Tuesday, August 23, 2011


This vivid magenta ice cream is wonderfully easy to make and, for the most part, is free. Go and pick the elderberries now - they look like deep purple versions of mistletoe; small berries in a bunch, hanging from an eight-stemmed stalk. You'll find them in trees amongst early sloes and damsons and they'll be around for the next month. Their taste is musky and sharp and much less versatile than the blackberry - we don't use them in cooking very much - but get them swimming in sugar and they become berrily potent and sweet.



600ml double cream
100g caster sugar
4 egg yolks, room temperature, whisked
200g elderberries, de-stalked and washed
150g caster sugar

Heat the cream and sugar in a large saucepan and whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and gently and slowly whisk in the egg yolks until thickened to a custard and evenly mixed. Set aside.

In another pan, gently heat the elderberries with the sugar, until the sugar has dissolved and the elderberries are just bursting. You do not want to overcook the berries but make them plump and juicy. Sieve the berries into another bowl, leaving pips and bits of rogue foliage behind. When both the custard and compote are cooled mix them together in a shallow metal bowl. Cover with cling film or tin foil and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill and set.

After 30 minutes give the custard a whisk and, unless you have a trendy ice cream machine, transfer to the freezer. Every two hours, whisk up the ice cream so that any ice crystals are mixed in. Do this two or three times before leaving the ice cream to set and freeze before serving. Mine took just over a night and a day to freeze but it depends on the temperature and the fullness of your freezer. It is best eaten within the week but can stay frozen, well covered, for longer.

Scrumptious with crushed Amaretti biscuits and a few fresh mint leaves.

Monday, August 15, 2011


A late post, mid-August, back in London. Books for Cooks has shut up shop for the month so freedom has swiftly drifted in.

Last week was spent in southern France where evenings were fed with hazy cooking, whirling up fresh finds from the heaving markets of Agde, Grau D'Agde, and Clermont L'Herault. Crisp bread, fresh mackerel, calamari, best tomato salads, and cheese, oh cheese. Pale, chilled rose was decanted into a plastic tub from a nozzle in the wall, and drunk with devotion and constancy. (Smug).

We had one nasty bouillabaisse - an ancient, bitty, muddy stock - which came as a stiff reminder of why using vibrant, in-season ingredients can transform a dish from dismal to delightful. Picking out the good'ns makes cooking an effortless success.

Back in the cittaaay with time on my hands and August ingredients to play with its the aubergine that I've got it in for. Melanzane parmigiana, marinated aubergine, deep-fried eggplant. That unmistakeable rubber skin, a deep purple, an earthy musk, a friend to any late summer salad...



4-6 British lamb cutlets
1 large aubergine, sliced length ways
2 tbsps salt
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp salted butter
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 beef tomato, roughly chopped
50g creme fraiche
handful fresh thyme, torn
150g Parmesan cheese, grated
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 380 F/ Gas 3.

Prepare the cutlets, covering then in olive oil, and a good helping of salt and pepper. Cover with clingfilm and set aside.

Place the aubergine slices in a colander and scatter with salt. Leave to sit for 30 mins so that the excess moisture is drawn out. Dab the aubergine dry with kitchen towel, wiping it free of any white droplets that appear. Heat up 2 tbsps olive oil on a medium to high heat and add the aubergine slices. Fry on each side until golden brown. Remove from the pan and drain on another piece of kitchen towel.

Melt the butter in the same pan and add the shallots. Cook until soft. Add the garlic and tomatoes and fry for 3 minutes.

Place the aubergine and the tomato mix into a small oven dish.

Pour the creme fraiche into a clean saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add half the Parmesan,the thyme and a seasoning of black pepper. Stir until the cheese has melted. Drizzle the sauce over the aubergine and tomato with the rest of the Parmesan. Place the dish in the oven and bake for approx. 20 mins or until golden on top. Take the aubergines from the oven and leave to cool slightly.

Put a large frying pan on a high heat. Drop a splash of oil in the pan; if it hisses, it is hot enough for the cutlets. Cook for 3 mins on each side until the meat has browned and the fat is crisp.

Spoon the aubergines into a shallow bowl or pasta dish. Place the lamb on top with a few springs of fresh thyme.

The aubergines create the most delicious sauce so, when you've finished, either mop it up with a hunk of good bread or sip it straight from the bowl! Very good with orzo for some starchy love.