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Baked Quince

14 Oct

Quinces have such a wonderful aroma, strong enough to perfume an entire room that you want to try and capture that aroma by baking them in parcels. It is such a majestic fruit, it deserves to be treated simply and appreciated for itself. Treated simply like this the real flavour of the quince comes through.
Serves 2 Prep 3mins Cook 1 hour

  • 1 large quince
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar or to taste

Preheat oven 200c gas 6
Wash the quince, cut it in half from top to tail and remove the core and seeds. Put each half, cut side up, on a large square of foil put a spoonful of butter on each half and cover with 1-2 tbsp sugar, depending on how sweet you like it. Fold the sides of the foil over and make a sealed parcel. Bake for 1 hour until very tender. Cooking time will vary depending on the size and quality of the fruit. Serve hot or cold topped with cream, yogurt or ice cream.

Cooks Note A Quince tree is a real thing of beauty. It is, by far, my favourite fruit tree, hailing spring with its mass of pale pink briar rose like blossoms. As the great pendulous fruit develop i can’t help wishing for autumn when the soft down starts to disappear and you know the great yellow fruit are ready to harvest


Crème Caramel (light)

30 Sep

This a light version of the delicious classic French dessert. I’ve been experimenting to get this one with less sugar and no cream because it is nice to have a dessert that is not too heavy. It is very easy to make and is truly delicious.

Serves 4 Prep 10-15mins Cooking 20-25mins
*1 tbsp brown sugar
*1 tbsp (12.5ml) water
*3 medium eggs
*2 drops vanilla essence
*100g caster sugar (or vanilla sugar)
*375ml semi-skimmed milk

    Photo_20060517_-109.jpgHeat oven to 150c and warm four 150ml ramekins or one larger 600ml dish.Heat the sugar and water syrup in heavy saucepan without stirring, until pale golden with the aroma of caramel. Divide between dishes and leave to cool. If you prefer more caramel double the quantity of syrup.To make the custard, break the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat until frothy, stir in vanilla essence, gradually add the sugar, then the milk, whisking continuously. Pour the custard over the top of the caramel to almost fill the dishes, stand in a baking tray with 1″ of water and cook for 20-25mins. Leave to cool and refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, loosen the sides with a knife, put a small serving plate on top, turn over and shake lightly to tip the creme caramel onto the plate.

    TIP Sugar caramelises at 170c if over cooked it will become black and bitter, so be carefull with it.

    Apricot Sorbet

    29 Sep
    • 500g apricots (about 10 fruit)
    • 400ml (about 2 cups) water
    • 1/2 cup vanilla sugar or more to taste

    Half the apricots, remove the stones and crack each one to get at the apricot nuts. The shells are quite tough and you’ll need a hammer or heavy pestle and mortar but don’t worry if the nuts get smashed you just want them for their flavour. Put the apricot halves and their nuts into a large non-corrosive pan with the water and bring to a boil, Scim off any scum that forms, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the apricots are mushy about 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar and leave to cool. When cool press the pulp through a sieve to get a smooth puree and pour into an ice-cream maker with the motor running. Process for 35 minutes and freeze for another hour before serving. If serving at a later date remove from the freezer for 30 minutes to soften a little before serving.

    Tips on making ice-cream

    1. Prepapre the ice cream mixture and cool in a jug in the fridge before using.
    2. Make sure the machine is running before pouring in the mixture
    3. The ice cream takes about 30-45 minutes to churn but watch the consistency toward the end as you can see the colour and consistency change indicating the ice-cream is ready.
    4. Freeze to ‘cure’ for 1 hour before serving.

    Provençal Fig Ice Cream

    7 Sep

    Figs make delicious icecream and in this recipe I have used single cream in order to make a soft, luscious, creamy backdrop for the big flavours of these Provençal Figs. This recipe does require an icecream maker.

    • 500g fresh ripe figs
    • 120g vanilla sugar
    • 225ml single cream

    Wash and chop the figs roughly and put into a food processor with the other ingredients wizz to combine to a rough cream and pour into an icecream churner. Churn to fozen and spoon out into a carton and freeze for half an hour before serving.

