Traditional English desserts with a modern twist

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1. Eton Mess

(serves 4-6)

Eton Mess is a simple dessert: meringue, cream and fresh berries all tossed together in one decadent heap. This version is more of a trifle, layering the berries and cream in a serving glass and topping them with Italian meringue. The ‘mess’ is then made when the spoon hits the pudding and mixes it all together.

Ingredients:

400g berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc – or a mixture of each)
500 ml double cream
100g icing sugar

1. Prepare the berries by removing any stems and cutting into bite-size pieces. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle over half of the icing sugar. Cover and set aside.
2. Add the remaining icing sugar to the cream and whisk the mixture until just holding soft peaks (over-whipped cream will ruin the texture of the dish).

For the Italian meringue…

This meringue uses a hot sugar syrup rather than caster sugar. The syrup cooks the egg whites as it is added, meaning that Italian meringue can be used to decorate cold or uncooked dishes. It gives a stiffer meringue when compared to the French (caster) method, making it ideal for piping.

250g caster sugar
60 ml water
5 egg whites

1. Place the water and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil. Heat to the soft-ball stage (118°C), then remove from the heat.
2. Whisk the egg whites to firm peaks in a very clean bowl. This is more easily done using the whisk attachment on an electric table-top food mixer.
3. With the mixer running at low speed, slowly drizzle the sugar syrup down the inside of the bowl and onto the whisked egg white. Don’t add it too fast or it may cause the mixture to turn lumpy.
4. Continue to whisk the mixture until the meringue has cooled to a manageable temperature – this will take a good 5-6 minutes.

To serve…

Layer the cream and berries (which will, by now, have produced a good deal of juices which can be spooned into the mix) inside a deep serving glass, one after the other, until full. Place the cooled meringue in a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle, and pipe small peaks of meringue all over the top of the mixture.
The meringue will naturally form an outer crust as it cools, but for added colour (and if you have one) pass a blow torch very quickly over the meringue to give it a lovely golden hue. Serve immediately.

2. Bread & Butter pudding brûlée

Bread and butter pudding: a British classic – cheap, simple, and utterly delicious. But not overly sophisticated. This version, however, takes it to a whole new level, producing a soft, creamy souffléd centre topped with a crisp caramel shell. Bread and butter pudding has never tasted this good.

Ingredients:

1 loaf of sliced white bread
100g butter (room temperature)
60g demerara sugar
8 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
800 ml double cream
400 ml milk
1 vanilla pod
30g apricot jam
100g golden sultanas
1 Earl Grey tea bag

1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
2. Grease an ovenproof dish (approx. 500mm x 300mm) with some of the butter and sprinkle a little of the demerara inside it so that it sticks to the butter.
3. Use the remaining butter to spread over the sliced bread. Remove the crusts and cut each slice into four triangles.
4. Place the sultanas in a bowl, add the tea bag and pour over enough hot water to cover the fruit. Leave to steep for 30 minutes, then drain well.
5. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Add both the seeds and the pods to a saucepan and pour over the cream and milk. Place over a medium heat until the mixture just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat.
6. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar until light, pale and fluffy. Pour the heated cream mixture over the eggs, whisking as you do so. Transfer the mixture back into the pan, and remove the vanilla pod. Place back onto a low heat and stir continuously until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from the heat.
7. Place a layer of the buttered bread in the base of the dish, overlapping each piece slightly. Scatter over a few sultanas and then add another layer of bread. Repeat until the dish is half full.
8. At the half-way point, spread a thin layer of the apricot jam over each slice of bread before layering it in the dish. Continue adding layers of bread and sultanas until the dish is full.
9. Pour over half of the custard mixture and leave it to soak into the bread for 15 minutes.
10. Gently press down on the dish using your hands, to encourage the custard to reach the bottom of the dish. Add the remaining custard, cover the dish, and leave it to refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
11. Place the dish inside a larger dish or tray that can be filled with water. Add hot water to the larger tray until it reaches half-way up the pudding dish – this is your ‘bain-marie’, it will allow the pudding to cook without overheating and splitting.
12. Transfer to the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes. The top of the pudding should retain a slight wobble when cooked.
13. Just before serving, sprinkle the remaining demerara over the dish and place it under a very hot grill to caramelise (alternatively, brulée it using a blowtorch).

