Lerato’s Zobo Granita

October is not too early to start planning for Christmas. This is what I say to myself to feel less obsessed with the festive season. It is also the beginning of party season, just ask any wedding planner or event organizer. For whatever reason, from October to January we are busy entertaining and celebrating. Food and drinks are two of the most important components in any celebration. In November I will share recipes for interesting feasts you can recreate at home or at your celebrations but now let’s work with a very simple ingredient that can offer so much more than just a drink.

Hibiscus flower, widely called ‘Zobo’ is a delightful treat you should try. These edible flowers are dried and boiled to create a refreshing ruby-hued drink. Zobo is popular in Northern Nigeria. When I spent a few months in Minna, Niger State earlier in the year, Zobo was at the top of my shopping list. It makes the most refreshing ice tea with lemon, ginger and honey. I also thoroughly enjoy it warm. Once you cook the leaves and extract that wonderfully intriguing juice, hibiscus flowers offer you a world of wonders like my zobo granita. Originally from the island of Sicily, granita is crushed ice made with a mixture of water, sugar and flavouring. It is usually served as a sweet dessert or a palette cleanser between meals with tangy lemon and lime combinations. You can make a granita with any of your favourite fruits as long as you are able to freeze it. My Zobo granita is not only refreshing but so simple to make and a definite crowd pleaser to add to your menu at a big celebration or while entertaining at home. Grab a friend, a partner or the kids and enjoy this together!

For 6 – 8 thirsty throats

Preparation time: 2 to 24 hours

41/2 cups or 1 litre of water
2 tbsp. dried zobo leaves (hibiscus flowers)
2 tsp. grated ginger
Zest of 4 lemons
Juice of 4 lemons
3 table spoons sugar
Mint leaves to garnish

Let’s get cooking! Just kidding. No cooking required here!

1. Wash the dried leaves to remove any sand or unwanted particles. In a large saucepan, add a litre of water, the leaves and grated ginger. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes.

2. Take off the heat, add the lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar as needed. You can replace sugar with your sweetener of choice. Cover the saucepan and leave everything to steep for 30 minutes. By leaving the mixture to steep, more of that wonderful ruby juice will be extracted from the zobo leaves and the same applies to the grated ginger. Now strain the liquid using a sieve or strainer with very fine holes. Do away with the bits of ginger, leaves and zests. Using a spoon, taste the mixture to make sure its your perfect mix.

3. Pour the liquid into a baking dish or several dishes if you haven’t got a big enough dish. Place in the freezer, sitting comfortably. Any leftover mix can be frozen later, enjoyed as a drink or turned into a syrup. Freeze for no less than 2 hours or for 24 hours. Once frozen scrape with a fork to produce your crushed zobo. This can be a lot of fun, just don’t wear white like I did, as you may get stained. You can keep the crushed ice in the freezer until you are ready to serve.

4. When you are ready for your treat, scoop the lovely crushed ice into cups and garnish with mint leaves. Serve immediately!

Make this recipe yours. Add fruits to the zobo mix or use alone. Blend or extract your favourite fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, watermelon etc. Strain the liquid and freeze to make your granita. You can also add alcohol to it but it will not freeze as nicely as a non-alcoholic mix. Share your success with me and other food lovers on social media. My next Zobo recipe will be another wonderful crowd pleaser.
Instagram @lerato_tomato; Twitter @leratotomato; facebook: leraolovesfood

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