Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Perfect (Quintessential) Summer (English) Desserts

After a week of rain and um, more rain, in London, the weather in Leicester was gorgeous last weekend - sunny, but not too hot, with a bit of breeze in between.  Who could ask for anything more?  We were fortunate enough to be able to barbecue in Alison's backyard (or "garden", as Brits call it ... more on that later) and eat almost every meal outside with our sunnies on.  Too perfect.

One thing I love about Alison's cooking, is that she doesn't do things in halves - meat is always accompanied by veg, whether that's a freshly tossed salad or caramelized carrots.  And there's always, always dessert (not to mention, room for dessert - that is, if you've saved yourself).  I was thrown into a state of shock and awe (and by "shock and awe", I mean I'm pretty sure I clapped my hands in glee and shouted, "JELLY!!!" when this delightful dish appeared before me) by Alison's homemade orange and lemon jelly (pictured right).  It kind of left me speechless.  What really topped it off, however, and made it quintessentially British, was the option of adding fresh single cream to the dish ... it seems as though the English add cream to all their afters, be it single, double or whipped cream.  Fresh, tangy, with a bit of extra zing, the cool jelly was a delightful way to end a lunch hour spent outdoors in a sundrenched garden.

The next day, we had one of my favorites - strawberries (that had been sprinkled with sugar) and vanilla ice cream.  Simple, yet refreshing and divine (I had the urge to mash mine up and make it into a strawberry milkshake, toddler-style, but I don't think Alison would have appreciated that at her lunchtable, being English and all.  Had I been at a friend's house in the States, well then, that would be another story ... I probably would have been encouraged to indulge in such uncouth activities ... or maybe the option of throwing it all in a blender since, you know, that's what an adult would do).

I've saved the best for last, even though we had it first.  The night we arrived, Alison uncovered a large plate of homemade meringues.  Yeah, I said it, homemade.  Perfectly crunchy on the outside and ever-so-slightly chewy in the middle, she served these decadent treats with some of Tesco's Finest Cornish clotted cream (which was so unbelieveably good, btw) and some - are you ready for this? - homemade raspberry compote.  I weep at the memory of it.  So delicious and perfect.

And there you have it - three quintessential English desserts, served up in the span of one weekend, by the Queen of Desserts-and-anything-else-to-do-with-domestic-gastronomical-delights, Alison.

(Oh, and if you're interested in making your own jelly from scratch, check out this timely guide from The Guardian on "how to deliver a quiver".)

1 comment

  1. the secret is in the beating, and strawberry milkshake sounds good too. Next time lets go for it, and mash it up!


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