In Italy, even the flavours of gelato are custom to the whims of fashion. There are a couple of flavours, very common when I was a child in the 1980s, which you very rarely find nowadays, but which for me say still say Italian summer.
The first flavour, which might seem a little odd, even macabre, was Smurf. That’s right. The little blue people that lived in Smurfland. The Smurfs, or I Puffi, were very popular in 1980s Italy and there was merchandise to collect everywhere. I remember that there was a particular brand of cream cheese that used to include Smurf stickers in the packets, and kids would go to school with Smurf rucksacks and exercise books. In Italy, you have to take a special diary to school with you and the summer shops are full of these in the latest designs reminding kids that even though the holidays have just started back to school will come soon enough. I remember wanting the Smurf version which to a ten-year-old was very cool.
Smurf gelato was, as you’d expect, blue and tasted of marzipan. I suspect that it was supposed to have been made of Smurf, but the kids didn’t seem to care and were very happy to consume it. Nowadays I expect it would have carried an advisory: no Smurfs were harmed in the making of this gelato.
The second flavour, and one which I crave to this day, is Malaga. This was made with uva malaga, spanish raisins from the city of that name, and rum. It was incredibly popular and most gelaterie, carried it as one of their stock flavours along with lemon, strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla. Today, however, it’s almost impossible to find. I friend and I went on a gelateria crawl of Florence one hot summer’s day recently and gave up in the end, no malaga gelato to be had that day.
Of course, if you have a gelato machine at home, all is not lost. You can make malaga gelato using the recipe below. Unfortunately it’s really impossible to make authentic style gelato without a machine but you can get them relatively cheaply. A couple of years ago, I invested in a more robust and expensive one which I have always taken as an excuse to eat more gelato. Buon appetito!
What flavours remind you of childhood?
Preparation time: 10 minutes (+ 30 minutes soaking time)
Churning time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
100g (3 1/2 ounces) uva malaga, or sultanas
4 tablespoons rum
4 egg yolks
150g (2/3 cup) sugar
300ml (1 1/4 cups) milk
150ml (2/3 cup) single cream
- Put the sultanas in a bowl and cover with the rum. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or better overnight.
- Put the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk together until the eggs begin to turn pale.
- Add the milk and cream and whisk to combine.
- Put the mixture in a saucepan and heat very, very gently being careful not to bring to the boil. The mixture should just begin to thicken so that it coats the back of a spoon. Leave to cool.
- Freeze the mixture in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This should take about 30 minutes.
- Leaving the gelato in the machine, add the sultanas and remaining rum and continue to churn for about two minutes until combined.
- Transfer the gelato to a plastic container with a lid and then put in the freezer until ready to serve.