Blackcurrant Ripple Parfait

Blackcurrants are back! I love them. Just the smell of them transports me back to a child, on holiday in the South of France, eating my favourite sorbet – Cassis. Unbeatable, except maybe by this Blackcurrant Ripple Parfait. The intense, sharp and slightly sherbety flavour of blackcurrants combines beautifully with the creamy custard. And best of all, you don’t need an ice-cream maker to make it. Serve it in slices as a posh dessert or scoop in into cones for the kids.

Blackcurrant Ripple Parfait

Serves six.

3 large egg yolks

105g caster sugar

125ml water

300ml double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

350g blackcurrants

Put the egg yolks into the bowl of a mixer and attach the whisk attachment; or pop them into a mixing bowl and have a hand mixer at the ready.

Put 80g of the sugar and the water in a small pan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and boil, without stirring, until it thickens and turns slightly syrupy, or until a sugar thermometer reads 110C. Switch on your mixer and start whisking the egg yolks. Slowly pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over the yolks, whisking continuously. Beat for about four minutes, until the mixture is thick, pale, glossy and cool – it should leave a ribbon trail in the bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the cream and vanilla to soft peaks and fold into the egg and sugar mixture. Pour this into a lidded plastic container and freeze for about two and a half hours.

While the parfait is freezing, put the blackcurrants in a saucepan, along with a dribble of water to get them started, and the remaining sugar. Stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes, until the blackcurrants are soft and the juices have run. Rub through a non-metallic sieve into a bowl, then chill.

When the parfait is chilled enough to hold its shape but soft enough to work a little, roughen the surface with a spoon and make several channels, grooves and holes in it. Into these, trickle little pools of the blackcurrant purée. Cut the mixture a bit to spread the ripples around, but don’t overdo it or they’ll get too mixed up with the parfait and you’ll lose your pretty contrasts. Smooth over the top and freeze again for another three hours, until solid. Allow to soften for about 15 minutes before serving in scoops or slices.

Raspberry and Almond Tart

You know Summer is here when the raspberries start and there is no better recipe than this one for using them up. This is a sort of Bakewell Tart but instead of adding jam, the fresh raspberries, sealed by the frangipane, cook themselves. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche and you have the most perfect summer pudding I can think of.

Raspberry and Almond Tart

Pastry

175g plain flour

80g butter

1 egg

Frangipane

175g butter

175g sugar

175g ground almonds

1 tbsp. plain flour

2 eggs

Amaretto (optional)

400g fresh raspberries

Put the flour and butter for the pastry, and salt if using, in a food processor. Mix until you have breadcrumbs. Add the egg and just mix enough for the pastry to come together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.  In the same food processor put the butter, ground almonds and sugar. Whiz until you have a smooth mixture. Add the eggs and Amaretto if using and mix again. Next add the flour. Mix briefly one more time. Preheat the oven to 170C.  Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin. Use a small piece f pastry dipped in flour to really push the pastry into the edges of the tin to avoid it shrinking. Get a round piece of grease proof paper and carefully cover the pasty with it. Folding it down over the top edge. Blind bake for about 15 minutes or until the pasty is very light golden brown. If it rises at all during cooking, push it firmly down. Tip the raspberries into the tin and spread across the bottom. Top with the frangipane mixture, trying to cover all the raspberries. Bake for 30–40 minutes until risen and golden brown. Serve warm with crème fraiche.

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Strawberry Ice-cream

I love this time of year with all the summer fruits. When it comes to strawberries it is difficult to beat strawberries and cream. Only one thing is better on a hot summers day – strawberry ice-cream!

Strawberry Ice-cream

Serves: 10-12

700 grams strawberries

175 grams caster sugar (plus 2 tablespoons)

500 millilitres full fat milk

500 millilitres double cream

1 tbsp. vanilla bean paste

10 large egg yolks

Hull and roughly chop the strawberries, put them into a bowl and sprinkle over the 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and leave them to steep and infuse with flavour.

Pour the milk and cream into a heavy-based saucepan, and add the vanilla. Bring the pan nearly to the boil and then take it off the heat.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk the egg yolks and the 175g / ¾ cup sugar until thick and pale yellow. Pour over the scalding milk, whisking the while. Pour straight back into the pan and return to a medium/low heat. By keeping everything hot at this stage reduces the cooking time. Stir the custard until it thickens. This should only take a few minutes if you take care. Make sure you keep the mixture moving constantly at the bottom where is comes into direct contact with the heat. When you see a very subtle slightly oily, darker yellow separation in the mixture. Immediately pour into another container to cool.

Puree the strawberries in a processor, and when the custard is cool fold in the  strawberry puree.

At this point you can either freeze the ice cream in an ice-cream maker, or in a plastic tub in the freezer. If you do the latter you should whip it out every hour for 3 hours as it freezes and give it a good beating, either with an electric whisk, by hand or in the processor. That gets rid of any ice crystals that form and that make the ice cream crunchy rather than smooth.

