AUTUMN

AUTUMN

By
Lisa Valmorbida
Contains
14 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781743793367

Gelato, and ice cream generally, has always been seen as a seasonal food in Australia, one that you only really think about when the weather turns warm. After spending time in Italy I don’t see it that way. I remember when I was a kid we went and visited our nonno and nonna, who were staying in Vicenza, a city in Italy’s north-east, near Venice. Nonno was born there and still has family living in the area. It was autumn when we visited them and it was quite cold but they would still take us out to one of the local gelaterias to get gelato. Eating gelato in Italy is just something that you do, no matter what the temperature – it’s a social thing.

Obviously when you make gelato with fresh fruit the flavours change with the seasons. As autumn moves in and the weather turns colder, the melons, berries and stone fruits of summer start to disappear so you turn to other fruit, like citrus – oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruit and so on, apples and kiwi fruit. The colder months are also when things like nuts and chocolate become more popular. When it’s boiling hot in summer, you’re probably more likely to want a glass of water than a rich pistachio gelato but when the temperature drops it seems just about right.

Pistachio was the first flavour I worked on when I returned from the gelato course in Bologna. Jamie and I had committed to opening the temporary store and so I had to start developing recipes. The clock was ticking. Some friends of ours had a restaurant in Windsor called Saigon Sally, which had a space upstairs they weren’t using so I moved in there with my gelato machinery and started working on the gelati we would be selling at our store. Jamie would come to visit me to see how I was coming along and was always like, ‘How come you only have two flavours completed? Are you going to be ready?’ I didn’t know whether we would be but when we opened in early summer I had more than 50 recipes that I’d worked on over autumn and winter.

I had started with pistachio and then hazelnut gelato because they were mostly about finding the right supplier of the nuts. Getting the best ingredients was the most important thing in making those flavours right and from my time at the gelato university I knew that the best pistachio nuts come from Bronte in Sicily, while the hazelnuts I wanted to use come from Piedmont. I prefer to use pastes for these gelati because the machinery they use to grind the nuts really gets the oils out so the texture of the gelato is quite dense and really creamy. When you try to do it yourself from fresh nuts, you just don’t get the same intensity of flavour.

Another ingredient that I love working with in autumn is honey, especially now that we can source it from our own beehives. It’s a good time to use the honey because the bees have been producing it all summer but we have to make sure to leave enough for them to survive on over winter. Again, it’s a seasonal thing. During the seven months we had the temporary store in Faraday Street I noticed that there was a guy in a beekeeping suit who kept coming in and out of the house next door. I asked around and eventually met Nic Dowse, who runs Honey Fingers. He’d installed and was looking after the next-door hives so we started talking and ended up trading honey for gelato. Eventually we had Nic install our own hives on our roof and used the honey whenever it was available and started using honeycomb as a topping for gelato. Nic’s always up on the roof tending to the bees and he’s often in the shop, dressed in his full beekeeping suit, getting some gelato. Last autumn we did a range of gelato under the name Pollination, which was all about the relationship of the bee with the flower. The flavours were rose and honey nougat; lavender, lemon and ricotta; and elderflower and lychee. We’ve also done similar ranges showcasing local cheesemakers and local chocolate makers.

Some of the other flavours I use when the weather turns colder come from my mother’s side of the family, the Lebanese side. My grandfather was from Lebanon and he died when we were young. My grandma wasn’t Lebanese (she’s from Adelaide) but she took on his culture, and their friends used to say that my grandmother was the best at making Lebanese food. She used to have brunch for all the family on Sundays when we were growing up and she would produce these feasts. Some of those flavours – the spices, rosewater, nuts and honey – I use in my gelato. I like it because of the unique flavours but also because it combines the Lebanese and Italian sides of my heritage.

We opened our second permanent Windsor store in autumn. It had taken longer to get finished than the first one so we missed out on the summer opening we had at Pidapipó in Carlton. The weather was still warm but the nights were getting colder and we didn’t know if people would still be wanting to come and eat gelato in a store that they might not have heard of. I needn’t have worried. There have been plenty of nights with people standing outside in their scarves and gloves eating gelato.

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