What a show-stopper this recipe is. How I came to get the recipe is still utterly bewildering to me.
Would you like to go to the Waitrose Cookery School and have Heston Blumenthal cook for you? Um, let me think about that fo- yes please. So I rock up, where they are filming an Easter show for Waitrose TV. I’ve been to the Cookery School a couple of times before, but not in these circumstances. The whole thing is hosted by Sue Perkins, who I’ve always wanted to best friends with. It has the recipe to be a completely amazing afternoon.
It begins very strangely. I pretty much walk in off the street and take a quick visit to the gents (I promise, not too much detail here but the context is important). I’m there not a minute, doing my thing, when someone takes up the urinal next to me. I’m not sure if you know the rules of public toilets but you don’t budge your neck an inch. But I do. And I can’t help but notice relieving himself next to me is Brian Turner.
What do you do in that situation? I’ve admired Brian Turner for years, for me he reaches back to Ready Steady Cook days and he’s never really gone away. Whenever he’s on TV I know whatever he makes is going to be brill. But do I say hi mid-flow?
I elect not to, hoping to get a chance to introduce myself in a more normal surroundings. Making my way back into the school itself a Waitrose rep introduces herself and says I’m going to be on the top table with all the chefs. Urp.
So the scene is set: Heston Blumenthal, Brian Turner, Dhruv Baker are cooking the food alongside Cookery School stalwarts Gordon and Eleni, while Sue Perkins presents. At one point during the afternoon, Sue Perkins is sat next to me, shovelling lamb on to my plate that has been roasted by Heston Blumenthal who is opposite explaining his mustard gravy, with Brian Turner sat on the table positively barking that we Brits must return to our roasting greatness. As I sat there with a glass of ridiculously good Lebanese red wine, I was momentarily lost in a moment of surreal stupor: how the hell did I get here, eating this, with these people? I felt stupendously unworthy.
Needless to say, the afternoon was complete magic. Sue cemented herself as the witty professional, Brian was exactly the person he is on TV, and Heston cooked lamb for me.
The whole video featuring Heston’s roast lamb, Dhruv’s accompaniments and this recipe, plus more besides, can be seen on the Waitrose TV website.
However in tribute to that afternoon I cooked the dessert served up by Eleni: a stunning baked alaska that looks like far more effort than you actually put in. With a few choice ready-made ingredients propping it up it’s a great one for a dinner party.
Dark chocolate and passion fruit baked alaska (serves 8):
750g dark chocolate ice cream
8 slices Madeira loaf
For the passion fruit coulis:
Pulp from 8 passion fruit (about 250ml)
150g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways
For the Italian Meringue:
4 egg whites
300g caster sugar
- Using an ice cream scoop, form 8 large balls of the ice cream. Place on a plate or tray and return to the freezer, so that they are as frozen as possible. Meanwhile, take the slices of madeira cake and using a 6cm round pastry cutter, cut into 8 discs, and set aside.
- Make the passion fruit coulis, place all the ingredients with 4 tbsp water in a small pan and bring to the boil. Continue to boil for about 4-5 minutes until the mixture has reduced to a nice thick, syrupy consistency. Allow to cool then refrigerate until needed.
- To make the Italian meringue, place the caster sugar in a saucepan and add a little water until a wet sand texture is achieved. Then heat the mixture and bring to the boil and continue to heat until the temperature reaches 118°C. Using a an electric mixer start to whisk your egg whites on a medium speed. Once the sugar reaches 121°C, remove from the heat and gradually add the syrup to your whisking egg whites and increase to maximum speed. This will take approximately 5 minutes to whip up into a smooth, glossy meringue. Place this mixture into a piping bag with a star shaped nozzle, about 6mm or simply cut the piping bag at an angle and set aside.
- To assemble, place the ice cream balls onto the sponge discs and pipe around the Italian meringue and smooth over with a palette knife so that none of the ice cream is exposed. Take the piping bag and pipe peaks around the Alaska starting from the bottom and working your way up to the top. Once all the surface space has been covered return to the freezer and leave there until ready to serve.
- When you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 220°C, gas mark 7. Then place the Alaskas in the oven for about 5-7 minutes or until the meringue turns a nice golden colour. Spoon the passionfruit coulis onto the plate and place the baked Alaska on top. Serve immediately.