Let there be light: Skye Gyngell's soft, subtle spring desserts
Sunday 18 April 2010
As the weather gets warmer, the desire for heavy, warm desserts diminishes – all that is needed now is a little sweetness to complete a meal. Forced rhubarb is still just about around and the beautiful alphonso mangoes from India carry us over until more fruit is available here. Soft spring goat's cheese is in its prime and, served with a spoonful or so of honey, crosses the bridge perfectly between cheese and dessert. All the recipes here are simple and quick to prepare.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com
Alphonso mangoes are in season for only six weeks or so – and it is the beginning of their season now. Highly perfumed and very sweet, their flesh is wonderfully orange. They are available from Middle Eastern shops and good greengrocers.
This recipe consists of no more than puréed mango with a drop or two of cream and sugar. It is best eaten on the day it is made. If you don't have an ice-cream maker, place it in a Tupperware bowl and put in the freezer. You will need to stir it every half-hour or so until it sets to prevent the final texture being too icy.
75g/3oz caster sugar
A pinch of salt
The juice of half a lime
Slice diagonally down the sides of the stone of each mango, cut down to remove the small strips of flesh left by the stone and, using a teaspoon, scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. Place in a food processor with the sugar and salt. Purée until smooth. Squeeze over the lime and purée briefly again. Pour into a bowl and stir in the cream. Place in an ice-cream maker and follow the maker's instructions.
Cooked cream with roasted rhubarb
I had this absolutely beautiful dessert for the first time only a week or so ago. It was made by Jeremy Lee, the chef at London's Blueprint Café, who is one of my favourite cooks. It is as delicate as you can imagine.
Jeremy quickly brushed over the technique and, like all professional cooks, gave no quantities or cooking times, just a sketchy outline. This is what I came up with. I added the biscuits myself.
600ml/1 pint double cream
5oz/150g caster sugar
The juice of half a lemon
For the rhubarb
2 sticks of rhubarb
21/2oz/65g caster sugar
The juice of one orange
Place the cream and sugar in a pan over a medium heat. Stir once or twice to dissolve the sugar, then allow to scald. Reduce the heat and cook for three minutes. Remove from the heat and squeeze over the lemon juice. Stir well and finely strain into a serving dish. Allow to cool to room temperature then place in the fridge to chill.
Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Wash and pat dry the rhubarb and slice into two-inch pieces. Place in a bowl, scatter over the sugar, toss well and squeeze over the orange juice. Lay in a roasting tin and place on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft but retains its shape. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before chilling in the fridge.
Shortbread biscuits with a hint of ginger
These are delicate little biscuits that work well with the rhubarb. The dough freezes well, so use as much or as little as you like.
Makes 20 biscuits
8oz/250g unsalted butter
4oz/125g caster sugar
11/2lb/750g plain flour
1 scant tsp powdered ginger
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Butter a large baking tray. Cream the butter until pale and smooth and gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Sift the flour with the powdered ginger and work in. Lightly knead for five minutes to form a dough – it should be smooth.
Divide the dough in half and roll each half into the shape of a fat sausage. Roll in parchment paper and chill in the fridge for half an hour. Slice into half-inch-thick rounds and lay evenly spaced on the baking tray, allowing enough room for each to spread slightly. Bake on the middle shelf for five to eight minutes or until the edges are slightly brown. The biscuits will still be slightly soft. Remove and cool on a wire rack; the biscuits will firm as they cool. Serve with the rhubarb and cream.
Spring goat's cheese and rhododendron honey
Goat's cheese is never better than at this time of year. Soft, chalky, crumbly, delicate and slightly lemony in flavour, it should be eaten alone rather than as part of a cheese board. Honey is the perfect accompaniment; choose one that is light in flavour, perhaps with a slightly crystally texture. This very simple plate bridges the gap between cheese and dessert. Don't serve with bread or biscuits, as it simply doesn't need it.
The cheese I have used here is a lovely creamy white rindless cheese known as St Tola from County Clare in Ireland, but taste a few and see which ones you like.
600g/21oz goat's cheese
8 tsp of light fragrant honey (such as rhododendron honey)
4 broad bean pods (optional)
Arrange the cheese on each plate and drizzle two teaspoons of honey over just before serving. When they come into season in June, you could scatter each plate with the contents of one pod of broad beans.
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