Friday, 16 October 2009


What a stupid word. Where did this word come from. I know it's french but how did it get to us? Via the americans I suspect. What is it? I know it's sweet and I know it's frozen but that's not really enough. I have this suspicion that it's ice cream pretending to be a mousse – something light and calorie conscious, that gives us a guilt-free hit at the end of the meal.

Half a dozen yolks and 150g of caster sugar whipped over boiling water until what is known as the 'ribbon' stage (thick and whitish). Fold in the same volume of some fruit puree, the same again of slackly whipped double cream and perhaps some italian meringue if you've got some sitting in the fridge. Bung it in the freezer for a few hours and there you have it: an ice cream that doesn't need churning. Beauty is that the waiters can serve it out without making it look like McChemical waste. I suspect this ease of service ('what's a quenelle?') is one of the reasons it's in fashion.

Moulds are a bit of a problem to me at the moment. I've been using rings lined with clingfilm. But I can't get the clingfilm perfectly flat so the sides are all creased. I'm going to try clear pastic clipped to give me cylinders. Topping can be the fruit sliced or more of the puree.

Thing is, back when the world was black and white (and I learned to cook) this wasn't called a 'parfait'. This was a 'pate a bombe'. It was used as the central filling for those bomb shaped ice cream moulds. Not that we have them any more, but I used to love those little copper moulds with the copper screw tops/detonators. You used to unscrew those so that you could unmould the ice cream.

The moulds were frozen, lined with a custard based churned ice cream and then filled with the 'pate a bombe' mixture. Put the effort in (several layers) and you'd got something that could be a different flavour each bite. I guess factory production of ice cream has taken the novelty out of these productions. Pity really.

Anyway, passing back to the parfait, what flavour in the puree? I'm partial to a bit of mango myself, but passion fruit sells better. Perhaps it's got the edge as slightly more exotic these days. Customers have asked for a hit of alcohol with these (god, that lemon sorbet and vodka sells), but it's the unimaginative option. Tamarind and whiskey, star anise, rum and guava! Wash my mouth out, but this the direction the customers are pushing. I sense a chocolate parfait with a black olive sauce coming on.

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