Yakh Dar Behesht Ice in Heaven

This is an exotic, delicate, sophisticate  Persian custard laced rose water and sprinkled with pistachios and rose petals. I found it in a wonderful book Pomegranates and Roses by Ariana Bundy. It is traditionally made with milk but for a diary-free version use rice or almond milk, which worked best for me. Serve in individual ramekins or a large bowl and scatter with rose petals and edible gold leaf. I made it a couple of times now and each time I get better at getting the texture right. I state the cooking times below as in the original recipe but I found that it takes a lot longer for the mixture to thicken to the desired consistency. So feel free to double the times!

Ingredients
Makes 8 ramekins

1 litre (1 3/4 pints) 4 cups milk
75g (3oz) 3/4 cup rice flour
150g (5 oz) 3/4 cup sugar  unrefined – I used only 120g
2 tbsp rose water
5 cardamom pods lightly crushed
2 tbsp slivered pistachios – I used hazelnuts
rose petals and edible gold leaf to serve (optional)

Place the milk, rice flour and sugar in a saucepan. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, over a medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to thicken – about 10 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t catch at the bottom by scraping the bottom and sides of the saucepan with your spoon.

Add the rose water and the cardamom pods and continue cooking and stirring until the custard is thick and glossy – about another 2 minutes. The custard will resemble a white creme patissiere.

Pick out the cardamom pods, then pour the custard into ramekins, silicone moulds or a serving dish. Leave to cool in the fridge for a few hours, then sprinkle with slivered pistachios, rose petals and gold leaf if using.

Baked pears with ginger and cardamom

A wonderful dessert (from the Sunday Times magazine) for those times you don’t want to make anything too heavy or have only a few minutes to prepare. The most important about this is the right size of the tin, as pears need to be close together so all the buttery, cardamomy and gingery goodness permeates through them.

4 pears, peeled, halved and cored
75g dark brown sugar
4 tbsp runny honey
1½ tsp ground ginger (I used fresh ginger, thinly sliced using a grater)
Juice and finely grated zest of ½ lemon
4 tbsp unsalted butter
8 cardamom pods, squashed

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Put the pear halves in a small roasting pan, cut side down and in a single layer, so they fit relatively snugly. Sprinkle with the sugar, honey, ginger, lemon juice and zest. Dot with the butter and tuck in the cardamom pods.

Put the pan in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, turning the pears cut side up and basting halfway through, until the fruit is tender and the sauce is bubbling and sweet. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then serve with cream, ice cream or yoghurt.

Chestnut chocolate chilled cake

Nigella Lawson’s recipe as recommended by Jackie the other day has been an umitigated success.

Ingredients:

500g (2 tins) sweetened chestnut purée (I used one can of unsweetened Merchant Gourmet Chestnut puree, and followed the instructions on the tin to make it sweet, which produced the right quantity of chestnut puree for the recipe)
175g soft, unsalted butter
300g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
3 tablespoons dark rum

to serve:
crème fraîche
crystallised violets (didn’t use)

Beat the purée in a bowl until it’s smooth, and then add the butter, beating again to make a well-blended mixture.

Melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly, before adding it to the chestnut and butter in the bowl. Beat in the rum, and spoon the chocolate mixture into a 23 x 10cm loaf tin (I used a slightly deeper but approximately shaped tupperware box, which worked fine), lined with clingfilm, in two batches, making sure the first layer reaches the corners and sides of the bottom of the tin before you smooth over the rest. Wrap the overhanging clingfilm over the cake so that it is completely covered, and put it in the fridge to set for at least four hours, but a day or so in advance if you want.

Don’t take the loaf tin out of the fridge until you want to eat it, when you just unmould the cake, cut it into thin slices and serve with crème fraîche or sour cream.

I must say this was absolutely delicious, even without any cream.