7 June 2002

Double cream, doubly delicious, too

WARNING! This months dishes all contain

heavy amounts of double cream and could cause

serious pleasure to your taste buds, says Philippa Vine, who is cooking

kidneys, making icecream and baking shortbread biscuits

CUTE little lambs kidneys are always popular on our Farmers Market stall, so I always have to talk nicely to Mr V to reserve some for us before he sells them all.

My favourite way of cooking kidneys is to fry them briskly in butter over a high heat and serve them with a fine combination of mustard and cream sauce. The art of cooking the kidneys successfully is to not let them boil in the sauce or they will toughen, the centres should be firm yet pink.

Gooseberries and strawberries are this months seasonal dessert treats. One of the simplest and best ways I enjoy the first strawberries is to eat them on their own or with cream. For something more fancy try them with delicious light sweet pastry biscuits. Only later in the season when I have gorged enough and the price has dropped, will I use them for a jam-making session.

Having a household who are not keen on gooseberries means that I have to come up with a way of making our crop more palatable. This usually means icecream and combining this with the heady muscat scent of wild elderflowers makes an early summer treat.

We like to eat the frozen fool version of icecream and this is useful when feeding small children as there is no worry about under cooked eggs, unlike the egg and cream custard.

Our recipe is really a frozen version of a fool with an addedtexture of the crumble. Having an icecream maker is very useful and saves time, but if you dont have one, you can still make this recipe, as long as you beat it periodically as it is freezing.

Sautéed lambs kidneys with a mustard sauce

This dish is quick to make and perfect to serve with boiled new potatoes and maybe some mange tout or spinach.

Serves 4

8 whole lambs kidneys with white fat removed

1 small shallot or small onion, finely chopped

25g (1oz) butter, or more

1 tablespoon plain flour

150ml (1/4 pt) chicken stock

1 tablespoon Dijon or coarse-grained mustard

1 dessertspoon redcurrant jelly

2-3 tablespoons double cream

1 tablespoon port or red wine

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

A little chopped parsley

Heat the butter in a large heavy frying pan until you see the foam of the butter begin to disappear. Add the whole kidneys and cook them briskly, uncovered, for about 4-5 minutes, turning them every minute. The kidneys should brown lightly. Remove them to a hot plate and cover to keep warm while you make the sauce. At this stage you may need to add an extra knob of butter to the pan, turn down the heat then add the chopped shallot or onion and cook for a few minutes until it softens. Add the flour, stir and cook for a minute and gradually add the stock. Whisk in the mustard, redcurrant jelly, the cream and the port. Season well. Leave to bubble steadily for a minute, check consistency of the sauce. Cut the kidneys into small slices, season them with salt and pepper and put them and all their pink juices into the pan with the sauce. Toss them over a low heat for a minute or two to only warm through, do not allow the sauce to boil or the kidneys will toughen. Stir in the parsley and serve immediately.

Gooseberry & elderflower

crumble icecream

Makes about 1.2 litres (2 pints)

For the icecream:

900g (2lb) green gooseberries

5 elderflower heads, picked on a sunny day

100g (4oz) icing sugar

500ml (1 pt) double cream

For the crumble:

75g (3oz) wholemeal flour

50g (2oz) butter

50g (2oz) soft light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 190C (375F, Gas Mark 5). Start by making the crumble in the usual way, rubbing the butter into the flour and adding the sugar. Sprinkle the crumble mix evenly into a baking tray and put it in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and leave to cool. Break up the cooled crumble into small pea-sized pieces, (dont break up too small as they will disappear in the icecream). Gently stew the gooseberries and elderflower heads with a couple of tablespoons of water until soft – for about 5-6 minutes. Rub them through a large nylon sieve over a bowl to remove the elderflower bits and gooseberry pips and skin. Stir the icing sugar into this puree. Leave to cool. Whisk up the cream to form soft peaks and stir this into the cooled gooseberry puree. Check for sweetness, adding a little more icing sugar if it is very tart. Pour into an icecream maker and churn until the mixture has the consistency of softly whipped cream. To finish off, stop the machine and spoon it into a polythene freezer box and stir in the crumble pieces. Put the lid on and freeze until the icecream is firm enough to serve.

To make this without an icecream maker, freeze the mixture in a container for 3-4 hours then beat the mixture, still in the box, with an electric hand-whisk. Return it to the freezer and repeat three hours later. Add the crumble mix and return to freezer until frozen – the idea is that you want to incorporate as much air as possible to give it volume and lightness.

Remember to take the icecream out of the freezer at least 30 minutes before serving.

Shortbread biscuits with strawberries

This makes plenty of biscuits and left-overs can be stored in a airtight tin for a few days, if you can resist them.

Serves 6 or more

300g (10oz) plain flour

250g (8oz) softened butter

2 egg yolks

100g (4oz) icing sugar, sifted

Few drops of vanilla essence

750g (11/2 lb) strawberries, sliced thinly

Extra 500g (1lb) strawberries, to make strawberry puree

Icing sugar, for dusting

125ml (1/4 pt) double cream, whipped

Begin making the shortbread by placing the flour, butter, egg yolks, icing sugar and vanilla essence in a food processor and blend until you have a soft ball of dough. (If you dont have a processor then use the rub-in method, blend in the egg yolks and knead until the dough is just smooth). It should be fairly sticky, that is what gives the biscuits the lightness. Wrap and chill before rolling out. Preheat the oven to 190C (375F, Gas 5). Divide the chilled dough into two pieces to make it easier for rolling. Keep one half in the fridge until needed. On a well floured work surface roll out the dough, a little at a time, very thinly and cut into 8cm (3in) fluted circles. Place on a large baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes or until pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack carefully and leave to cool. Repeat this process until you have at least 18 biscuits. (You will have plenty of dough left, which could be frozen as it is or made into more biscuits).

To make the strawberry puree, just liquidise or rub through a nylon sieve a pound of strawberries, (you may need to add some icing sugar for extra sweetness). Mix a little of the puree into the strawberry slices. To assemble: Place a biscuit on a plate, arrange a few slices of strawberries on top, then add a teaspoon of whipped cream on top. Cover with a second biscuit and more strawberries and cream. Cover with a third biscuit and dust generously with icing sugar. Serve the remaining puree poured around the stack of biscuits, or serve separately. Any leftover cream can be served separately.