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Apricot Tarte Tatin

Another super easy recipe for summer fruits. As everyone know, who knows this blog, I am not one to give a day over to making my own puff-pastry. I spent too many hot summers in boiling hot restaurant kitchens trying to do my umpteenth fold, butter melting and no matter how much flour I used, puff pastry sticking to warm stainless-steel counters, to undertake that again in a hurry.

Now a days I am all for “Ready Rolled All Butter Puff” and you can knock this whole, delicious desert up in about ¾ of an hour.

Apricot Tarte Tatin

75g/2¾oz caster sugar

40g/1½oz unsalted butter, cubed

10 fresh apricots, halved and stoned

375g/13oz sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry

Crème fraiche or ice cream, for serving

For caramelising the apricots, you need a large ovenproof frying pan with a base that measures about 20cm/8in in diameter. Put the sugar in the pan and set it over a medium heat. Cook until the sugar first melts and then caramelises and turns golden brown. Try not to stir the sugar but swirl it around the pan every now and then. When you get to a deep golden caramel, add the butter and

stir in the butter with a wooden spoon. The caramel will be extremely hot so watch out for splashes. When the caramel is smooth, carefully arrange the apricots on top, cut-side up. Leave to cool for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Unroll the puff pastry sheet Place a dinner plate or 25cm/10in cake tin on the pastry and cut around it. Gently place the pastry on top of the apricots and tuck down the sides with your fingers.

Bake the tarte tatin for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is well risen and golden-brown. Remove the pan from the oven using an oven cloth to hold the handle of the pan – don’t forget – it will be very hot. Leave the tart to stand for a couple of minutes to allow it to settle, then loosen the edges and place a large serving plate or board on top of the frying pan. Very carefully, but quickly, turn it over, using a folded dry tea towel to help you hold it, and allow the tarte tatin to drop gently on to the serving plate.

Serve warm with crème fraiche or ice cream.

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Baked Blueberry and Vanilla Cheesecake

I like to have one or two definitive recipes for each seasonal fruit. Ones that I know will always work and when the season for that fruit comes around again I get excited and start salivating about making again. But up until now, I have never had one such recipe for blueberries. So, I set about rectifying the situation and the first thing that sprang to mind was Blueberry Cheesecake.

I am always a little apprehensive about making cheesecake. I think I have just had so many horrid ones, over sweet, gelatinous and gloopy! When I was a kid in the 70’s I even remember making one from a packet which was pretty disgusting. But then I went to New York and I will never forget the wondrous baked cheesecakes, topped with sour cream. Slightly grainy at the edges, totally wobbling creaminess in the middle. Mind-blowing. So, I was a little nervous of trying to recreate what I had reminisced. I scoured through hundreds of recipes to find one that sounded right, and never imagined that the first one I tried was going to turn out such perfection.

Baked Blueberry and Vanilla Cheesecake

150g digestive biscuits, smashed

20g caster sugar

70g butter, melted

Filling

800g Philadelphia cream cheese

150g creme fraiche

190g caster sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste, or essence

4 eggs

30g flour

50ml milk

200g blueberries

100g creme fraiche

200g blueberries to decorate

Preheat oven to 170 C / Gas mark 4. Lightly oil a 25cm cake tin. I lined mine with grease-proof as I was frightened that otherwise it would leak.

Mix the biscuits, sugar and butter together and press evenly into the bottom of the tin to form a base. I used a potato masher.

Mix the creme fraiche, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla using an electric mixer. Add the eggs one after another and always mix well in between. Add the milk and flour and mix as well. Stir in the blueberries and pour into the tin. Bake for about 1 hour in the oven. The cake should be well risen, golden brown on top and just very slightly wobbly in the middle. Take out and allow to cool. After cooling spread the cake with 100g of creme fraiche and let it cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours. I couldn’t wait and ate mine after about an hour. Decorate with blueberries.

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Pear, Apple and Rosemary Juice

Riverford are running their juicing  box at the moment so it is time to make the most of it. I have been experimenting with herbs in my juices recently. I know it is a bit kooky but I believe that we all have a herb which we identify with.

Rosemary is my kind of herb – robust, assertive and gutsy. I also believe that when you instinctively crave something, it may be because it contains something that you might be deficient in. Rosemary is high in vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, a good source of antioxidant vitamin C and very high in iron. This Pear, Apple and Rosemary Juice was delicious. But try experimenting with your own choice of herbs and see how you get on.

Pear, Apple and Rosemary Juice

Makes one glass

3 pears

2 apples

Generous sprig of rosemary

Chill your fruit. Cut into suitable sized pieces. Put the rosemary into the juicer first. That way, when you add the fruit it will help extract the most from the herbs.

