• Apricot Fool

    Apricot fool

    Apricot, my favourite colour in roses, gives a dreamy dimension to desserts. It’s amazing what a dash of yellow can do for the ubiquitous princess pink; giving it an elegance and soft richness that’s very enticing. Cecile Brunner, the little buttonhole rambling rose, is deservedly popular, but its cousin the softly apricot Perle d’Or (golden pearl) is, as its name suggests, in another realm.

    Fruit fools are the pearls of English puddings but they’ve fallen out of favour in this era of being bludgeoned over the head by sticky date puddings, mostly soggy lemon tarts and over-sized muffins. A touch of class, as an antidote to all that crassness, is what’s required. A fruit puree folded through whipped cream and turned into a pretty glass vessel is an appealingly light and delicate sweet end to a grand meal. The method is simple enough too for family treats at any time.

    Choose a fruit that has an intense flavour, preferably with a good acid backbone. Blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries (one of the best), damson plums, greengages and apricots all make delicious fruit fools. The basis of the dessert is to prepare a dense puree of cooked fruit. You can do this well ahead as it is best if the puree is very cold when folded into the whipped cream. That way the fool will hold is soft shape perfectly without collapsing. It is worthwhile sieving the puree to remove any excess seeds or hard pieces of skin.

    Here I’ve used the last of this season’s apricots. To make sure the puree has plenty of oomph use the smallest amount of water possible to cook the fruit without it sticking to the bottom of the pan. This rule also applies to all the other fruits listed above. When apricots are out of season you can use dried to excellent effect. Simply soak in a little warm water until they’ve swelled and softened and then cook them as you would the fresh apricots. They may need a little extra sugar so taste the finished puree. Tiny meringues or crisp dessert biscuits are lovely with fools.

    A delicately flavoured dessert needs a delicate dessert wine that’s not too sticky and sweet. Try Wellington’s Iced Riesling.

    The Recipe

    Apricot fool (fills 4-5 glass flutes)
    300g fresh apricots, halved and stoned
    2 tbsp water
    2 tbsp caster sugar (or more to taste)
    lemon juice to taste
    300ml thickened cream
    1 tbsp icing sugar
    flaked almonds, toasted in oven for five minutes

    Place the apricots in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the sugar and water. Cook very gently, stirring occasionally, until the apricots are very soft. Puree the contents of the saucepan in a food processor or blender until smooth. Pass through a medium-holed mesh sieve to remove any hard pieces of skin. If the puree seems sloppy at this point you can pop back in a clean saucepan and gently simmer to evaporate any excess water. Keep stirring to stop it from sticking. Add enough lemon juice to bring out the flavour and check for sweetness. Chill.
    Whip the cream to soft peaks with the icing sugar. Fold the apricot puree into the cream in a figure of eight, keeping some swirls of puree evident in the mixture for a pretty effect.
    Pour into glass vessels. Top with the toasted almonds.

  • Scallops with Chorizo & White Bean Puree

    Scallops w chorizo & white bean puree

    Eating out at a good restaurant is a pleasure. No thinking, shopping, cooking or cleaning up and you might even come home with an idea or two (or variation thereof) that can be recreated in the home kitchen.

    Make the bean puree first as this will take the longest time. Planning ahead is a necessity as the dried cannellini beans should be soaked overnight in the fridge. The cooking the next day will also take a couple of hours but then you’ll have a nice batch of puree that will keep well in the fridge for several days. Apart from its use in this dish the bean puree can also be spread on bread or toast with a thin smear of pesto underneath or topped with blanched broccolini fried off with garlic and olive oil as a tasty accompaniment to meat.
    Great with a juicy pinot like 2007 Maude Pinot Noir from Central Otago.

    The Recipe

    For the white bean puree:

    • 250g dried cannellini beans, soaked in plenty of water overnight
    • 1 celery stick, chopped into large pieces
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    • sprig fresh sage
    • 2 slices peeled potato
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 tsp salt flakes
    • black pepper
    • reserved liquid from cooking the beans
    • extra sage leaves for garnish

    When you are ready to cook the beans drain and rinse. Place in a large saucepan with the celery, garlic, potato and sprig of sage and cover with water. Simmer gently covered for about two hours or until the beans are tender. Drain them, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Discard the celery and sage. Puree the beans with the garlic, potato, salt, pepper and olive oil. Add a tablespoon or two of the cooking liquid to achieve a smooth, slightly fluid puree. Check for seasoning. Use immediately while still warm or refrigerate. To re-warm later, mix with a little olive oil and stock in a non-stick frypan and heat gently.
    Fry the extra sage leaves in olive oil until crisp and translucent. Drain on paper towel.

    For the scallops and chorizo
    • fresh Tasmanian scallops, cleaned of intestinal tract
    • chorizo sausage sliced obliquely into 4mm slices

    Fry the chorizo slices for a minute on each side in a non-stick frypan. Remove and keep warm. Wipe out the pan with paper towel, add a smear of olive oil and fry the scallops for a minute each side or until nicely coloured without overcooking.

    To serve:
    Place the sausage slices in a line on a large platter or individual plates, leaving a gap between each for the puree. Top the chorizo with a scallop. Dollop the warm bean puree between the scallop/chorizo combination. Drizzle the puree with good olive oil and tuck a fried sage leaf into the puree. Serve at once with good bread and glass of pinot noir.