Caramel sauce is a very useful dessert sauce with many uses. Clear and shiny and as richly coloured as well-polished mahogany, it needs to be cooked with care. Use a heavy saucepan with medium high sides and cook it on the heat furthermost from the edge of your cooker, so it is safely away from an awkward elbow or a child's inquisitive reach. It is vital to cook the sugar and water enough to achieve a deep 'chestnut brown' colour, as this 'burning' of the sugar tempers the sweetness of the sauce to achieve a balance that is neither too sweet nor too bitter. The sauce will keep for months in the fridge, but will thicken as it chills, so you may need to dilute it with a little warm water when this happens.
Plums that are hard and boring when raw, can be transformed into something delicious when poached in a simple syrup. Here the syrup is half water and half red wine, the wine adding a lovely warming depth to the flavour. The star anise, a lovely spice, is perfect with the plums. The cooked plums should be holding their shape perfectly, but still tender enough to fall away from the stone with a gentle push of a fork or spoon. Serve these plums warm or chilled and they are delicious with whipped cream, yoghurt or crème fraîche or with yoghurt and star anise mousse. Any of the wine and plum syrup left over after eating the plums can be made into a lovely jelly. The syrup also makes an excellent cocktail when diluted with sparkling water and stiffened with a splash of vodka.
This is a lovely refreshing salad which I like to serve when the new season oranges from Italy, and dates from Morocco arrive in the shops in December. I scramble around in the garden trying to find a few surviving mint leaves to freshen it up. If the mint has all been scorched by the frost, I substitute it with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. This dish can be served on its own with perhaps a little yoghurt or with yoghurt and vanilla ice cream.
This is a Middle Eastern recipe which I like very much and I serve it as a dessert cake. I sometimes serve it in the winter months with a seasonal Salad of Dates and Oranges rather than the Sherried Raisins. This cake rises in the cooking and then falls a little to present itself looking like a cross between a cake and a tart. A thick, Greek-style yoghurt is best for this cake.
Yum, yum, yum!
Crème Anglaise is one the classic dessert sauces. It is flourless, thin custard. The classic version is flavoured with vanilla but many variations exist. Lemon, orange, chocolate and coffee are some of the many other flavours that might be introduced. If possible use a vanilla pod or bean, but natural vanilla extract can also be used. The vanilla pod will give a superior flavour and the sauce will be flecked with the tiny vanilla seeds whose appearance in the sauce adds visual interest. Best quality eggs make an enormous difference to the colour and flavour of the sauce.
This is a terrific cake and in its simplest form as listed here, it is perfect with a cup of tea. I don't see any reason, though, why you couldn't serve it as a dessert cake, still very slightly warm from the oven, with a bowl of sweet strawberries and softly whipped cream or Crème Anglaise. The cake is best on the day it is made, ideally before it gets completely cold, which is possible with this cake, as it is neither iced nor filled, just sliced and eaten. It is still excellent the next day and will happily keep for a few days after that stored in an airtight container.
These thin, crisp and delicious biscuits have many different uses. The original recipe comes from Chez Panisse in Berkeley in California. I was lucky enough to spend a month in the kitchens there a few years ago. I tasted these biscuits there and have adjusted the recipe slightly to suit our measurements and ingredients in this part of the world. They can be served with tea and coffee. They are good with ice cream and sorbets. They are fine enough to be served as a petit four. I also serve them with a Blackberry and Apple Fool in the autumn and Mango Fool in winter. They are very handy as the slab of uncooked biscuit keeps in the freezer and you slice off thin sheets and cook them as needed.