5 a day Delicious Green juice – Kale, Courgette and Apple

I always find around this time of year, that Winter really begins to take its toll. I long for some sunshine. Any hint of a tan from last summer is gone and my skin is dry from all the central heating and returned to a blueish shade of white. I seem to have had a cold for weeks and I am permanently tired. Now is the time to really look at your diet and make sure that you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.

Up until last week I was concerned enough about getting my 5 a day, and now they have only gone and upped the ante and announced that we should now really be looking at getting 10 a day if we want to see the health results in terms of decreased chance of getting heart decease, stroke and cancer.   Well panic not – a green juice that not only probably provides half of your 10 a day but tastes really nice to!

However, this requires a proper juicer. Not a Nutribullet. Nutribullets are nothing more than small, upside down liquidisers and although the juices they produce are undoubtedly better for you, being much higher is fiber, they are all disgusting. Green sludge that would put anyone of juicing for life. Get a proper juicer and you won’t look back!

5 a day Delicious Green juice – Kale, Courgette and Apple

Feel free to play around with the recipe – substitute apples for pears, add a celery stick or a squeeze of lime. If you keep your veg and fruit in the fridge before making, your juice will be cold when you drink it, which is always nicer I think.

Large handful Kale

3 apples, quartered

1 large courgette, cut into chunks

Juice the kale first followed by the courgette and apple. Drink straight away.

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Blood Orange Sorbet

I know it is hardly the weather for sorbet but when I see blood oranges, I just can’t think of anything else. This is super delicious and super easy to make but you will need some sort of ice-cream machine. Mine is just a cheap one and cost under £20 at the time. You freeze the bowl first and it can’t cope with large quantities but worked brilliantly for this recipe.  Blood oranges are not around for long so make the most of them and get them whilst you can!

Blood Orange Sorbet

If using an ice-cream maker like mine, be sure to freeze your bowl overnight. (Serves 4)

7-10 blood oranges (400ml strained juice)

125g white sugar

Roll each orange on the work surface to release the juice, then squeeze. Pass through a sieve and you have about 400ml juice.

Heat 75ml of the juice gently in a pan with the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Allow to cool slightly, then add the remaining juice. Chill well.

Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to instructions. Eat as soon as possible for the best texture.

Fig and Almond Tart

Back raving about figs again this week. They are just such a beautiful fruit. I love their dusty, deep purple colour and their contrasting, vibrant jammy red centres. And they taste no better ever, than in this most delicious Fig and Almond Tart. Serve with a large dollop of crème fraiche.

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Fig and Almond Tart

Flan tin 10” / 25cm

Pastry

175g plain flour

90g butter

50g icing sugar

2 egg yolks

Frangipane

175g butter

175g ground almonds

175g golden caster sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon flour

Glug of amaretto

6 ripe figs

Put the flour, butter and sugar for the pastry in a food processor. Mix until you have breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and just mix enough for the pastry to come together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. In the same food processor bowl add the butter and sugar for the frangipane. Mix until smooth. Add the almonds and the egg and whiz again until smooth. Add the amaretto and the flour. Mix once more. Remove the pasty form the fridge when ready. Preheat the oven to 170C. Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin. Get a round piece of greaseproof paper and carefully cover the pasty with it. Folding it down over the top edge. Blind bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from the greaseproof and add the frangipane filling. Cut the figs in half and press into the frangipane in even spacing. Bake in the oven until the farangipan is risen all over and golden brown.

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Fig, Salted Almond and Bufala Mozzarella Salad

I get very excited about new produce from Riverford and so, I was thrilled to see that they are now supplying figs from Spain and I couldn’t wait to give them a try.

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This is a super simple salad that we used to serve at The River Café. It is nothing more than an assemblance of fabulous ingredients, but when your ingredients and that good, you really don’t need to do very much to them. I added some salted Catalan almonds, which I always pick up when I see them because they remind me of holidays. (If you can’t find them, you can always make your own.)

salted-catalan-almonds

I also drizzled some truffle honey on my figs. I know this is not for everybody, but if you do like truffles then do check it out. Marks and Spencer stock a really great one for £6. But is you are not a truffle person, a drizzle of aged balsamic works well too. You could play around with the cheese too. I imagine that Burrata would be pretty amazing, but to tell you the truth, I find them just too rich! Tallegglio or even Gorgonzola would be delicious too. What ever you decide to add, I am sure you will agree, it looks beautiful and tastes great.

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Fig, Salted Almond and Bufala Mozzarella Salad

Serves 2

Couple of handfuls of rocket

Few sprigs of fresh mint

Few sprigs

1 ball good quality bufala mozzarella

2 ripe figs

Extra virgin olive oil

Handful of salted Catalan almonds

Drizzle of expensive aged Balsamic or truffle honey

Sea Salt

Mix a little olive oil with a pinch of salt and dress the leaves. Pile on to a large plate and top with slices of mozzarella and fig. Scatter over the almonds and the herbs and drizzle with truffle honey or balsamic vinegar.

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