Archive for the ‘Puds and sweet things’ Category

I remember gooseberries, or ‘goosegogs’ as my father calls them, from childhood. No matter how badly things were going in the rest of the fruit and veg patch (drought, deer, birds and rabbits being the main culprits) the gooseberry bushes remained resolutely unaffected. They didn’t seem to need any attention and so they got none. Even when the hairy green fruit appeared I don’t think they received anything like the drooling delight that strawberries and raspberries did. I picked them on hot sunny days when the fruit was warm, almost prickly and sickly smelling.

Now I love gooseberry fool and think of gooseberries like damsons, a quintessentially English fruit that seems to have dropped out of favour and so is hard to find in the supermarket. Such a shame as surely they are a great herald of high summer. According to Sybil Kapoor in ‘Simply British’, they are not actually native to Britain but first arrived in England in 1275 when Edward I imported some direct from France for his garden at the Tower of London. By the early eighteenth century we were addicted – gooseberry clubs were set up and the newly formed Horticultural Society of 1826 listed 185 strains in its first catalogue. As other fruits became more available throughout the year, the gooseberry suffered and again, just like the damson, you are more likely to find them now in a country garden (or kitchen) than anywhere else.

I found the berries in our farmers market but if you can’t find them there try frozen or apparently you can get tinned. I halved this recipe and used more yoghurt than cream as that happened to be the situation in my fridge. This recipe is one I made up from several others – the inclusion of lemon rind being entirely my own invention but when tasting it before putting it in the fridge it definitely needed some added sharpness. Apparently elderflower is a common partner and works well too.

Gooseberry fool

Serves 8

800g gooseberries

200g golden caster sugar

500ml double cream

500ml plain yoghurt

zest of one lemon

Put the gooseberries and sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat. Stew for 10 mins, until softened, then let them cool. Whip the cream to very soft peaks and fold in the yoghurt. Fold in three quarters of the cool gooseberries through the cream and add the lemon zest. Spoon the fool in to glasses or little bowls and spoon over the remaining berries and leave in the fridge until needed (this will help them set slightly). Serve with something like (hard) macaroons or biscotti for dunking.


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Our Lebanese greengrocer has had perfect, fragrant little mangos in canary-yellow boxes of six, each mango nestled in bright pink tissue paper in a little card compartment, all the way from Pakistan. I can’t resist them and have been haunting the shop like an addict as deliveries are frustratingly haphazard. I remember reading something by Nigel Slater about how ideally you’d eat mangos naked as the sweet juice always runs down your chin and arms. It’s a wonderful thought as eating is such a sensuous pleasure. For me mangos are a bit like asparagus – something to be savoured just as they are as their season is so brief.

Last week I had a few too many to manage. I’d ripped out this recipe from the Telegraph Stella magazine, by Diana Henry, and gave it a try. It’s very easy, the Greek yoghurt and lime gives the ice cream a bit of sharpness and you have a luscious taste of summer in the freezer whenever you need it. In this batch of recipes was also one for a mango bellini – you make a puree similar to the one above, ie mangoes and lime (and perhaps some sugar if needed), chill till icy then pour into a jug with prosecco and serve. Haven’t tried it but it sounds delicious too.

Mango, lime and cardamom ice cream

Serves 8

Prep time: 20 mins

100g granulated sugar

150ml water

seeds from 10 cardamom pods, crushed

3 large, really ripe mangoes, peeled

juice of 5 limes

200ml double cream

6 tbsp Greek yoghurt

4 tbsp icing sugar, sifted

Heat the sugar and water over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, stirring from time to time. Add the cardamom. Turn up the heat a little and simmer gently for 10 minutes, until syrupy. Take off the heat and leave to cool. Strain to remove the cardamom.

Peel the mango and cut the ‘cheeks’ off each side. Remove the rest of the flesh from the stone using a small sharp knife. Put all the flesh into a food processor. Whizz until you have a smooth puree; there should be about 600ml (1 pint) of it. Add the lime juice and sugar syrup and combine thoroughly.

Whip the cream until it holds its shape then add the puree, stirring as you do so. Add the yoghurt and icing sugar as well. You need to beat well to ensure there are no lumps of cream or yoghurt. [I found there were quite a few lumps and they were quite hard to get rid of]

Pour the mixture into your icecream maker or, if you don’t have one, into a shallow container and place in the coldest part of the freezer for about two hours or until it is beginning to freeze around the edges. Then, using an electric beater, whisk the frozen edges into the middle, replace the lid and return to the freezer for a further two to three hours. Repeat the whole process then freeze again until it is quite frozen.