    Plum & Amaretto Sorbet

    26 Jul

    July is our plum season and we have several varieties of plums to pick; mirabelles, wild plums and these dark, almost black, plums which are quite tart but have a deep, rich, almondy flavour. I’ve got an ice-cream maker not just because I am mad about ice-cream and can eat it rain or shine at any time of day but as a way of preserving our summer fruit. For these plums I did some experiments and came up with this sorbet using only the fruit, some sugar and the almond flavoured liqueur amaretto to punch up the natural almond flavour of the plums. The result is spectacular; rich, gorgeously indulgent, and light at the same time.

    Makes 6-8 portions
    *400ml stewed and sieved plums
    *75ml Amaretto Liqueur (optional)
    *150ml water
    *6 tbsp caster sugar

    Mix all the ingredients together making sure the sugar is dissolved. Set the ice-cream maker going and pour in the mixture. Churn for 30-40 minutes until the colour changes and the sorbet forms. Spoon into an air tight carton and place in the freezer -18c for an hour to ‘cure’ before serving.

    Cook’s Tip To prepare the stewed plums wash and put the plums whole into a large pan. Cook covered until the plums are mushy. Cool and pass through a sieve to remove the skins and stones. I process the plums in large quantities and the resulting puree can then be used to make Plum Butter or this ice cream or I freeze it in small batches, until I am ready to do something else with it.

    Originally posted onmas du diable 27/7/2008

    Pavlova with Red Fruit

    23 Jun

    This is my mum’s recipe for her amazing Pavlova. It is the most delicious dessert, it just melts in the mouth and no matter how much you have stuffed yourself you can always find room for a little slice of this desert. She usually makes it topped with grapes marinated in sherry and sugar but as it is our season for red currants, cherries and strawberries I made a red fruit topping. I am sure my mum would want me to point out that my version is a poor relative of the real thing; hers has a thick meringue base, so thick there is a pillow of soft squishy meringue inside the crisp sweet shell, the cream is thick and light with a hint of sherry and the fruit is arranged perfectly in alternating black and green grape circles. I did try but I didn’t whip the cream enough, I used granulated sugar so I had to beat it into the egg whites oops, I was too heavy handed so no soft pillow of meringue and I am still having trouble getting to grips with my fan-assisted, uncontrollable monster of an oven so all in all a pretty rubbish attempt. The good thing to know dear reader is that this recipe is indestructible and despite making a hash of following my mum’s recipe myself it came out tasting delicious so you can’t really loose giving this recipe a try and I can only get better with my next try.

    • 3 egg whites (large)
    • 200g caster sugar
    • 1 level tsp cornflour
    • 1 tsp white vinegarTopping
    • 284ml whipping cream
    • grapes green and black
    • 1 tbsp sherry or port
    • 1 tbsp sugar

    Preheat the oven to 150c. Prepare a baking sheet by rinsing in water and while still wet lay a sheet of grease proof paper (baking parchment) over it. Whisk the egg whites until a soft peak forms. Mix together the vinegar and cornflour and fold ‘gently’ into the egg whites along with the sugar. Use a spatula to scrape the mixture out onto the baking sheet and spread out to form a large circle. Put on a low shelf in the oven and reduce the temperature to 140c. Bake for 1 hour turn the oven off and leave to cool slowly in the oven. (NB in my oven, which is a law unto itself, it takes about 30mins before it starts to burn!!!!) but I’ve kept my mum’s instructions intact in this recipe and hope it works for other people.

    Meanwhile cut the grapes in half and remove any pips. Put the grapes in a bowl and add the alcohol and sugar. Leave to marinade for a couple of hours.

    When you are ready to decorate whip the cream until thick and spreadable. Drain the liquid from the grapes and stir into the cream. Remove the pavlova from the oven. Get a serving plate and gently place it over the pavlova then turn over so that the plat is resting right side on the counter and the pavlova is crust side down on the plate. Gentle peel off the parchment, spread the cream in a thick layer over the surface and decorate with the fruit. Chill until ready to serve.

    Black Cherry Mouse Sorbet

    30 May

    This light, fragrant sorbet does not require an ice cream maker, which is great, but it does require a food processor unless you have the muscle power of an Olympic rower. I had intended to churn the mixture in an ice cream maker but after beating the mixture for 10 minutes it grew so much in volume that it would not fit into the machine so i just decanted it into plastic tubs and put it in the freezer as it was. The result was magical; a light, frothy, scoupable sorbet with the heady taste of black cherries and vanilla scented cherry liqueur.

