We all get stuck in a rut. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what you want to eat, let alone what to cook. So welcome to the first in a semi-regular feature for providing culinary encouragement to the uninspired.
The in-laws are coming on Sunday and I'm keen to make a dessert that requires a little effort and looks good. What I'm really fancying is a cold, fruity, summery dish. But I'm pregnant so can't have anything with raw eggs.
The first thing that came to mind was some sort of fruit-rippled ice cream. However, unless you make a big fuss over serving it, your in-laws might not even realise you made it yourself, rendering all your hard work pointless.
So here are two other ideas. One is super easy but looks and tastes a little fancy and the other will require a bit more forethought.
I hope one or other proves useful. Good luck!
1) Yoghurt, curd and berries
This is inspired by a “pre-dessert” I had at the Trafalgar Hotel years and years ago when I was working on the Travel Desk at the Express. It arrived in a shot glass and was more memorable than anything else I ate that evening. A scaled up version has made regular appearances at my dinner parties ever since.
- Greek Yoghurt
- Lemon Curd
Use a glass bowl or tumbler per person. Fill it halfway with Greek yoghurt, add a generous layer of good quality lemon curd and top with fresh blueberries and raspberries. Decorate with a mint leaf if feeling fancy.
And that’s it! Incredibly simple, but tastes genuinely luxurious. Keep the layers neat and it looks pretty smart. The only things to bear in mind are to use full-fat yoghurt and make sure your lemon curd is decent and not the luminous yellow stuff.
2) Rhubarb Trifle
Few desserts feel more celebratory than a trifle. You could make one with any seasonal or summery fruit for an impressive and vaguely nostalgic end to a meal.
I like the idea of using poached peaches in a raspberry jelly for a take on Peach Melba. Or mango would mix an exotic holiday vibe into the billowy, British creaminess. Just don't use pineapple. It has enzymes that stops the jelly setting and is thus a sure-fire road to dessert disappointment.
But on this particular occasion, I am suggesting rhubarb. I love it in a crumble but it deserves to shine in other circumstances too. The tartness makes a lovely contrast with the sweet custard and whipped cream. I would usually base the fruity jelly around booze but we’ll use apple juice here because you're up the duff. The custard should be fine though as the eggs are cooked.
You'll need to start the day before you want to serve it or at least allow a few hours for the jelly to set.
- 600g rhubarb
- 100g caster sugar (plus extra to taste)
- enough cake/trifle sponges to line your dish
- 550 ml apple juice
- 500ml double cream
- 250ml whole milk
- 75g sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 300ml whipping cream
- flaked almonds
- crystallised rose petals
- Cut the rhubarb into inch-long pieces. Place them on a baking tray and sprinkle over the caster sugar. Roast under foil at 200C/gas mark 6 for 15 mins. Remove the foil, spoon over the juices and cook for another 5 mins.
- Meanwhile arrange the sponge to cover the bottom of the bowl you want to serve the trifle in.
- Heat the apple juice in a pan. Follow the instructions on your packet of gelatine to make it up and then add it to the juice.
- Lay the roasted rhubarb in an even layer over the sponge.
- If it's given off any syrup, mix it in with the apple juice. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. You want it tart but not mouth puckering.
- Pour the liquid over the cake and fruit and leave to set in the fridge for a few hours or, preferably, overnight.
- Heat the milk and cream with the sugar until it dissolves, then allow to cool slightly.
- Beat the egg yolks in a separate bowl and add a few spoonfuls of the cream mixture, stirring vigorously. When combined pour back into the pan (this stops the eggs going scrambled in the heat) and stir over a low heat until the custard thickens . It should coat the back of a wooden spoon.
- Leave to cool then pour over the jelly and return to the fridge. (Alternatively skip this step and use a pot of supermarket custard!)
- Before serving, whip the cream and smooth over the custard. Top with the flaked almonds and crystallised rose petals.
Ifs And Ands
- Those who aren't pregnant can use sweetened white wine or champagne to make the jelly or add marsala to the apple juice.
- Top with a crumble mixture instead of almonds for a trifle/crumble fusion ("Trumble"?). Rub 100g plain flour into 75g butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add 25g ground almonds and 100g light brown sugar. (Or blitz the lot in a food processor.) Spread evenly on a parchment-covered baking sheet and bake evenly for 20mins at 160C/gas mark 3. Sprinkle on top of the trifle when cool.
- Substitute half the rhubarb for strawberries for a truly winning combination.
- Use amaretto biscuits along with or instead of the sponge for an almondy hit that compliments the rhubarb.
- Nice additions, flavourwise, would be ginger (infuse the juice or wine with a few slices before adding the gelatine) or rosewater (add 1tbsp to the juice or wine).
If you have any other suggestions of fruity puds with which Carla can impress her in-laws please leave them in the comments below.
Want to ask a question yourself? Anything goes: Got mushroom-hating vegetarian guests coming to dinner and don’t know what to serve them? Need healthy, carb-free lunch-box ideas? Veg box full of kohlrabi and put off by its alien looks? Head over the the Contact page and drop me a line.