It’s one of those on-off summers again here in mainland Europe. We keep hoping the mercury is going to hit the high spots in a sustainable way, and we have had the odd day when the temperature has topped the 30-degree mark. Then it plunges down 10 degrees again and we’re back inside for supper, instead of enjoying long, balmy evenings on the terrace (and suddenly it’s almost September). Still, we live in hope. And a good warm spell is forecast for this weekend, so hold onto your hats…and consider making this startlingly gorgeous frozen flowery ice bowl (originally featured on Zester), perfect for filling with fresh summer fruit, or sundry scoops of ice cream or sorbet. It takes a bit of time and attention to make, as you have to freeze it in several stages but it’s worth it.
First, select your bowls: you need two, one bigger than the other – the smaller one will sit inside the larger.
The ones I’ve used here are about 8 and 10 inches in diameter (25 cm and 20 cm). If you have two metal bowls, things will go even faster, but this combo of pottery mixing bowl with a smaller metal one works just fine. The point is their difference in size: you’ll be filling the space between the two with water and flowers, and the space must be sufficient to make nice thick ice walls for your ice bowl. Also, make sure you have space in the freezer for your two bowls sitting one inside the other. (Cue to use up all that produce frozen last summer and still lurking in the bottom of the freezer?)
Next go out and pick (or buy) some flowers – from your garden or terrace if you have one, or even wild ones, which give a graceful, homely touch. They shouldn’t be too big (maximum 1 inch across) and with a good mix of colours. Geraniums work beautifully, either the predominantly red and purple pelargonium/window box varieties or the blue or pink perennial ones. Lavender is great, as is the deep egg-yolk yellow St John’s Wort aka Hypericum. A few rose petals won’t go amiss and if you have some lacy lime-green flowers of Alchemilla mollis, throw in a few of those too. Basically any small, colourful flower or petal will do.
Pour about 1.5 inches (4 cm) water in the bottom of the larger bowl and place a few flowers in the water. They will float about a bit, so don’t fret too much about placing them neatly and symmetrically; they will sort themselves out. In any case, this layer will be the base, so the flowers will be barely visible once you’ve filled your ice bowl. Put the bowl in the freezer and leave till frozen hard.
Once the base is frozen, remove the bowl from the freezer and place the smaller bowl on top. It will sit slightly proud of the outer bowl (because it’s perched on the frozen base). Make sure the smaller bowl is centred, and place a can o’beans or something heavy in it so it doesn’t float when you add more water.
Add approximately 1.5 inches (3-4 cm) of water and drop some flowers in between the two bowls, poking them down a bit into the water. Freeze again. Repeat this procedure once or twice more until the water is up to the rim of the outer bowl.
The point about doing this bit by bit is to allow each layer of water/flowers to freeze firmly each time; if you poured it all in at once, the flowers would bob up to the top which would spoil the effect. Once you’ve completed the process, keep the ice bowl in the freezer till needed.
Finally comes the tricky bit – you need to get your creation out from between its two bowls. The first step is to remove the small bowl (after you’ve removed that can of something heavy). Pour some hot water (tap-hot is enough) into the smaller bowl and leave for a matter of moments, just long enough so you can lift it out. Now fill a sink with hot water and lower the big bowl into it. Keep testing till the ice bowl has melted enough that it’s freed itself from the sides of the bowl. Lift it out, place on a napkin-lined tray or plate (so it doesn’t skid about and/or leak).
Now you can fill it with whatever takes your fancy: a mixture of soft summer fruits, or a colourful selection of ice cream and/or sorbet.
It will hold, even at room temperature, for at least as long as takes you to serve the contents. And if it’s still pretty presentable after you’ve used it, you can rinse it out with cold water and re-freeze it for recycling at least once.