Cold Days Deserve Bright Desserts
In which I attempt to entice the mothers of Muswell Hill, get truly impressive inspiration and declare that There Will Be Blood (Oranges)...
I recently mentioned a partnership with Crouch End Mums and I'm really pleased to announce a similar deal with Muswell Hill Mums. Do please spread the word to any mothers, fathers and similarly busy people in the area.
The MHMs also got some dinner party tips and a recipe. This time for a make-ahead pudding: a Blood Orange Tart. I'm not sure any citrus dessert can better Theo Randall's peerless Lemon Tart but this is my seasonal variation and it's pretty good if I do say so myself.
By coincidence, I got some more blood orange inspiration from an incredible meal I ate last weekend. My lovely friend Martha invited me to a gathering held by friends of her family at their stunning house in Scotland. It was the nicest occasion - our hosts were super interesting people who also happen to be very connected in the food world. So our Saturday dinner was cooked by Robin Gill of The Dairy, Sorella and Counter Culture and Lee Westcott of Typing Room.
Yes! I know! I am incredibly lucky!
They did a four course meal (topped and tailed by some beautiful canapés and an extra savoury course at the end): Arctic Char, Scallops, Venison and a dessert of blood orange sorbet with a bay-flavoured panna cotta. I loved the fennel and clementine combination that partnered the char and the scallops were accompanied by paper-thin slices of turnip, compressed and lightly pickled to make them super silky, as well as sweet-sour little spheres of apple. The venison came as a rare-roasted loin and a richly-flavoured stew along with swede ("neeps" since we were in Scotland), brussel tops and golden, nutty artichoke crisps. And the pudding had everyone talking about the use of bay in a sweet dish.
No! I don't have any pictures! I was too busy enjoying myself. Also, it was dark. Sorry.
It's hard to pick favourites when talking about food this accomplished but a couple of things stood out for me. The contrast of textures and flavours in the scallop dish was particularly beautiful and the citrus-bay combination in the pudding a revelation. Since I don't have a vacuum sealer so can't go about compressing anything for the moment, it was pretty obvious which idea to steal.
I had some blood oranges left over from the tart and had been planning on making Gelupo's famous granita. But I wanted to ripple a bright red ribbon through something creamy so went with a sorbet instead. I've also been reading Bee Wilson's very interesting book First Bite about how our attitudes to food are formed. There's a chapter about "nursery food" including much-hated pappy things like rice pudding which actually gave me a craving for the stuff. These musings all coincided with Robin and Lee's panna cotta and this was the result.
I know it is not really ice cream weather but a winter pudding doesn't always have to be a suetty hug. Think of this as sunshine on a blustery day. And don't forget ice creams are available as an added extra if you're Freezer Filling!
Blood Orange Sorbet & Bay Rice Cream (Serves 8)
- 60ml water
- 40g caster sugar
- 15g glucose syrup
- 1g (half a leaf) gelatine
- 500ml Blood Orange Juice (from approximately 10 oranges)
- 100g pudding or risotto rice
- 150g sugar
- 6 bay leaves
- 750ml whole milk
- 6 egg yolks
- 250ml double cream
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- pinch salt
Before you juice the oranges remove two or three thin strips of zest with a peeler and set them aside for the ice cream. To make the sorbet put the water, sugar and glucose syrup in a pan, bring to a gentle boil, making sure all the sugar is dissolved then remove from the heat. Meanwhile soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water. When it's soft add it to the syrup. Stir to dissolve then leave to cool completely. Mix the syrup with the orange juice then put in a container and freeze. When completely solid, chop into chunks and whizz in a food processor. It should be an even, Slush Puppy-ish texture but don't do further than this or it'll melt and be icy again when you refreeze it! Transfer to a piping bag and return to the freezer.
For the ice cream, put the rice and sugar in a pan with the milk. Add the bay leaves and the reserved orange zest. Cook very gently, barely at a simmer, until the rice is soft - at least half an hour, maybe longer. Once the rice is soft, strain everything through a sieve into a bowl. The sieve will catch the rice and flavourings. Remove the bay leaves and orange zest (but keep the bay leaves) then spread the rice out on a plate to cool.
Put the egg yolks in another bowl and whisk them together, Add a little of the milk and whisk again to combine, before adding the rest. Wash the pan, sieve and milk bowl. Pour the egg/milk mixture into the pan and heat gently, stirring constantly, until thickened to a custard that coats the back of a spoon. Strain the custard through the sieve into the clean bowl, add the bay leaves back in, cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool (if you can chill it overnight, even better).
Churn the mixture in an ice cream machine. When nearly done, stir through the rice.
Take the piping bag of sorbet from the freezer and hit it gently with a rolling pin to soften. Cut a large hole in the tip of the bag (approximately an inch in diameter) . Put a layer of rice cream in a container then pipe on thick swirls of sorbet. Cover with more ice cream and repeat until both mixtures are used up. Freeze until needed.
Remove from the freezer five minutes before serving.
If And Ands Were Pots And Pans
You don't have to go to all the faff of marbling the two ices. You could just serve a scoop of each. Or, for a frozen riff on nursery tea, marble jam through the rice cream. Roasted fruit or a compote would be a slightly more sophisticated alternative.
The bay flavour in the custard will seem really strong, especially if you leave it overnight but remember that everything is diminished slightly by freezing. If you weren't serving it with the sorbet, other flavourings wold work well instead of or as well as the bay. Nutmeg seems the obvious choice but lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves etc. would also be good.
I made long thin tuilles (Leiths recipe) and twirled them round a wooden spoon handle but any biscuit would be a nice accompaniment. Or toasted nuts.