While he from forth the closet brought a heap 

Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;        

With jellies smoother than the creamy curd, 

And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon; 

Manna and dates, in argosy transferr’d 

From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one, 

From silken Samarcand to cedar’d Lebanon. 


Keats, St Agnes Eve.      





This recipe is probably quite unlike the famous dessert served by Boodles club in St James's Street, but it is nevertheless very good and is simple to make.

4-6 trifle sponges or 100gr sponge fingers

juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 2 oranges

2 further oranges

2-3 tablespoons castor sugar

300 ml double cream

Cut the trifles sponges into 1 cm/½ in slices (or break the sponge fingers into pieces). Use them to line the base of a serving dish so that they also come part way up the sides. Mix together the orange and lemon juices and zests and dissolve the sugar in this mixture. Whip the cream until it is just beginning to thicken and slowly whip in the juices. Pour the cream over the sponges or sponge fingers. Leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours and preferably longer, so that the juices soak into the sponges. Decorate the top with segments from the other two oranges.




1 lb/400-500gr strawberries

½ oz powdered gelatine

6-9 oz/200gr caster sugar

juice of 1 lemon

2-3 tablespoons Grand Marnier or cointreau

1-2 egg whites

½ pint/300ml whipping cream

Hull and purée the strawberries, reserving a few whole ones for decoration. Put 4 tablespoonfuls of cold water in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatine on top. When it is moistened, stir in half the strawberry purée, the lemon juice, liqueur and sugar to taste. Heat gently, without boiling, until the gelatine is melted. Draw off the heat, add the remaining strawberry purée and leave to cool for half an hour or so. Whip the cream and the egg white in separate bowls until both are thick. Stir the cream into the strawberry mixture and the fold in the egg white. Pour into a serving bowl and put into the fridge to set for at least 6 hours. Serve decorated with the remaining strawberries.



ETON MESS  (for 4)

Eton mess is too often these days adulterated with all sorts of unnecessary extras. This is a no-frills version.

400-450gr strawberries

250-300ml whipping cream

70-100gr meringue

2 tablespoons grand marnier or cointreau (optional)

Hull the strawberries and cut into 1-2 cm pieces. Crumble the meringue into similar size pieces. Not too long before eating, whip the cream (not too stiffly). Fold in first the grand marnier or cointreau, then the strawberries and meringue. It can be decorated with a few reserved strawberry pieces.





Shortbread biscuits, crumbled

zest of 1 orange

2 eggs

3 heaped tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional)

1 lb/500gr curd cheese such as Philadelphia

¾ lb/300gr strawberries, hulled and halved

150-200ml soured cream

Make a base in a gratin dish out of the crumbled shortbread mixed with the orange zest. Cream together the cheese, eggs, 2 tablespoonfuls of the sugar and the liqueur. Pour the mixture over the base and cook for 30 minutes in an oven pre-heated to gas mark 5/190° C. Mix the remaining sugar with the soured cream and pour it over the top. Return to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes. Leave to cool and arrange the halved strawberries over the top so as to completely cover the cheesecake.



300ml soured cream
50gr soft brown sugar
300gr strawberries, hulled
1-2 knobs of stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped

Mix the soured cream with the sugar, leave for half an hour to allow the sugar to dissolve, then stir well. Divide between four small serving dishes that are oven-proof. Bake in an over pre-heated to 170° for eight minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Cut up the strawberries a bit and place on top of the baked cream, sprinkling over the chopped ginger.




Also good with cooked rhubarb instead of raspberries. A traditional Scots dessert. Dr Johnson (in his dictionary, published in 1755) defined oats as "a grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people". Boswell's riposte was supposed to have been "Aye, but what horses and what men."


3 tablespoons rolled oats

1 dessertspoon caster sugar

150ml whipping cream

1 tablespoon Scotch whisky

1 tablespoon runny honey

150gr raspberries


Mix the oats and sugar together in a dry frying pan and toast until the sugar has melted and the oats are golden-brown, taking care not to let the mixture burn. Whip the cream and beat in the whisky. Just before serving, fold in the runny honey, raspberries and the toasted oats (it is important to add the oats only at the last minute, otherwise they go soggy).




1½ lb/700gr blackberries (frozen will do)

6 oz/200gr caster sugar

juice of 1 lemon

¾ oz/1½ packets gelatine

3 egg whites

½ pint/300ml whipping cream

Put the blackberries, sugar and lemon juice into a saucepan and cook very gently, covered, for about 10 minutes until the blackberries are exuding their juice. Meanwhile, put 4 tablespoonfuls of water into a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatine on top. Leave until all the gelatine is moistened. Remove the blackberries from the heat and pour into the gelatine mixture, stirring until all the gelatine is dissolved. Put this mixture through the fine sieve of a vegetable mill to eliminate the blackberry pips. Stir in extra sugar or lemon if necessary. Leave until cool and beginning to thicken. Whisk the cream and egg whites separately until thick. Fold first the cream and then the egg whites into the blackberry mixture. Pour into a serving dish and chill until set – at least six hours. Decorate with spare blackberries or blobs of extra whipped cream.




