Some of the best ingredients turn up when you least expect them. A couple of weeks ago we were up in London, gorging on amazing pulled pork and smoked onglet at Pittcue. We took a slow amble back to Waterloo via ice cream parlour extraordinaire Gelupo, and there, beside the metal canisters full of frozen loveliness, was a small box of fresh bergamots.
I reacted in the same way a more normal person would, had they come face to face with their favourite celebrity. “Oh my god Justin, bergamots – BERGAMOTS!!”. Justin looked on, bemused, as I started filling a paper bag with shaky hands. He probably assumed I’d just had one too many Kernel IPAs earlier in the evening, but not so.
There are certain ingredients that you only seem to come across when you’re on holiday, while others you only read about and have to imagine the flavour. Falling into that first category for me is Italian agretti, Malaysian buah keluak nuts and the flexible rice paper used to wrap banh xeo in Vietnam (oh how you continue to elude me!). Bergamots fall into the second category. While I know the flavour from countless cups of earl grey, I’d never seen the whole fruit in the flesh before and it wasn’t an opportunity I was about to pass by.
Examining the fruit at home, it can best be described as having the shape of an orange with the skin of a lemon. The zest is very bitter and aromatic – you can really make the connection with earl grey – while the juice is fantastically sour. I don’t have many to play with, so I have to make them count. I make half of them into a sorbet, hoping to recreate Gelupo’s version consumed that night. The rest I make into a liqueur, with the thought that it will make my small bounty last as long as possible. I base the liqueur on my Mum’s recipe for limoncello and ‘Bergamello’ is born.
A couple of weeks on, my bergamello smells rather like aftershave and has quite a bitter kick from all the zest that I added. Time to strain out the bits and balance it with a little more sugar. As it’s early days, the vodka still tastes quite hot, so it will be a little while yet before I can finalise and post the recipe, but it shows promise.
To be continued!