This summer has certainly been an action-packed one so far. From the Queen’s jubilee to the incredible success of Team GB at the Olympics, there has been much cause for celebration.
I was lucky enough to spend some time in London while the Olympics were on and felt incredibly proud to be British, with medal-winners from Andy Murray to Sir Chris Hoy flying the flag for sport in our country and inspiring others to get involved. The atmosphere in London and at home has been electric and it really instils a sense of pride in people.
I always maintain that the best kind of celebrations revolve around food. There’s no better way to toast any kind of success, whether it’s Olympic gold, family gatherings or passing exams, than with a celebratory seasonal dessert.
If someone was to ask me what the best ingredients for summer desserts are – ingredients that will really impress your guests – I’d have to say Scottish berries. At this time of year, a great many types of wonderful berries are still at their seasonal best, and now is the time to make the most of them. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, brambles and blackcurrants – we should all be celebrating the wonderful selection we have access to. I talk a lot about Scottish berries but they are a local treasure I’m incredibly passionate about. Scotland is renowned for its berry farms, particularly around Perthshire, where I grew up. The fruit thrives in cooler summers, where long daylight hours help it ripen with plenty of glorious flavour.
Desserts made with fresh, local, seasonal berries can be incredibly easy to make – try them in jellies, summer puddings or even served simply with fresh ice-cream or cream. However, if you really want to celebrate or impress your guests, there are some slightly more challenging recipes that are worth trying as they can add an extra level of celebration to any meal. Not only that, but they look visually stunning and vibrant.
Strawberries have long been synonymous with British summertime desserts – the quintessential summer pudding, as those who follow my column will have read back in June. As strawberries come to the end of their seasonal best, it’s worth making the most of them. But there are so many other wonderful berries to try, either as an alternative or a compliment to strawberries. A selection of mixed berries creates a wonderful array of colours and flavours and is a feast for the palate as well as the eyes – a joyous celebration of summer.
One great variety of berry to try at this time of year is the blackcurrant. These small, smooth, purple berries have such a wonderful earthy flavour and are perfect in summer puddings. Blackcurrants are some of the most intensely coloured and flavoured of all. Not only that, they’re renowned as one of the most nutritious of berries, packed with antioxidants and an excellent source of vitamin C.
It’s important when preparing berries to be careful as they are very delicate. With blackcurrants, it’s best to hold each stalk at the top with the berries hanging down, and carefully run a fork down them. The berries should come away easily without being damaged.
To get the most flavour out of them, it’s best to cook them with a little sugar and a splash of water. When cooked to perfection, blackcurrants have a powerful, tart flavour that is wonderful in pies and flans, or this delicate and decadent classic French soufflé.
I relish the glorious aroma that fills the house when cooking blackcurrants. Just be careful not to overcook them or they will lose their fresh flavour. If you have some left over, they also make a delicious jam or jelly.
Desserts offer a great chance to let your imagination flow. With a little time, creativity and patience, you can create stunning dishes that make the most of natural flavours. And there’s no more delicious way to celebrate summer with friends and family than with a fresh, sweet treat. n
Summer Strawberry Millefeuille
For the base
4 sheets ready-made filo pastry
100ml clarified butter
100ml icing sugar
For the caramel tuile
crushed nuts or cracked black peppe
For the crowdie mousse
450g crowdie cheese
1 vanilla pod (scrape the vanilla from the pod)
zest of two lemons
3 leaves gelatine
400g fresh strawberries, sliced
To make the base
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/ gas mark 4.
Place one sheet of filo pastry on a baking tray and brush it with clarified butter, then sprinkle with icing sugar. Do the same with the rest of the sheets of filo pastry, placing one sheet on top of another until all four are brushed with butter, sprinkled with icing sugar and layered on top of each another.
Place the pastry on a pastry mat or greaseproof paper. Place another sheet of greaseproof paper on top, then cover with another baking tray, so your pastry is sandwiched between.
Place into the oven for six to eight minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
Take out of the oven and quickly cut to your desired shape – you will find the pastry is easier to cut while it’s still warm.
To make the caramel tuile
This may seem a challenging part of the recipe but it’s actually very simple.
Place the sugar into a heavy-bottomed pan and heat gently until it forms and becomes golden all over.
Remove from the heat and pour over a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking tray and leave until the mixture goes hard.
Once the mixture is solid, place it in your blender and whizz – the mix will begin to form a caramel powder.
Take a pastry mat and sprinkle the caramel powder thinly across it. Cut into the caramel with a cutter – you can choose any shape you wish – and if you prefer you can also add nuts or cracked black pepper to taste.
Very carefully, using a blow torch, heat the caramel and, as it melts it will form a shape.
To make the mousse
Place the crowdie cheese, milk, vanilla, lemon zest, sugar, butter, cornflour and eggs into a thermal mix if you have one. Heat to 100°C and cook until the mix becomes thick.
If you don’t have a thermal mix, you can use a bain-marie or water bath. Put all the ingredients together in a bowl. Place the bowl on top of the bain-marie and cook slowly until all the ingredients form a thick mixture. Then set it aside and leave to chill.
Whip 195ml of cream – keep 5ml back for later.
Meanwhile, soak three leaves of gelatine in cold water and place in a pan with the remaining 5ml of cream. Warm this gently until the gelatine melts completely.
Then fold the whipped cream and gelatine into the crowdie mixture.
Place a layer of the filo pastry on a plate. Cover the pastry with a layer of the crowdie mousse, then a layer of sliced strawberries and repeat for all four layers. Once finished, place the caramel tuile on top and garnish with crowdie mousse, fresh strawberries and a fresh strawberry sorbet.
Blackcurrant souffle with honeycomb ice-cream
For the soufflé
50g dark chocolate, grated
200g blackcurrant purée
45g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp flour
7 egg whites
icing sugar, for dusting
For the honeycomb ice-cream
5 egg yolks
130g heather honey
250ml whipping cream
To make the honeycomb ice-cream
Using a whisk, beat the egg yolks and honey in a bowl until pale and slightly thickened.
Meanwhile, heat the milk and cream to simmering point and set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed pot, warm the beaten eggs and honey over a very low heat, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in the hot milk and cream. Cook over a low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mix thickens just enough to coat the back of the spoon. Then remove from the heat.
Strain the custard into a large bowl set over iced water. Pour into an ice-cream machine and begin to churn. Roughly chop the honeycomb and add to the ice-cream. Churn until just frozen, place in an airtight plastic container and freeze for at least three hours before use.
To prepare the moulds
Take four coffee-cup-sized soufflé dishes (or ramekins) and brush generously with softened butter. Tip grated chocolate into each, rolling it around and making sure the inside is completely covered. Leave it to chill in the fridge.
For the soufflé base
In a heavy pan, bring the blackcurrant purée and sugar to the boil. Stir in the egg yolks, egg and flour and bring the mixture back to the boil, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool.
To make the soufflé
Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Put the soufflé base mixture, which should weigh about 350g, into a pan and warm gently over a low heat.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites to firm peaks, then add the sugar and whisk until stiff. Fold the stiff whites and warmed soufflé base together and spoon the mixture into the prepared moulds. Pull a palette knife across the top of each to make it perfectly flat. Also run the end of your thumb around the inside edge of each dish as this helps the soufflés rise evenly and prevents them sticking to the dish.
Place the soufflés on a baking tray and cook in the oven for eight to ten minutes, until they have risen by two-thirds in height. Don’t open the oven while baking as they will collapse.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North east