All recipes serve six.
A parfait of pear
Jane Grigson describes this dessert as a poetic finish to a special meal. It is.
250g caster sugar
4 very fresh, large egg whites
750g Williams pears
1 lemon, juiced
300ml double cream
4 tbsp pear eau de vie
In a pan, dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat until the liquid is clear. Bring up to boil, and maintain the pace until the syrup reaches 120C (you can be precise if you have a kitchen thermometer; otherwise, just make sure it's very hot). Should the sugar crystallise on the sides of the pan, wash it down with a brush dipped in cold water.
In a scrupulously cleaned bowl, whisk the egg whites into stiff peaks, then pour in the hot syrup and beat until the meringue stiffens into a great white mass. Peel and core the pears, and chop their flesh. Place the pear pieces in a pan, along with the lemon juice, and cook gently until the fruit has softened. Process into a purée.
Lightly whip the cream, then fold it carefully into the meringue mix. Now fold in the eau de vie and the purée. Spoon into a 1-litre terrine or mould, cover and freeze, preferably overnight. To serve, unmould, cut into slices with a heated knife and dish up with some almond or vanilla thins.
Walnut praline ice cream
This will feed more than six, so there's plenty for second helpings.
250g shelled walnuts
4 egg yolks
3 tbsp dark rum
284ml double cream
You can freeze this either in individual ramekins or somesuch or, as I do, in a lovely big bowl. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Put the walnuts on a flat tray and roast until quite brown - do not scorch.
Put the water in a heavy-bottomed, stainless-steel pan and place over a medium heat. Pour in the sugar, and stir until dissolved. The syrup will start to colour after a couple of minutes and then darken; you're after a caramel that is dark but not burnt. Once the caramel is right, remove from the heat, tip in the roasted walnuts and stir very carefully - a caramel burn is pain beyond endurance. Lightly oil a tray, spread out the mixture on it, and leave to cool and set.
Set the cooking pan to one side, as any caramel stuck to the bottom will be used up later. Once cooled, break up the now-brittle praline into a bowl, then grind into a rough-cut powder with large chunks within. Put the milk in the caramel pan, set it over a medium heat and stir until the caramel has dissolved.
In a mixing bowl, beat the yolks until pale and grown in volume, then add a third of the praline powder, and beat until thick and tacky. Pour the heated milk in a thin, steady stream over this, return the whole lot to the pan and stir over a medium heat until it has thickened and bubbles have ceased to appear on the surface.
Remove from the heat, stir in another third of the praline mix and stir until cooled. Transfer to a bowl suitable for an electric beater, and whisk at high speed until the custard thickens. Add the rum and, when the mix is quite cool, the rest of the praline. Whip the cream until it begins to hold a shape, fold into the custard and then transfer the ice cream into your vessel(s) of choice. Freeze, preferably overnight. Transfer from freezer to fridge an hour before eating .
Blood orange granita
I know all is meant to be metric these days, but sugar-to-water measures seem only to work in imperial, so there.
1 pint water
2 pints blood orange juice
1 small lemon, juiced
In a pan, dissolve the sugar and water, bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Once it has cooled completely, sieve the orange and lemon juices, and pour into the syrup. Tip into a freezing tray and freeze. As the granita freezes, break it up every 30 minutes or so with a fork, until you have a great pile of crystals. Transfer to a container with a secure lid, and keep in the freezer, where it will last for at least a week. Serve in frozen glasses .
Melon and ginger sorbet
Use Charentais, if you can, but the main rule is that the melon is sweet and ripe.
1 kg ripe melon flesh and juice
115g caster sugar
3cm piece fresh ginger
Juice of 1 small lemon
Peel and grate the ginger over a plate, to keep as much juice as possible. Put all the ingredients into a liquidiser and purée until very smooth. Pass through a fine sieve, then churn in an ice cream machine.
The ice cream and sponge can be bought, but homemade elevates what is a good dessert into a very good one indeed. Both can be frozen until required, as can the finished dish.
For the sponge
170g unsalted butter, softened
170g caster sugar
3 very fresh, large eggs
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
170g self-raising flour, sifted
For the vanilla ice cream
1 vanilla pod
7 egg yolks
250g caster sugar
750ml double cream
For the meringue
4 egg whites
85g caster sugar
4 tbsp apricot jam
You'll need three roughly equal-sized rectangular vessels for this: a baking tin, for the sponge; a freezer container, for the ice cream; and a dish for the end-result. Make the sponge first. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Lightly butter a sponge tin. Beat together the sugar and butter until pale. Crack the eggs into a jug, beat, and add in a slow stream to the butter/sugar mix. Beat in the lemon juice and rind, then fold in the flour. Put the batter in the tin, and bake for 25 minutes.
Next, make the ice cream. Split the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds into a heavy-bottomed pan, drop in the pod and then pour in the milk. Place over a medium heat, and leave gently to infuse. In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar, and, once the milk is scalded, pour it over this eggy mixture, stirring all the while. Pour back into the pot, return to the heat and stir constantly until the custard thickens and the bubbles on the surface disappear. Still stirring, pour in the cream, then leave to stand for an hour, so the vanilla flavour can fully permeate the cream. Strain and churn in an ice-cream machine. Scoop into the rectangular mould, and freeze.
Now you're ready to assemble the baked Alaska. First, choose a suitable dish that will go happily from freezer to oven to table. Now make the meringue: beat in the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry, beat in half the sugar until stiff peaks are regained, then fold in the rest of the sugar. Spread a not-too-deep layer of meringue at the base of the dish. Cut the sponge in half horizontally, and spread apricot jam over one side of each piece. Lay a slice of sponge, jam-side up, on top of the meringue. Unmould the ice cream and place it as a block on top of the sponge. Place the second piece of sponge, jam-side down, on the ice cream, and then cover with meringue, making sure that it completely seals the cake.
The Alaska will stay happily in the freezer until required. To cook, bake for six to eight minutes in a pre-heated oven at 230C/450F/gas mark 8, until golden in colour and flecked with little dark spots. Eat there and then
Jeremy Lee is chef at Blue Print Cafe, London SE1.