There is a lot to recommend a long weekend away. Surprising as it may be to some, even a long weekend away with my partner’s parents is no exception. Unlike my family of compulsive ‘doers’, my partner’s parents (we shall call them Coach and The Nanna) are well practised in the art of taking it easy. Not once has anyone been heard to say ‘come on, let’s get outside and stop wasting a perfectly good day!’ – why is it that some people feel it’s impossible to spend time wastefully so long as you’re exposed to the elements? So as well as having two extra people to entertain the small person, many hours can be devoted to lolling on the couch, reading the weekend papers, drinking tea, watching trashy movies and football, drinking tea, criticising the poor editing of the weekend papers, drinking tea and cooking. By cooking I don’t just mean planning and putting together the obligatory breakfast, lunch and dinner, I mean indulgent, artful, pleasurable cooking. And that is how, yesterday, we came to make three desserts.
Sweet Saturday Part 1: Maple & Lavender Semi-Freddo
Following the steps up to the front door of this house is a vast bed of lavender. In warmer weather the perfume fills the air and sometimes The Nanna pulls the line-dry bedsheets over the flowers on her way into the house, so falling asleep on a summer night you could almost believe you were lying on the front lawn in a sunbeam.
Standing on the front steps in the sharp chill of yesterday morning, wrapped up warm in a dressing gown, picking lavender flowers to use in this recipe almost made up for the cheat’s eggs.
60 grams of lavender flowers
100 mls of water
115 grams of granulated white sugar
3 egg whites
350 mls of cream
100 grams of maple syrup, plus extra for drizzling
Line a loaf tin with several layers of gladwrap, leaving the edges to hang over the side so that you can lift the set semi-freddo out easily later.
Heat your oven to 160 degrees celsius. Spread the lavender flowers on a baking tray and bake for about five minutes, drying it out slightly and increasing their aroma.
In a small saucepan, gently heat the sugar, water and flowers, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and let it boil for two minutes without stirring. Add the maple syrup and cook for another five minutes. Remove from the heat and strain over a bowl to remove the lavender. Press down on the flowers to get the most syrup out. When you’ve squeezed out all the syrup keep two or three of the flowers, the rest can be thrown out or composted.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Continue beating, pouring the syrup into the bowl in a thin stream. Beat until the mixture is thick, fluffy and cold.
In a separate bowl, beat the cream until it holds its shape. Add the cream into the egg-white and syrup mixture, folding until it is well combined. Pour into the prepared loaf tin, cover and freeze for at least five hours until set firm.
Put your reserved flowers into a small jar and cover with the extra maple syrup. This will infuse while the semi-freddo sets, giving you a beautifully scented syrup to drizzle over the finished product.
To serve, lift out of the tin onto a serving plate, leave to soften for a few minutes then slice with a warm knife. Drizzle with your infused syrup and sprinkle with fresh lavender if you wish.
Simply beautiful. Not too sweet, not too floral, not too creamy, just light and delightful and moreish. Thank you Tanner Brothers, from whose book – ice cream – this recipe comes. When I am next in Plymouth, UK, I will be beating a hasty path to the door of Tanners.