeping your drinks cool, they’re also great at watering them down (which is only OK if you’re drinking water!) I did a post a while back about creating an ice-bucket – made from ice. It proved to be very popular and inspired this post about livening up the humble ice-cube in terms of appearance (presentation is important, you know!) and taste!
1. GOT TO BE HOT TO BE COOL!
Everyone knows that if you freeze cold water, you get cloudy ice. But freeze boiling water and you get crystal-clear ice. And that’s really important if you’re going to add other ingredients to your ice cubes.
2. THE HERB GARDEN
Add washed sprigs or leaves to the water before freezing. Mint ice-cubes are great in iced-tea (Mr. D’s fave) or fruit punch; rosemary or thyme are perfect with home-made lemonade; basil works well with gin, vodka or rum based cocktails, and lemongrass ice-cubes in pineapple or apple juice – WOW!
3. CITRUS FRESH
Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges are a very obvious choice as slices are often served with cold beverages. But you could also try experimenting with pieces of grapefruit, pomelo, blood or ruby orange. These will work with still or sparkling water; as well as a variety of sodas, cocktails and juices.
4. BERRY NICE
If you want pretty as a picture ice-cubes, berries are the way to go. They give a fantastic burst of colour and a fruity flavour to drinks. Raspberries, blueberries, redcurrants, blackberries etc. could go in whole, although strawberries would probably have to be sliced. They would be perfect with iced tea, lemonade, sodas, berry, cherry, pomegranate or cranberry cocktails or juices, and raspberry would also work well with orange or peach juices.
5. TROPICAL PARADISE
Try pieces of pineapple, kiwi fruit, lychee or dragon fruit for a touch of the exotic. These would be a welcome addition to coconut water, a multitude of cocktails and tropical fruit juices.
6. SALAD DAYS
Cucumber, celery, red, yellow and green peppers might be more at home in a salad bowl but these can be really refreshing served with still or sparkling water or in a Pimm’s (my absolute fave – summer just isn’t summer without it!)
7. EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES
Add some washed, fresh rose petals to water before freezing. I adore the delicate flavouring and aroma of rose as an addition to food and drinks, and it is amazing with pomegranate, raspberry and other berry based drinks.
8. IF THE SUMMER HEAT ISN’T ENOUGH…
… then try adding cut pieces of chilli to your ice cubes. This will give a light heat to drinks and complements citrus, pineapple, papaya and mango based drinks. Just remove some of the seeds in order to reduce the level of spiciness.
9. GLITTERING COLOURS
Add some edible glitter for sparkle or food colouring for a marbled effect. These obviously won’t do anything in terms of flavour but they will make the ice-cubes in your drink look so pretty, so it might be good for those who want to keep the taste of their drinks pure.
10. DITCH THE H20
Who says that ice-cubes can only made with water. It can be annoying when ice-cubes water down our drinks. So freeze cola for cola-flavoured ice-cubes; pineapple juice for pineapple-flavoured cubes; iced tea for iced tea cubes… you see where I’m going with this.
And of course you can combine any of the above and freeze them in water if you really want to be creative with your cubes. Try rose with raspberry; pineapple with lemongrass and ginger; cucumber with mint… the possibilities are endless!
Let’s hope the only thing that melts in the heat wave is the ice in your drinks! Stay cool.
Another one of our guilty viewing pleasures is The Great British Baking Off – I suppose you could say that Mr. D and I are huge fans of any kind of culinary competition. During the first episode which focused on scrummy cakes, I was particularly fascinated by the grapefruit cake whipped up by contestant, Beca. I’m a huge fan of cakes made using lemon, orange, or lime but it never occurred to me that I could use grapefruit – which just happens to be one of my favourite citrus fruits. So here’s Beca’s recipe for her grapefruit cake. I love mascarpone and any kind of fruit curd so I’m going to have a go at making it myself but somehow I doubt it’ll be as great as Beca’s!
- For the grapefruit curd
- For the candied grapefruit peel
- For the cake
- For the grapefruit sugar syrup
- For the mascarpone cream
- For the grapefruit curd, place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Melt the butter in the bowl before adding all the other ingredients and whisk with an electric hand-held mixer until thickened. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to set further. (You will make more grapefruit curd than you need for the cake. Refrigerate the rest and eat within a week.)
- For the candied grapefruit peel, peel the grapefruit and cut the peel to the desired length and width. Place in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Boil for 10-15 seconds and then drain the peel. Return the peel to the same saucepan and add the sugar with 75ml/2½fl oz of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the liquid is syrupy. Drain the peel and coat in more caster sugar before leaving to cool and dry on a wire rack.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160C(fan)/Gas 4. Grease and line 2 x 20cm/8in sandwich tins.
- For the cake, mix all the ingredients together in an electric mixer. Divide the mixture equally between the two tins and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool in the tins for five minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
- Meanwhile, for the grapefruit sugar syrup, place the grapefruit juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for around five minutes, or until the syrup begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
- While the cakes are still warm, pierce the surface with a cocktail stick all over. Drizzle the syrup evenly over both cakes. Allow to cool completely.
- For the mascarpone cream, whisk the ingredients together until thick and airy, but not too stiff.
- To decorate the cake, place the bottom layer of the cake onto a serving plate.
- Transfer a quarter of the mascarpone cream into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm/½in plain nozzle, and set aside. Then spread on half of the remaining mascarpone cream onto the cake. Spoon over a generous amount of the grapefruit curd – some curd may spill over the edges but don’t worry about this.
- Place the other cake on top and spread the remaining cream on top of the cake, smoothing it all over so that it is evenly distributed.
- Using the piping bag, pipe balls of icing around the edges and centre of the cake. Place a few strips of the candied peel on each ball of icing. Serve straight away, or refrigerate until ready to be devoured.