Black Currant – Chocolate Risotto

Chocolate Risotto Ok. I know that this will provoke a few traditionalists and perhaps bring back memories of those terrible chocolate noodles, but I decided to try a sweet risotto yesterday evening. After all, it’s not that different in concept from rice pudding. It turned out very dense but very tasty, so I added copious amounts of vanilla ice cream, and then it worked well as a dessert.

Here’s a recipe if you want to try it…

Black Currant and Chocolate Risotto


Chocolate Risotto with ice cream100 gm Arborio rice
500 ml Black Currant Juice (I used an organic cordial mixed with water)
50 gm 70% chocolate, chopped

What to do:

1. Combine the rice and half the juice and cook in a saucepan over low heat, stirring all the time.
2. As the rice absorbs the liquid, add more juice, and continue stirring until the rice is cooked and the liquid absorbed (around 20 min)
3. Stir in the chocolate until it is completely melted.
4. Serve warm in small portions with generous amounts of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4

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Pear and Ginger Zabaglione

Zabaglione One of my favourite desserts is zabaglione, a rich Italian custard, made with Marsala wine. It’s complex, not too sweet, and packs a nice alcohol punch. I’ve had a bad cold the past few days, but today I felt recovered enough to pull out the pans and treat myself.

Pear and Ginger Zabaglione


2 poached pears (see here)

5 egg yolks

100 g sugar

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

200 ml dry Marsala wine

Mixing custardWhat to Do:

1. Beat together the egg yolks and sugar until they turn pale yellow.

2. Add the Marsala wine, beating all the time.

3. Add the ginger.

4. Transfer to a double boiler (I used a metal bowl over a pan of water).

5. Continue whisking the mixture until the volume doubles and coats the back of a spoon.

Zabaglione6. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

7. To serve, distribute the custard among 4 bowls and top with the poached pears.

Serves 4

Note: This dessert works well with many different fruits – strawberries, peaches, etc. Have fun and experiment.

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Peach Melba

Peach Melba w Cream At the suggestion of one of our good customers, I played around a bit with Peach Melba over the weekend in the odd hours I had out of the shop.

Invented in the 1890s by the French chef Escoffier, who was working at the Savoy in London, Peach Melba was a dish made for an Australian opera diva – Nellie Melba. It consists of poached peaches, vanilla ice cream, and a sauce made from raspberries and redcurrants, although it’s usually just made with raspberry sauce.

I don’t know if it will make an appearance in our shops, as I would be loath to use canned peaches, and it would be hard to keep poached peaches around the place.

You never know…

If you want to try it, here’s what I did:

Peach Melba1. Peel and cut up some fresh, ripe peaches (allow a full peach per person), drop them into boiling water with a few tablespoons of sugar and leave for two or three minutes (I don’t like to give them an over-cooked taste). Strain and allow to cool.

2. Puree 50g of raspberries, 25ml water, a teaspoon sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice per person. Bring to a boil in a small saucepan, then pass through a sieve and allow to cool completely.  

3. Put the peaches in a dish, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and drizzle liberally with the raspberry sauce.

4. I added some cream and garnished with fresh red currants in honour of the famous French chef…

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Chilled Strawberry Soup

Strawberries  I am a happy (although busy) man in the Summer. A few days ago, I saw some fresh strawberries at a fruit and veg shop in Killarney, and there were two remarkable things about them – 1. They had an odour, and 2. There was real earth attached to some of them (i.e it was not hydroponically grown). Yes, Irish fruit is back in season, and it’s something to savour!

Then I had to go to Dublin, and I stopped off at Sweetbank Farm in Wicklow. I’ve written about them before, and I highly suggest that anyone in the area go visit. Their fruit is sublime, and they serve it out of a delightful farm shop with fresh cream and a coffee if you want it.

In any case, I bought back trays of fruit for making ice cream, and I took a punnet of strawberries for myself. I had strawberry soup on the brain, and I decided to whip some up.

Fruit soups are rare in these parts, but you’d find them on the continent. It’s a great thing to serve before the main course of a nice meal (instead of a sorbet) – it cleans the palate and is guaranteed to wow the guests!

Chilled Strawberry Soup


500gm Fresh Strawberries 

300 ml water, boiling

2 Tablespoon sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons balsamic vineger

Pinch of black pepper.

What to Do:

1. Put the sugar in a blender or food processor, add the boiling water and blend briefly to dissolve.

Strawberry Soup2. Add the strawberries and puree until smooth.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients, blending briefly to incorporate them.

4. Chill the soup thoroughly.

5. Garnish with yoghurt and a bit of mint and serve!

Serves 4

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Creme Caramel (Flan)

Creme Caramel Creme Caramel (or “Flan,” as it’s known in Spain) is really one of my favourite desserts, and it’s much easier to make than many people might think. The only difficulty for some would be making the caramel, which is easy to burn. However, I’m amazed it’s not prepared more often, for guests are always “wowed” by this treat!

The most usual flavouring would be a little vanilla, but I like the kick of fresh ginger, so that’s the recipe I will pass on here.

Ginger Créme Caramel (Flan) Recipe

Before you get started, gather up the following:

6 ramekins, a small heavy saucepan, a sieve, a heatproof bowl, and a baking dish large enough to hold the 6 ramekins.

Part 1 – The Caramel


150 ml sugar

1-2 tablespoon water

What to do:

  1. Pour the sugar in the saucepan, followed by the water.
  2. Cook over medium heat without stirring.
  3. Watch carefully. When it begins to brown, stir until the caramel is a deep amber colour, but not burned.
  4. It happens pretty fast, so take care. It is also very, very hot!
  5. RamekinsImmediately pour into ramekins, dividing it among the 6 before it hardens.

Part 2 – The Custard


500 ml milk 

1 tsp. fresh sliced ginger

1 vanilla bean or 1 ½ tsp vanilla sugar

2 eggs

4 egg yolks

100 ml sugar

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 170C.
  2. Pour the milk into the saucpan with the fresh ginger and cook over medium heat. When it is hot, reduce the heat and leave it simmer for about 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl.
  4. Pass the milk through a sieve to remove the ginger pieces.  
  5. Slowly pour the milk over the egg mixture, stirring all the time, but try not to agitate too much or it will be very foamy.
  6. Once the eggs and milk are fully incorporated, again pass it through the sieve to remove any hardened bits of egg.  
  7. Pour into ramekins.
  8. Place the ramekins in a baking dish, and fill the baking dish with enough hot water to reach 1 cm below the rims of the ramekins. (You are creating a hot water bath for the custard).
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, until firm to the touch.
  10. Remove from the oven, and immediately go to the next step. (If you wait, the caramel will harden).
  11. Cut around the edgle of the custard with a knife to loosen it.
  12. Invert the ramekins on plates to deposit the custard, pouring out any excess caramel.
  13. Creme CaramelServe immediately.

Notes: 1. You can substitute 1 tsp vanilla for the ginger, if you don’t care for it…

2. You can pull the remaining caramel at the bottom of the ramekins into decorative sugar threads as I have done in the photo on the right.

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