Bramleys have the right degree of sharpness to cut the cloying sweetness of the blackberries. The other advantage of using Bramleys is that they cook down to a puree. If using other apples, they will need to be pureed after cooking, and possibly some lemon juice added.

1 lb blackberries (frozen will do)

2 medium Bramleys

Caster sugar

300ml whipping cream, whipped fairly stiffly

Quantities can be varied according to taste and availability. Cook blackberries in a saucepan until their juice begins to run, and put through a vegetable mill on the finest sieve to eliminate the pips. Peel, slice and core the Bramleys, putting the pieces straight into a bowl of water to prevent their going brown.  Drain them and put into a saucepan. Cover with a lid and cook very gently, stirring occasionally, until they have become a pulp (the pulp will still have an interestingly rough texture; if you prefer a smoother mix they can be put through a sieve). Mix the blackberry and apple pulps together and add sugar to taste. When cool, stir in the whipped cream.




2½-3 lb/1.5 kg Bramleys

200-300gr caster sugar

3-4 tablespoons brandy

150gr (approx) gingernuts

10 fluid oz/300ml whipping cream

stem ginger in syrup

Peel, core and slice the apples. Cook down to a purée. Cool and stir in sugar to taste. Spread out in a shallow dish and arrange a layer of gingernuts on top. Sprinkle the brandy over the gingernuts and leave to soak in for an hour or two. Whip the cream and spread it over the top. Sprinkle some chopped stem ginger on top of the cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Giovanna Garzoni (1600-1670): apples



1 kiwi fruit

4 tablespoons fromage frais or creamy (e.g. Greek-style) yoghurt

2 tablespoons sugar

Remove the hard core from the stalk end of the kiwi fruit with a sharp knife. Peel the fruit, cut in half lengthwise and slice. Divide the slices between two ramekins. Spoon over the fromage frais or yoghurt. Cover with a thick layer of sugar and cook immediately under a very hot grill until the sugar is brown. Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving, but not more than 2 hours, as after that the sugar starts melting away.




This is one of Jennifer Paterson’s recipes, originally published in the Spectator.

6 oz/200gr dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or more)

½ pint 300ml single cream

4 drops vanilla essence

pinch of salt

1 egg

Break the chocolate into a blender. Bring the cream to boiling point and pour it over the chocolate. Whizz for a moment or two. Add the egg, salt and vanilla. Whizz again until everything is amalgamated. Pour into 6 little ramekins and chill for 24 hours in the fridge. (J. Paterson.)




A version of fridge cake. Very rich, so to be eaten in small quanities.


200gr dark chocolate with 70% cocoa solids

1 tablespoon golden syrup

120gr butter

1 egg, beaten

90gr amaretto biscuits, broken into smallish pieces

1-2 teaspoons liqueur – e.g. kirsch, Cointreau, brandy

120gr shelled walnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons glacé cherries or pitted morello cherries from a jar or tin, drained


Break the chocolate into pieces and melt gently with the butter and syrup in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir to mix well and set aside to cool slightly. Stir the beaten egg into the mix. Sprinkle the liqueur over the amaretti. Then assemble the amaretti, walnuts and cherries (roughly chopped) and fold them into the chocolate until evenly mixed.  Line a small loaf tin with foil and spoon the mixture into it. Let it cool in the fridge for at least 4 hours before turning it out, peeling off the foil and serving it in 1 cm slices. Will keep well in the fridge for a few days.



125gr butter, softened
125gr caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
175gr ground almonds
50gr cornflower
1 level teaspoon baking powder
100gr dark chocolate
350-400gr bottled or tinned pitted morello cherries (drained weight)

Beat butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, almonds, cornflower and baking powder.  Melt the chocolate and cool slightly and beat in. Spread half the mixture over the base of a greased loose-bottomed 24cm/8 inch baking tin.  Place the cherries evenly over the mixture and top with the remaining cake mix. Bake for about an hour in an oven pre-heated to 150°. Remove from the oven, leave to stand for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool. Cover the top generously with crème fraiche just before serving.




Rather a good way to cook prunes, suggested by Hugh Arnold in the Financial Times in the 1990s.

16 pitted semi-dried (soft) prunes

16 blanched almonds

1-2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 cloves

1 pinch cinnamon

Insert an almond into each prune. Put in a small saucepan with the other ingredients and just enough water to cover the prunes. Cook gently, covered, for 30 minutes. Cool and serve with cream.




An excellent instant dessert.