Before serving, take the ice cream out to soften a bit.

Serves 8

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Clever old Delia. This is so easy, whether you have an ice-cream maker or not. This wasn’t what I served for dinner last night but I made it yesterday in anticipation of Christmas guests, especially those who aren’t that keen on Christmas pud. This recipe is from Delia’s Happy Christmas (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Delias-Happy-Christmas-Delia-Smith/dp/0091933064), her latest book.

Mince pie ice cream

Serves 6

Prep: 15 mins

300ml double cream

4 shop-bought quality mince pies (or home made if you have plenty)

500g Ambrosia Devon Custard (Tetra Pak), refrigerated until cold

Heat the oven to 140C/275F/Gas Mark 1. Firstly, in a medium-sized bowl, whip the double cream until it reaches the floppy stage, but isn’t too thick. Pop it into the fridge to chill.

Place the mince pies on a baking tray and put them in the oven for 10 minutes to freshen then leave them to go completely cold. Now chop the cooled mince pies fairly finely by hand (its not really worth putting them in a food processor) then in a medium sized bowl mix them with the cold custard before folding in the whipped cream.

Now pour the mixture into a pre-frozen ice-cream maker and freeze-churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions (you may have to do this in two batches, and it will take between 30 mins and an hour depending on the capacity of your machine). When the ice cream is soft-set, transfer it to a plastic box and freeze for 2 hours before you serve. If the ice cream is made well in advance and has frozen solid, remove from the freezer for 30 minutes before serving, to soften.

If you don’t have an ice-cream maker you can still make ice-cream. After you have made up your mixture, transfer it to a lidded plastic box and put it in the coldest part of the freezer for 2 hours, or until the contents become firm at the edges. At this stage, empty out the box into a mixing bowl and whisk the ice cream with an electric hand whisk to break down the ice crystals. Return to the plastic box and freeze for another 2 hours, then repeat the whisking process. Refreeze the ice cream until 30 minutes before you want to serve it.


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It might almost be too late for plums now but I had a batch a couple of weeks ago that weren’t ripening and I made them in to this delicious and dead easy pud. If you’re still waiting for yours to ripen you could try this as a way of getting rid of them – and admitting defeat on the ‘ripen in the fruit bowl’ sticker. Mine were snooker-ball hard and they came out juicy and soft. I don’t even like poached fruit type puddings normally but something about this one works – it is fragrant and wonderful. Just make sure you let them cool down from the oven for about 20 mins before serving so they are warm not scalding. This is a recipe from delicious magazine, by Nigella Lawson, and she says they are ‘dreamy with cream, custard or store bought cinnamon ice cream’ but also mentions that pairing them with rice pudding is ‘exceptional’. I went for vanilla ice cream. 

1kg of plums might seem like a lot for 4 people but the leftovers are delicious with a bit of greek yoghurt…

Autumnal spiced plums

Serves 4

Prep: 10 mins Cooking: 45 mins – 1 hour

1kg plums

125ml (1/2 cup) honey

60ml (1/4 cup) maple syrup

1 cinnamon quill, broken in two

2 star anise [I didn’t have any of these but found a Chinese 5 spice powder at the back of the cupboard and put a pinch of that in instead]

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 160C. Choose an oven-proof dish that will fit the plums halved in one layer. Stone the halved plums and put them in the dish, cut side down.

Put all the other ingredients into a saucepan with 375ml (1 1/2 cups) water and bring to the boil. Pour the resulting spicy syrup over the plums and cover tightly with a lid of foil. Place the plums in the oven for 45 mins to 1 hour, by which time the plums should be tender.

Remove the foil and leave to cool slightly. They are best served warm rather than hot. If you wish to cook them in advance, they reheat easily on top of the stove.


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His Holiness Lord Nigel describes these in The Kitchen Diaries as ‘a 24-carat brownie’ and I agree. They are pure, dense, chocolate heaven and totally unadulterated by nuts or other flavourings. One of my earliest memories is of going to visit my mother and newborn sister in hospital and my grandmother and I brought them chocolate brownies. So you see, it’s in our blood. Her’s are made with walnuts and are extremely good but I’ve gone for the classic here. Feel free to add whatever you want. When warm they’re amazing with vanilla ice cream. 