3. Lemon syllabub with a shortbread topping

One of the oldest British desserts, syllabub can be traced back to the 16th century where it was a simple mixture of freshly milked cream and a sweet fortified wine known as sack. This recipe is a little more sophisticated: limoncello-scented syllabub served with shortbread. Delicious!

25 ml Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1 Lemon
75ml Sweet White Wine & 75ml Limoncello
105g Caster Sugar
300ml Double Cream

1. Place 55g of the caster sugar, the finely grated zest of ½ the lemon, and 3 tbsp of lemon juice into a pan and heat very gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the alcohol. For best results, do this the day before and leave in a cool place to infuse overnight.

2. Whip the double cream until only just holding soft peaks. Carefully fold-in the infused lemon and alcohol mixture a little at a time… too quickly and it risks curdling! This is your syllabub.

Serve with large crumbs of shortbread.

4. Black Forest Bakewell


Bakewell tart – a stone cold classic – and that 70s dinner party favourite the Black Forest gateau, here brought together in one delicious package.

For the pastry:

500 g plain flour
175 g icing sugar
250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod, split open
1 whole egg & 1 yolk, beaten

1 egg yolk, to glaze

1. Preheat oven to 170°C.
2. Place the flour, icing sugar, butter, lemon zest, and the seeds from the vanilla pod in a bowl. Using your fingertips, gently rub the mixture together to form a crumb.
3. Add the egg and mix until the paste just comes together. Wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
4. Grease a 10” round, spring-form baking tin with plenty of butter.
5. Roll the pastry out to approx. 4mm thickness and carefully use it to line the baking tin. Place a sheet of cling film over the pastry and add baking beans. Blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for a further 10 minutes.
6. Remove the tart from the oven and, whilst still hot, brush the egg yolk all over the pastry – this will seal any holes. Return to the oven for 2 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

For the filling:

110g butter
110g caster
2 eggs
110g ground almonds
25g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ orange zest
25g bitter cocoa powder

100g morello cherry preserve
75g griottine cherries (black cherries soaked in alcohol)

1. Increase the oven temperature to 190°C.
2. Place the butter and caster sugar in a bowl and cream them together until pale and fluffy. Beat in the two eggs until fully incorporated.
3. Add the ground almonds, flour, baking powder, orange zest and cocoa powder, and carefully fold it through the mixture.
4. Heat the cherry preserve until spreadable and spread a layer of it over the base of the tart.
5. Cover this with the almond frangipane filling, and smooth the top to give a neat finish.
6. Gently press the griottine cherries down into the frangipane mixture to form small indentations in the surface.
7. Bake at 190°C for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 170°C and bake for a further 20 minutes.
8. Allow to cool, and serve with fresh whipped cream.

5. Yuzu posset

When you’re pushed for time, posset is the ultimate go-to dessert. It requires just three ingredients and can be made in under 10 minutes. The principle is a simple one: sweetened cream is set using a combination of heat and the acid of citrus fruit. In a twist on the norm, the usual lemon or orange is replaced with yuzu, a Japanese lime/grapefruit hybrid with a truly unique flavour.

Fresh yuzu is available in the UK, but it’s extremely difficult to find. One alternative is to use packaged yuzu juice – this can be found at online specialists such as souschef.com, or at Asian grocers. Another alternative is to use a yuzu concentrate, which is perhaps the most readily available option, as well as the most cost effective. Again, this can be found online and through specialist Asian grocers.

500 ml double cream
170g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lime
75ml yuzu juice

OR

500 ml double cream
170g caster sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 lime
6-8 drops of yuzu concentrate
1. Place the cream and sugar in a pan and bring it slowly to a simmer.
2. Once simmering, add the remaining ingredients, stir well, and allow to very gently simmer for 3-4 minutes.
3. Remove the mixture from the heat, pass it through a sieve to remove the zest, and pour it into individual bowls or glasses.
4. Leave it to chill in the refrigerator until set – approximately 2 hours.
5. Serve with shortbread and berries.