Four to the fore
Partial as he is to lashings of cream, our resident pudding pro isn’t exactly a go-to for vegans. But, behold: four sweets that eschew dairy – two versions of poached fruits, nutty chocolate clusters and, naturally, a Campari sorbet ...
17 Fruit and nut chocolate gobbets
Clusters – or meteorites – of raisins, almonds and chocolate, these little gobbets are bite-sized confections the Georgians were fond of. I first made them as a young apprentice chef at a small hotel just outside Dundee. Be sure to use the best chocolate, and the best nuts, you can find – if you’re short on time, slivered almonds will deliver a respectable result. Once made, it’s best to keep the chocolates away from heat as they might sulk into a great mass – something to be avoided at all costs, for this must then be scoffed and the cook will need to start all over again. Oh, what a shame that would be. 200g dark chocolate, broken up 200g whole almonds, blanched and peeled
100g raisins or currants
1 Set the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Line a tray or two with baking parchment.
2 Spread the almonds on another tray and roast for around 20 minutes, or until nut brown. Set aside until cool, then coarsely chop the almonds.
3 Put the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Do not be tempted to stir the chocolate lest the chocolate seizes. To prevent this, merely tip the bowl to ensure all the chocolate is made liquid. Once melted, remove the bowl from the heat, then tip in the almonds and raisins or currants and mix together well.
4 Using two teaspoons, scoop up heaps of the chocolate confection and sit blobs of it upon the lined baking trays. Continue thus until rows of the little gobbets or meteorite-like clusters fill the paper. Then put the trays in the fridge for at least half an hour.
5 Choose a tin with a close-fitting lid. Cut a few sheets of baking parchment to fit inside the tin.
6 Once the chocolates have set, place them in layers inside the tin, separating each layer with a sheet of parchment. Seal the tin and stash until required.
18 A winter’s poached fruit salad
Peel strips off a lemon as for a martini, then squeeze its juice into a bowl. Peel 6 pears and toss them in the lemon juice. Put 30ml water and 200ml white wine, 200g caster sugar, a vanilla pod, 2 bay leaves, 10 black peppercorns and a blade of mace into a pan. Bring to a boil on a high heat. Add the pears, lemon juice and peel. Cover with a disc of parchment to fit the pot. A plate on top helps keep the fruit submerged. Lower the heat to a simmer and poach gently until the pears are cooked – 3050 minutes depending on ripeness. Add 12 prunes, 12 dried apricots and 12 dried figs, bring back to the boil for 30 seconds then remove from the heat and cool. Gently remove the cooled fruits to a serving bowl and pour over the syrup unstrained.
19 Orange and Campari sorbet
Pour 500ml freshly squeezed orange juice through a conical sieve and decant into a liquidiser, adding the juice of 1 lemon and 120g icing sugar. Blend until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in 50ml Campari, then churn in an ice-cream maker or freeze in a bowl, whisking from time to time to keep any crystalline formations to a bare minimum. Serve with a glass of Campari and soda, topped with a slice of orange, of course!
20 Poached apricots
Combine 750ml white wine, 50g caster sugar, a strip of lemon zest, a vanilla pod, 3 bay leaves, 12 peppercorns and 4 spikes of rosemary in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently into a syrup. Add in 24 apricots, cover with a disc of parchment, raise the heat and bring back to the boil. Set aside to cool. If the syrup is somewhat thin, lift out the apricots when cool, cover well and boil the syrup for 5-10 minutes until reduced. Cool the syrup, then pour back over the apricots.