Friday 4 September 2009

Recipe: Burnt Lemon Cream with Blackberries

Derived from a recipe by Bruno Loubet, this comes with an unassailable guarantee of quality! The original, I think, used blackcurrants (and in fact, outside blackberry season, you can substitute raspberries to equally good effect) - and this was also a rare occasion when Loubet wasn't thinking properly, and his version went to the unnecessary and laborious lengths of making italian meringue to mix in towards the end of the recipe, when in fact all you need is some beaten egg white. On one level, I suppose it's reassuring to know that he didn't always get it right.

Beautifully light, this still manages to be rich and delicious, and is perfect after any rather substantial main course.

For two:

Ingredients: 150g Blackberries; 3 tablespoons of Sugar; 100 ml Milk; 2 Eggs, separated; 2 tablespoons of Cornflour; juice and grated zest of 1 Lemon; half a tablespoon of powdered Gelatine; Icing Sugar.


1. Put the Blackberries and half of the Sugar in a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they have entirely collapsed into a jam (about seven or eight minutes). Set aside to cool.

2. Whisk the Egg yolks with the remaining Sugar, then stir in the Cornflour. Heat the Milk to simmering point in a double boiler or simmertopf, and then stir this into the egg-sugar-flour mixture. Add the Lemon juice, stir well, then return the mixture to the double boiler or zimmertopf and cook, stirring, for five minutes or so until the mixture has visibly thickened.

3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, then heat approx 50 ml of water in the zimmertopf and add to this the powdered Gelatine. Stir over a gentle heat until the Gelatine has entirely dissolved, then add, stirring thoroughly, to the Lemon custard. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

4. Beat the Egg whites until stiff, then fold into the Lemon custard, along with the grated Lemon zest.

5. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

6. In two greased (or Trennwaxed) egg dishes, divide half of the lemon mixture, and then add a layer of stewed Blackberry (half of the Blackberry mixture for each dish) and then cover the Blackberry layer with the remaining lemon mixture. Lightly dust the top of each dish with Icing Sugar.

7. Put the dishes into the pre-heated oven for about eight minutes - just enough to heat them through - and finally, brown the tops either briefly under a hot grill or else by using a small blowtorch.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Feast or famine.

It's that time of year. Everybody who grows their own food will recognise the syndrome - it's either salted fields and a complete crop failure, or else more stuff than you know what to do with, and you spend the entire time generously handing wagonloads of the stuff out to your nearest and dearest (and indeed many who are much less near and dear...and possibly even some people you hardly know at all...on the basis that you've bottled and preserved and frozen and cooked as much as you can deal with for yourself, and the freezer and the pantry are full to bursting, and yet still you have your own little EU mountain of the stuff, and are beginning to despair of ever seeing the back of it!)

Being a happy recipient of all this largesse, I'm far from complaining, though. Just within the past ten days, I've had thrust upon me:

- From Professor Chiellini next door, after I'd been round to disentangle my climbing roses from his lemon trees, a bushel or so of Kumquats (which he describes as 'Chinese Mandarins', although to me that sounds like a tautology) which got used up variously in a kumquat and lemon bavarois, and as the topping for a series of Tartes Andaluciennes, where they deliciously replaced the more usual slices of orange.

- from Belforte, an authentically gnarled cucumber (to form part of a dish of Smoked Salmon tiède)

- from my parents, tomatoes, aubergines (aubergine tart; and cooked with anchovies and garlic to accompany a roast), apples (apple, strawberry and vanilla tarts; apple & blackberry pies; and the kumquat version of Tartes Andaluciennes) and, of course, blackberries (for aforementioned blackberry & apple pies, but also to be used as a layer in lemon-flavoured Salzburger nockerl.)

- from the farmers wife from whom we collected the mini-four-footed last week, several bushels of runner beans (cooked with tomato and cumin; or à la crème, with chopped parsley; or just as they came)

And right now, it's all been used up, and for the first time in ages I've actually had to go and re-stock the crisper drawer from a shop!

