Lick the Spoon
Published Gloucestershire Echo Weekend Supplement 10/01/2009
Sibling rivalry was never hotter during my childhood than when we fought over who got to lick the spoon. The mix for mum’s chocolate cake came high on the list, with buttercream coming a close second. Sneaking a spoonful or two before the mix was finished became the ultimate aim, with Artful Dodger-like skills deployed at every turn. I seem to remember the pleasure of eating the mix far outweighing eating the cake. And therein lies one solid reason why I became interested in cooking. No longer would I have to contend with my brother’s guile and my sister’s charm, I, as chef, could lick the spoon as many times as I wanted.
My first memories of going it alone always come back to Hamlyn’s All Colour Cookbook, a seventies’ housewives staple. I would pore over the pages for hours, transfixed by the photographs, wanting to make Hungarian Goulash, Honey Madeleines and a range of kitsch seventies dishes only to find we didn’t have half of the ingredients I needed.
I recently acquired an original copy courtesy of EBay, as if to lay a foundation for my culinary heritage. The recipes are as far removed from what I cook now as is possible, but those retro pictures put a smile on my face and whenever a friend asks how I became interested in cooking I will pull the book from the shelf and we can have a good giggle together over the concoctions within.
Rhubarb jelly and toasted almond cream float
If jelly doesn’t remind you of childhood I don’t know what will. After all what is more frivolous than jelly and you don’t need to be at a kid’s birthday party to enjoy it. I serve little shot glasses of jelly and “floats” at many of my dinner parties all year round. Larger portions are perfect for a light dessert.
Makes 8 shot glasses worth or 2 larger dessert portions
50g Whole almonds
150ml Double Cream
125g Caster Sugar
Optional – crushed/blitzed caramelised almonds.
To make the rhubarb syrup base cut up all rhubarb, place in a pan with a 75g of sugar and a little water to come 1/3rd of the way up the rhubarb. Cook on a gentle heat with the lid on until completely soft. Place in a sieve or muslin/jelly bag over a bowl and allow the liquid to run overnight.
Taste the juice it should be fairly tart with just a hint of sweetness, if it’s too tart add a little more sugar and stir to dissolve. Measure out your juice, follow the instructions on the gelatine and add accordingly. Pour into shot glasses or dessert bowls and chill to set.
Heat the oven to 200c. Place the almonds on a baking tray and roast until light brown (check after 4 minutes and every minute thereafter) it should take no more than 8. minutes. In the meantime heat the cream and 50g of sugar in a pan until just simmering, remove from the heat, add the toasted almonds and a drop or two of almond extract. Leavc to infuse for 2 hours or preferably overnight, then strain and chill. Bring the jelly out 30 minutes before serving. When ready to serve simply pour a thin layer of cream over the rhubarb jelly. Optional – add a sprinkling of blitzed caramelised almonds to finish.