Granita is the quintessential Italian summer dessert, made of fine frozen crystals of strong coffee or fruit juice. While granita di caffe is possibly the most popular way to enjoy this iced treat – at least in Italy and in posh Italian restaurants on this side of the world – I can think of nothing better than whiling away a sultry afternoon with a fruit ice in hand, watching the world drift by. And at home, how blissful to sit, contented after a meal of simply prepared vegetables and pasta, and let the sparkling shards of this homemade watermelon granita melt gently between tongue and palate. Heavenly.
In my Food To Glow version of this classic, classy and simple dessert, I am using ripest unseeded watermelon, a good bit of complementing and mouth-puckering lime, and possibly very strangely to most readers, chia seeds.
I added the chia seeds to make this dessert easier on the blood sugar and up the satiety, but it offers an unexpected bonus – no interminable scraping. The hallmark of a proper granita is the fine-grained crystals achieved by scraping the fruity mixture (or coffee, or alcohol) as it sets – as many as 12 times is recommended (by Marcella Hazan, in her most wonderful book, The Classic Italian Cookbook).
Well, I am far too lazy for that. And forgetful. So it was a happy discovery to find that – through neglect of my first go at this granita – one scraping gave the crunchy, near-dangerous crystals that makes a good granita (they melt rapidly – no one is going to get hurt eating granita!). The gelling properties of the chia seed seem to keep the juice from setting completely hard, but still setting and easily forked to serve as a ‘properly made’ (i.e. painstakingly attended-to) granita.
The chia contributes no discernible taste, and you can certainly leave it out and carry on with your scraping (or blitzing broken up chunks in a food processor or blender, which may warm it slightly), but I won’t be leaving out these minuscule protein bombs. And I won’t be scraping. I will be sitting on my back step, in Edinburgh’s weak summer sunshine, pretending that Marcello Mastroianni has just strolled past, cigarette in hand, and tipped his hat to me.
Watermelon & Lime Granita with Chia Seeds
Desserts don’t get easier, more classy or more nutritious than this.
600g (22.5 oz; 4 heaped cups) chopped, ripe watermelon
4 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp acacia honey or other desired sweetener – if needed
2 tbsp chia seeds
Blitz everything in a blender or food processor and pour into a shallow metal tin or a loaf tin. Cover the tin with cling film and freeze for 1 hour. Stir vigorously – really scraping the more solid bits from the side of the tin – and return to the freezer. When you are ready to eat the granita, pull a fork through the ice and serve in beautiful glasses. You deserve beautiful glasses.
The granita will keep for up to two weeks – should there be the need. Just scrape with a fork and serve. A wonderfully refreshing and healthy #TasteofSummer.
Note: add 1-2 tbsp of vodka, white rum or tequila for a very adult dessert, leaving out the chia seeds in this instance.