Warning: if you are pregnant, more than one of these will give you palpitations…

Chocolate brownies

Serves: enough for 12

Prep: 25 mins Cooking: 30 mins

300g golden caster sugar

250g butter

250g chocolate (70% cocoa solids – I think it does matter)

3 large eggs, plus 1 extra yolk

60g plain flour

60g good quality cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking powder

You will need a baking tin, about 23 cm square, preferably non-stick, or a small roasting tin. 

Set the oven at 180C/Gas 4. Line the bottom of the baking tin with baking parchment. Put the sugar and butter into the bowl of a food mixer and beat for several minutes, till white and fluffy. You can do this by hand if you have to, but you need to keep going until the mixture is really soft and creamy. 

Meanwhile, break the chocolate into pieces, set 50g of it aside and melt the rest in a bowl suspended over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water. As soon as the chocolate is completely melted, remove it from the heat. Chop the remaining 50g into gravel-sized pieces. 

Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix in a pinch of salt. With the machine running slowly, introduce the beaten egg a little at a time, speeding up between additions. Remove the bowl from the mixer to the work surface and mix in the melted and the chopped chocolate with a large metal spoon. Lastly fold in the flour and cocoa mixture, gently, firmly, without knocking any of the air out. 

Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top and bake for thirty minutes. The top will have risen slightly and the cake will appear slightly softer in the middle than around the edges. Pierce the centre of the cake with a fork; it should come out sticky but not with raw mixture attached to it. If it does, then return the brownie to the oven for three more minutes. It is worth remembering that it will solidify a little on cooling, so if it appears a bit wet, don’t worry. Leave to cool for at least an hour before cutting into squares.

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When I made this last week the sun was shining – now the idea of making ice cream is a lot less appealing: Autumn has definitely arrived. I picked the damsons when I went home a few weeks ago and have frozen what I didn’t need for this recipe in the hope I can make it again later in the season. This delicious ice cream is taken from a recipe in Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarah-Ravens-Garden-Cookbook-Raven/dp/0747588708), a brilliant book full of seasonal recipes and tips on growing that my mother swears by. I copied this out while I was there and faithfully transcribe it here. Ideally you need an ice cream machine for this but I’ve included the instructions on how to make it without as well.

The ice cream is delicious, rich and creamy but with this unique, slightly tart flavour and incredibly gorgeous colour. Damsons, for anyone that doesn’t know, are a very old fashioned English fruit. Apparently they come from the area around Damascus originally and were introduced to England via the Romans. To me they are evocatively old England. You often find them growing outside derelict farms and cottages and their season is now. They are a small, oval shaped, bitter plum, with a yellowy-green flesh and have wonderful blueish purple skin with a soft bloom. When cooked with sugar they become fragrantly sweet and are the essence of autumn. They also make a great chutney apparently but I’ve yet to try it, unlike damson gin, which like sloe gin, is inevitably lethal. 

Damson Ice Cream

Serves: For about 1.5 litres

Prep/Cooking time: Give yourself half a day to get it done with gaps while something cools in the fridge

525g damsons

375ml double cream

5 egg yolks

300g granulated sugar

375ml natural yoghurt

Put the whole damsons into a medium sized saucepan with five tablespoons of water and poach over a gentle heat until the fruit is soft – about 10 mins. Rub through a seive to extract the stones and chill the resulting puree in the fridge. 

Bring the cream to boiling point and pull off the heat while you whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a heatproof bowl until pale. Pour the scalded cream over the egg mix and stir to combine.

At this point you can return the mixture to the (rinsed) saucepan and very carefully thicken the custard over a gentle heat – ideally with a heat diffuser under the pan. Do not allow it to simmer. Alternatively, sit the saucepan in a wide shallow pan containing 4cm of simmering water. For either method, stir the mixture until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. If you’re worried the mixture has overheated, plunge the base of the bowl or pan in very cold water and keep stirring until it loses some heat. Strain the custard into a bowl, cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge.

Combine the custard with the yoghurt and fruit puree and freeze/churn in your machine for 20 minutes or put in a plastic container in the freezer and after an hour or two whisk with a hand mixer and return to the freezer, repeating twice more at intervals of 1 1/2 – 2 hours. 

Remove from the freezer to the fridge about 20 minutes before serving.

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