4 slices panettone

200ml crème fraiche (loosened with a little milk if it is very thick)

4 tablespoons maple syrup

4 tablespoons flaked almonds

Roast the flaked almonds in a dry pan until going brown. Toast the panettone until golden brown on both sides. Distribute onto 4 plates. Spoon the crème fraîche onto the plates next to the panettone. Dribble the maple syrup over the créme fraîche and sprinkle the almonds on top.




This recipe appeared in the Times many years ago.

6 oz/180gr plain flour

½ level teaspoon salt

2 level teaspoon baking powder

5 oz/150gr soft brown sugar

2 eggs

6 tablespoons sunflower or corn oil

4 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons coffee essence

120gr granulated sugar

150ml strong black coffee

2 tablespoons brandy

200ml whipping cream

flaked almonds

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the soft brown sugar. Separate the eggs. Use a fork to mix the oil, milk and coffee essence into the yolks. Pour this mixture into a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and use a wooden spoon to mix to a smooth batter. Whisk the egg whites and fold into the mixture. Pour into a greased and lined sponge tin (8½” x 1½”/23 cm x 4 cm). Place high up in an oven pre-heated to gas mark 4/180° C. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Turn out and allow to cool.

Measure the granulated sugar and coffee into a saucepan. Stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved and then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the brandy. Replace the cake in the tin and prick all over the top with a skewer. Spoon the hot syrup over the cake and leave to soak in for a few hours or overnight. Turn the cake onto a serving dish. Cover with whipped cream and decorate with toasted flaked almonds.



½ bottle drinkable claret or other red wine

3-4 pears, peeled, cored and cut into small bite-sized chunks

6 tablespoons sugar

1 clove

1 cinnamon stick

juice and zest of 1 lemon

15gr powdered gelatine

300ml whipping cream

Put the gelatine to soften in a small saucepan with the lemon juice and 2-3 tablespoonfuls of cold water. Poach the pear pieces in just enough water to cover, sweetened with 2 tablespoonfuls of sugar, until the pears are soft (a few minutes only for ripe pears). Heat the wine gently in another saucepan together with the clove, cinnamon stick, 4 tablespoonfuls of sugar and the lemon zest. Keep it hovering at just below boiling point for 10-15 minutes so as to burn off some of the alcohol. Add the hot wine to the softened gelatine, together with about 120ml of the pear poaching syrup. Stir until the gelatine is completely melted. Put the drained pear pieces in a glass bowl. Pour the wine mixture over them through a fine strainer. Cool and leave to set in the fridge (at least 8 hours). Whip the cream softly and spread over the top.




4 pears, peeled, cored and cut into bite-sized chunks.

10 prunes, stoned

10 dried apricots, cut in half

2 tablespoons dried tart cherries or currants or raisins

1 lemon

1 glass white wine (or half a glass of rum)

200gr runny honey

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1 bay-leaf


Most prunes and apricots these days come “ready to eat” – i.e. partially rehydrated. If you have genuinely dried ones, pour hot water over them and leave to soak for an hour before proceeding.


Put the honey in a saucepan with 200ml water and heat, stirring, until the honey is dissolved. Use a potato peeler to cut 3-4 broad strips of zest from the lemon, and squeeze the juice out of the lemon. Add the zest and juice and all the other ingredients to the honey water. If necessary, add a little extra water so that the pears are almost completely submerged. Simmer gently for about 15 minutes (make sure the pears are tender).  Fish out and discard the cinnamon stick, bay-leaf and – if you can find them – the pieces of lemon zest and the cloves. Serve warm or cold with crème fraiche.




2 lb rhubarb

2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly

Juice of 1-2 oranges

Half a glass sweet sherry (or medium sherry with a tablespoon of white sugar)

18 sponge fingers (about 200gr) or trifle sponges

450ml whipping cream

100-150gr flaked almonds

2 big tablespoons granulated sugar


Cut the rhubarb into very short lengths and cook gently with the redcurrant jelly, orange juice and one tablespoon sugar until it is just soft. Turn off the heat, stir in the sherry and put in a serving dish. Leave to cool. Break the sponge fingers into four and stir gently into the rhubarb (this can be done the night before). Whip the cream and cover the rhubarb with it. Put the flaked almonds and the other tablespoon of sugar in a dry frying-pan and fry, stirring, until the almonds are golden and caramelised (warning: they burn easily if not watched). When cool, sprinkle on top of the dish. 



                                                            Dried fruits in Central Asia



1 bunch (about 500gr) seedless grapes, preferably large
80gr good quality feta
1 tablespoon light olive oil
2 tablespoons liquid honey
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme

Remove the grapes from their stalks and put in an oven-proof dish in which they fit in one to two layers. Pour over the olive oil and honey and mix to coat them. Bury the piece of feta and the thyme sprigs among them. Cook for 20 minutes in an oven-pre-heated to 200˚ (non-fan), until the grapes are softened and oozy. Leave to cool. Discard the thyme sprigs. Crumble the feta over the grapes (it will be a bit squidgy, but reduce it to fairly small pieces).