Autumn larder – Desserts
It’s autumn, and the fruit trees and bushes are beginning to settle down for a long sleepy winter. Some apples and pears still hang heavy, brambles adorn the hedgerows and gardens alike, and the fortunate few will have late harvesting raspberries. But the strawberries, gooseberries, and blackcurrants have long since gone, the fleeting greengages have all become jam or chutney, and even rhubarb awaits the dawn of spring. In autumn those with a sweet tooth have to begin looking to cream, cereals, and the store cupboard for their saccharine fix, as baked puddings, crumbles, cobblers, and tarts take over.
I don’t eat a lot of desserts, I generally fit into the starter and main course bracket, perhaps a cheese board if I’m feeling indulgent. However autumn is the season that I’m most likely to forsake this habit, an offering of piping hot crumble covered in custard is not one I’m inclined to pass up. Alongside the apple crumble here I’ve included ground rice pudding with stewed fruit, probably my most comforting dessert as it was a weekly Monday treat after my Gran’s mince and tatties, just sweet milky goodness with the tartness of apples in autumn or rhubarb in spring.
Brambles are probably the first experience many children have of foraging, dexterous hands avoiding the thorns, then faces screwing up at the realization the fruit can often be as sharp as the razorlike barbs guarding it. Here I’ve left it naked, allowing the sweetness of cream and biscuit offset to contrast the natural unsweetened flavour of the blackberries. Tarte tatin is a simple yet stunningly satisfying dessert. The use of pears rather than apples, and addition of a little lemon thyme is inspired by a visit to my friend Richard last year. As well as having a tea plantation on a Perthshire hillside, he also has magnificent pear trees, and when we arrived he served the most beautiful pear tarte tatin, and clotted cream, adorned with the woody citrus herb.
Another memory of my childhood which I’ve managed to bring back to life is my Gran’s old girdle. Lovingly handcrafted by my grandfather in the 1940s it is a thing of beauty, after she passed away it fell into a little disrepair, but after shotblasting and seasoning it’s again producing wonderful pancakes and scones. I’ve included the cheese girdle scones that I make on it as a nod to those of us who prefer savoury desserts to sweet, while the barley pudding is another throwback to those days of thrift and living from the store cupboard. The addition of a little spice reflecting my love of the influence of different cultures on the food of Scotland.
It’s impossible to have a dessert section without chocolate, and chocolate mousse is a fairly simple way to impress. I like to use chocolate with high cocoa solids as to me the rich bitterness is absolutely key to a good dessert. The chilli is optional, especially if you’re a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to chocolate mousse, but when you’re using such a wonderful partner flavour why not experiment a little?
Fifth and final article in Scottish Daily Mail Autumn Larder series