Occasionally, and this may come as a surprise to some of you, I do things unrelated to sewing…
Here’s one of them. For those not already in the know, I am a coeliac and a year ago discovered I’m also lactose intolerant. This makes desserts tricky. A person can only eat so much fruit salad whilst watching everyone else tuck into sticky date pudding, ice cream, death by chocolate, etc. So when I recently had a wedding anniversary dinner with the Husband at the lovely resort where we got married, I managed to wangle the recipe for my dessert from the chef by playing for sympathy and some shameless flattery. I have made a few tweaks to adjust the spice balance a little, and I’ve dressed it up differently, but it’s still luscious! Creamy, mild, delicate and exotic. A proper grown up dessert and such a nice change from bloody fruit salad.
1 x 400ml (14 oz) can of coconut cream, well shaken
250ml (8 oz) thick cream (I use treated lactose-free, but it doesn’t have to be)
3 ½ sheets of leaf gelatine, soaked in cold water till soft (about 3 mins)
1 tablespoon castor sugar or coconut sugar, which I prefer
1 shredded kaffir lime leaf OR thinly peeled zest of 1 small lime
2 lightly bruised cardamom pods
½ cinnamon quill
½ star anise pod
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (not essence, or paste, which will colour the dessert and make it look unattractively grey)
Put everything except the soaking gelatine into a small heavy saucepan and bring very slowly to a simmer, stirring till the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Scoop the now rather slimy lump of soft gelatine out of the bowl of water and squeeze gently in both hands to remove as much water as possible without squidging bits of gelatine out between your fingers. Put into the pan of hot coconut mixture, and stir well until fully dissolved. Set aside again for 20-30 minutes to allow the aromatics to infuse into the mixture. Don’t leave it much longer than this or the gelatine will start to set. (You should be aware that leaf gelatine is an animal product, so if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll have to experiment with a vegetarian alternative such as agar agar, which will give a slightly grainier and softer set.)
Transfer the contents of the pan into a jug. Using a fine sieve, pour the mixture into small ramekins, or if you’re going to go all posh, oiled dariole moulds. There’s just over 600ml or 20 oz of mixture, so you can fill 4-6 small ramekins, and the dessert is very rich, so you don’t want to make the portions too large. Put in the fridge to set for 2-3 hours. If you’re going to turn them out, run a knife very gently around the top edge of the mould, plunge the base of the mould into hot water for a second or two then turn out. I’d tend to serve in the ramekins, less chance of disaster…
Serve with a coulis or purée of something tart, like passionfruit, raspberry, etc. It’s rich and needs the contrast. A sprinkle of toasted coconut flakes or a couple of crushed macadamias on the top is nice too. I made it first with kaffir lime leaves, and found the flavour too strong, it made me think of Thai curry too much. I like it better with lime zest. I also used less sugar than in the original recipe and also prefer this as it lets the aromatics speak out more, especially using coconut sugar which seems to enhance the flavour. If you don’t want to use dairy at all, put an extra can of coconut cream in the fridge overnight, open carefully and spoon the thick ‘head’ of coconut cream from off the the coconut water underneath and use this instead of dairy cream. And if you don’t have any problem with dairy and don’t like coconut that much, do the whole thing instead with pure thick cream! Actually, that would be tasty with a bit of strong coffee instead of the lime zest. Well, you see how versatile this thing is!
I’m currently working on a citrus version of this, without any fat. But it will not, of course, like so many commercial alternatives, be dull, boring, filled with chemicals and over-sweetened as a a result. Just a little bit less naughty. So you can eat it more often, duh!
See how hard I’ve been working on your behalf to test and perfect this recipe? All those experiments and tastings…. Oh, the suffering and hardship… Go on now, give it a try. You’ll thank me.