Not for much longer, though, as by this time next year I expect to have my own little EU mountains of produce from the orchard and kitchen garden at Santa Caterina, where we already have lemon, orange, fig, pear, apple, apricot, cherry, plum and almond trees ( and the rather culinarily useless, IMHO, persimmons and 'nespolas'), as well as several grape arbours and plans to import peaches, mandarins, walnuts and hazelnut trees once we're properly installed. Anybody wandering around in that part of Pisa around harvest time next year would be well advised to carry with them several empty carrier bags, as I can see positive cornucopias of surplus-to-requirement produce looking for a good home!

Tonight's Dinner:

Asparagus & Gruyère Tarts.

Cod in Parma Ham; Lentils with Orange.

Black Figs roast with Walnuts & Honey, served with Crème Chantilly.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Recipe: Amaretto Soufflé

This is a recipe I'm astonished to discover I haven't posted already, so highly does it rank in my list of top-ten desserts. It comes from one of those anonymous recipe books ('Your 100 All-time Favourite Dishes' or 'The Family Circle Recipe Collection' or something similar) which don't promise much from the outside but in practice often contain some absolute gems. This is definitely one such.

Don't be tempted to substitute ground almonds for the slivered variety - I've tried it (on the basis that they all go into the blender jar anyway, and so why not go straight for ground almonds and cut out the blender step entirely) and it doesn't work; even after being blended, the slivered almonds have a splendidly chewy texture which is completely missing from the ground almond version. The combination of texture, along with the heady flavour-combination of vanilla and amaretto make this an absolute winner!

For two individual soufflés.

Ingredients: 40g slivered almonds; 1 tablespoon sugar (or Splenda - works equally as well in this recipe); 150 ml milk; 15g butter; half a tablespoon of plain flour; 2 eggs; 6 amaretto biscuits; 2 tablespoons of Amaretto liqueur; half a teaspoon of good quality vanilla essence.


1. Heat the oven to 220 degrees C.

2. Put the almonds in a small saucepan, along with half the sugar and half the milk. Bring to the boil, and then simmer gently for two minutes, before leaving to cool.

3. In a double boiler or simmertopf melt the butter, then gently whisk in the flour and remaining milk. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens (about five minutes), then stir in the two egg yolks.

4. Combine this mixture with the almond-milk-sugar mixture, add the vanilla essence and half of the liqueur and liquidize the whole lot for a minute.

5. Divide the amaretto biscuits between two individual ramekins which have been greased (or sprayed with Trennwax), and soak the biscuits in the remaining liqueur.

6. Beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar (or Splenda), and fold the soufflé base into the beaten egg white. Spoon this mixture into the prepared ramekins, place them in a bain marie and bake for ten minutes in the pre-heated oven.

Serve immediately.

Sunday 30 August 2009

He's here!

The mini four-footed has moved in. Last Thursday. He is, of course, beautiful...and highly intelligent, and desperately precocious...and all those things that proud parents modestly acknowledge in their newly-arrived progeny, whilst quietly harbouring ambitions of a Double First and a rowing Blue. On a more realistic level, it is true to say that he arrived already knowing his own name, and understanding the word 'No' - both being highly practical accomplishments - as well as showing signs of being almost house-trained. (Not bad for under twelve weeks....and, come to think of it, probably already better than most rowing Blues could manage!)

The newly-promoted senior four-footed was initially beside himself with excitement at the new arrival, but became more ambivalent when he saw the puppy being given food and toys - on both of which he feels he has a 100% monopoly. He'll be fine, though. At the moment, he's looking long-suffering, as he's the main source of canine entertainment round here, and is enduring a near constant onslaught of rugby tackles, and having his rump bitten or his ears attacked...all of which he takes in relatively good part, if you can ignore the hunted expression that descends from time to time. Fortunately, for everybody, the energy level isn't constant, and it's a demonstrable fact that puppies are blissfully asleep for a lot of the time.

We have two weeks in London, and then we all, four-footeds included, set out on the Great Trek southwards, and will de-camp to Italy for the autumn.

Tonight's dinner:

Asparagus with Hollandaise.

Roast Beef (one of the benefits of being in the UK) and runner beans (from the many kilos of which we were given by the mini four-footed's breeder when we went to collect him)