I’m sure everyone has a favorite part when preparing a casual dinner whether it’d be for close friends or family. Certainly, having them over, spending quality time with them and an evening filled with plenty of laughter is what it’s all about. But besides? What triggers your happy buttons before enjoying their company? How about setting the table, or the cooking part itself? All very valid thoughts, but for me personally it’s clearly the decision process about what I want to serve to my guests that night. Involving a lot of skimming through cookbooks, recipe journals and pondering over my choices.
Having a checklist does come in handy: Personal likes and dislikes? Any food-allergies? What did I serve them the last time? What’s in season? These questions usually boil down the options quickly to a reasonable number. And that’s exactly how I did it when we invited our friends Uli and Roger over. No seafood, no innards, no anise were, luckily, the only constraints for the evening. Considering these criteria, I would generally now consult my bookmarks, a food magazine or cookbook for ideas. But Oliver suggested something so obvious, that I’d never would have thought about it: Why don’t you cook from your own book (= an unbound early copy)?
Minutes later the menu was set. We would start out with some finger food, different olive oils and freshly baked bread, indulge in a semi-sweet risotto with lamb fillet skewers and finish with what has to be one of my favorite desserts from my book. An elegant passion fruit parfait with a red wine reduction, very pleasing to the eye as well as the palate. In case you thought ice cream desserts were only for those who own an ice cream maker – not true at all. Parfait is dead easy to prepare and will wow your guests, a perfect choice for every cozy summer evening. Too lazy to prepare the reduction? Then serve it with exotic fruits…
For the parfait, slice the vanilla pod lengthwise, scrape out the pulp with a knife, and put into a large metal bowl together with the egg yolks and the sugar. Whisk over a hot bain-marie – this rarely takes more than 4 minutes, even by hand. The mixture will be foamy, then creamy. Set the bowl into ice-cold water and keep beating until the egg creme has cooled down. Halve the passion fruit, scoop out the pulp and seeds, and stir into the creme with the meringue crumbs. Beat the whipping cream until stiff. First fold in one-third of it into the creme, then gently fold the rest into it so that it remains fluffy. Fill into the ramekins and freeze for at least 4 hours.
In the meantime, boil the wine and sugar for the reduction in a pan. Wash the orange in hot water and peel 2-3 stripes of the zest with the potatoe peeler and add to the wine. Squeeze out the orange and pour the juice in through a sieve. Peel the ginger, cut into slices, and also add with the cinnamon and anise. Boil everything down to at least half the volume over medium heat in 20-30 minutes. If the reduction is still too liquid, stir the cornstarch with 2-3 tbsp of cold water until smooth before mixing it into the reduction, which should now be simmering. (The reduction gets even thicker when it cools down, so a bit of intuition is required here). Remove from the stove and let it cool down. The consistency is perfect when the reduction drips from the spoon like runny honey.
Dip the ramekins into hot water for a few seconds before serving. Then run a knife along the edge and loosen the parfait before turning it upside down on the plates. Let it thaw for a few minutes – that’s the only way it will develop its full creaminess – and sprinkle with the reduction. If you like, you can also sprinkle a few meringue crumbs on it. By the way, the parfait can be easily kept in the freezer compartment for several days. It’s a dessert you can make in advance for special occasions.
Passion Fruit Parfait
Recipe source: delicious days - the book, page 106
Prep time: about 45 minutes, plus 4 hours of freezing
Ingredients (serves 4):
Passion Fruit Parfait
1 vanilla pod
3 large egg yolks
50 g sugar
2 passion fruit
4 tbsp meringue crumbs (about the size of a hazelnut, possibly extra for sprinkling on top)
200 g whipping cream
400 ml red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon)
50-75 g sugar
1 organic orange
1 piece of fresh ginger (about 1 cm/0.5 inch))
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 star anise pod
1-2 tsp cornstarch (if necessary)
plus: 4 ramekins of about 100 ml