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We are fast approaching the season of summer fruits. As far as I'm concerned they can't arrive soon enough. They are easy to prepare, delicious and good for you for breakfast, lunch or supper.

But so often we need a pud to go with them, either to supplement a small serving of berries or, when we have had a glut of fruit, just to ring the changes. The three recipes today can be eaten as they are or can be used to accompany a bowl of strawberries, raspberries, cooked currants, or gooseberries.

The dark chocolate panna cotta will sound strange to those of you who are aware that I have a deep personal loathing for the combination of dark chocolate and strawberries or raspberries, but I realise that I am in a minority in this taste, hence this recipe today. But of course, the panna cotta doesn't need to be eaten with any fruit. A hefty dollop of vanilla-flavoured whipped cream on top would be my choice.

The vanilla and lemon creamy cold rice is an old-fashioned summer pud for special occasions, whether lunch or dinner. It is extremely convenient because it can be made two days in advance, provided that it is kept in a covered bowl in the fridge until half an hour before being served. There is enough lemon rind and vanilla in the recipe to make a real impact on the taste buds, and it is a winner with so very many people who try it.

The vanilla cream terrine really does need a fruit accompaniment - to look pretty on the plate as well as being delicious.

Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta

Serves 6

11/2 pints/850ml single cream

3oz/85g caster sugar

a few drops of best quality vanilla extract

1/2 cinnamon stick

8oz/225g dark chocolate, of between 70 and 75 per cent cocoa mass

2 sheets of gelatine, soaked in cold water, or 2 teaspoons of powdered gelatine, sponged up in 2 tablespoons of cold water.

Put the cream into a saucepan with the sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon stick. Over a moderately high heat bring it to scalding point, stirring. Leave it to cool completely.

When cool, reheat the cream in the saucepan, adding the broken-up chocolate and stirring till the chocolate cream is smooth. Remove the cinnamon stick and throw it away. Then stir in the gelatine, drained of its soaking water if you're using sheet gelatine, and stir till it dissolves in the heat of the cream - but don't let the cream boil. If you're using sponged-up powdered gelatine, this will take a little longer to dissolve.

Cool the chocolate cream, then pour it into six glasses and leave to set. If you are in a hurry to finish off your panna cotta and want to distribute the chocolate cream between the glasses without leaving it to cool, put a silver spoon in each glass and pour the cream down the spoon, to prevent the glasses cracking with excess heat.

Cover each glass, when cooled, with clingfilm and store in a cool place until ready to serve.

Lemon cream rice with griottes

Serves 6

2oz/55g round-grain pudding rice - no other type of rice will do

11/2 pints/850ml full-fat milk

3oz/85g caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, powdered, if possible

finely grated rinds of 2 lemons (wash them well before grating)

1/2 pint/285ml double cream, whipped, but not too stiffly

1 pint/570ml griottes or griottines

Put the rice, milk and sugar into a saucepan over moderate heat and stir as it cooks and the rice thickens and swells. Simmer it very gently for 30 minutes, or till each grain is soft. Add the vanilla and grated lemon rind, take the pan off the heat, and cool. When it is cold, fold in the whipped cream, and put the cream rice mixture into a pretty serving dish or bowl. Serve, with the cherries separately in another bowl.

Vanilla cream terrine with cinnamon

Serves 6

11/2 pints/850ml single cream

1 fresh vanilla pod - it should be glossy and pliable

6 large egg yolks

3oz/85g caster sugar

6 sheets leaf gelatine (I use Costa) or 11/2 sachets powdered gelatine

Slit the vanilla pod lengthways and put it into a saucepan with the single cream. Over a moderate heat, warm the cream until a skin forms - don't let it come near boiling point, though. Take the pan off the heat, and let the cream infuse with the flavour from the vanilla pod. Scrape down the inside of the pod - those tiny black specks you'll see in the cream will simply reassure your guests that the genuine article has been used in its making.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, beat the yolks well with the caster sugar. Reheat the cream gently in the pan, and from this mix a little hot cream into the yolks and sugar. Stir in some more cream, mix again then pour it all back into the saucepan. Depending on your courage, and the quality of your saucepan, you can then cook the vanilla cream over a very gentle heat, stirring continuously, until the custard thickens - to the point where when you trace a path down the back of your wooden spoon there is a distinct coating on either side of the path. Or, scrape the creamy yolks mixture into a Pyrex bowl and cook it in a microwave oven: give it one minute on high, mix well, replace it for 30 seconds on medium, mix well, and repeat - 30 seconds at a time - until the cream has thickened as described. Microwaves vary, so it is impossible to be exact about how long this will take.

Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water (if you are using powdered gelatine, let it sponge in four tablespoons of cold water). Lift the jelly-like soaked leaves from the water and drop them into the thickened hot custard - they will dissolve almost instantly. Or stir the sponged up powdered gelatine into the hot custard - it takes a bit longer to dissolve. Remove the vanilla pod. Pour the creamy custard into a Pyrex or metal terrine or loaf tin, and leave to set. To turn out, dip the tin or dish briefly in hot water and turn it out onto a serving plate.

 
 
 

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