    *500g black cherries
    *125g Icing sugar
    *2 egg whites
    *slosh of home made cherry brandy (optional)

    Wash and stone the cherries. Blitz in a food processor, with the metal blade fitted, until the cherries are pulped. Add the sugar, egg whites and cherry brandy and blitz for 10 minutes or until the mixture is whipped into a foam 3 times its original volume. Spoon the cherry foam into freezer cartons and put straight into the freezer. It is ready to eat as soon as it is completely frozen 2-4 hours at –18. Variation: works wonderfully well with pastis instead of cherry brandy, if you like the taste of pastis that is, the aniseed flavour is not to everyone’s taste.

    Originally posted on mas du diable  31/5/2007

    Strawberry & Wild Mint Soup

    28 May

    I first tasted this fabulous dessert in a small restaurant in Anduze. I was intrigued by the name so I just had to try it. When pudding came it was a refreshing and simple bowl of strawberries marinated in a syrup of wine, herbs and sugar. The syrup was seasoned with a herb, I recognised as our cat always comes back smelling of it. The waitress explained that the herb was wild mint that had been gathered from the mountainside that morning. We have the stuff growing all over our mountain and in the summer months this dessert hits the spot.
    Serves 4

    • 500g Organic Strawberries, washed and sliced lengthwise.
    • 100g Caster sugar
    • handful of fresh wild mint, washed and minced
    • 100ml of sweet wine or dry vermouth (or to taste)
    • Squeeze of lime or lemon (optional)

    Combine the strawberries, sugar, wine and mint together and leave in the fridge for 1 hour so that the juices flow from the strawberries to make a syrup with the sugar. If it is not syrupy enough just add a little water to make a syrup consistency you are happy with, stir and serve. Alternatively make a syrup separately making it this way you can add more of the wine and boil off some of the alcohol.

    Cook’s Tip Wild mint has a strong peppery taste with slightly fury leaves. If you can’t find such a herb ordinary mint may work and you could add a dash of black pepper for a bit of spice. I’ve tried making this pudding with white wine, sweet red pudding wine and Noilly Prat, a dry vermouth from Marseille, i prefer it with the vermouth.
    Gardeners Tip Wild Mint also known as Water / Marsh Mint, Whorled Mint or Hairy Mint is common in Britain and found all over temperate and Northern Europe and Russian Asia.

    Strawberry Ice-Yogurt

    25 May

    Early May is the beginning of the fruit harvest in our garden, starting with strawberries. We grow a variety of strawberry called Mara de bois, which is the nearest relative to the wild strawberry, it has an intense flavour and makes the most deliciously rich tasting ice-creams, I particularly like it made with yogurt or crème fraîche.

    *500g strawberries
    *150g sugar
    *300ml double cream,
    *thick yogurt or crème fraîche

    Wash and hull the strawberries and put into a blender with the sugar, blitz to a puree then add the cream and blitz again to mix well. Pour into the ice cream maker and churn for 30 minutes or until the mixture has turned into a creamy ice. Spoon into cartons and put into the freezer.

    Source This recipe originally came from my magimix cook book. It is so simple there is no need to change anything about the recipe except the cream part; having now tried a version with cream, yogurt and crème fraîche my preference is for the crème fraîche version. Gardener’s Tip Mara de bois is a perpetual variety, which means it produces fruit right through the summer and well into autumn. Not only is it a robust, easy to propagate, long fruiting variety but it has a wonderful deep strawberry taste – thoroughly recommended.

    Originally posted Mas du Diable 25/05/07

    Pineapple & Mint Salad

    14 Mar

    Sometimes the simplest things are the best and this salad of fresh pineapple marinaded in a sugar and mint paste is one amazingly delicious dessert. Our friend, Sue, served this at her house last summer, to round off an evening meal, and it has since become one of our favourite puddings, it cleanses and refreshes every last part so its great after a spicy meal.
    Serves 4

    • 1 pineapple
    • several large stems of garden mint
    • 1 tbsp sugar

    Peel and chop the pineapple into bite size pieces (after twisting off the top to propogate) and put into a large bowl. Strip the leaves from the mint stalks and chuck them in a mortar along with the sugar. Pound to a paste and spoon into the pineapple bowl. Stir well to make sure all the cubes are coated in the paste then cover and leave aside in a chilled place to marinade for a least 30 minutes before serving.

    Propagating Pineapple
    I didn’t grow this pineapple but I live in hope. I keep buying pineapples in the hope that, one day I will be able to get one of them to grow, so far I have had no luck, but at least we can eat this delicious pudding while I keep trying.