It was Perrin’s birthday on the 3rd of January; a New Year baby. He doesn’t care much for resolutions, instead preferring to make any personal or lifestyle changes as they crop up. He’s endlessly practical, my Perrin, the sort of man who decides he should run more, so he does; the sort who decides he should eat healthier, so he does; the sort who wants a vegetable patch, so he builds one. Maybe it’s because the New Year is overshadowed by his birthday, and often hectic work hours, but I suspect it’s because he doesn’t see the point in waiting to do something new, to make a change, and that, I love.
I, on the other hand, like the fresh page the new year brings. A chance to take a breath and press re-start. So this year, I look towards the new – new job, new sports, new comfort zones, new recipes and new foods.
I also like to hit the ground running, to leap feet first. So on the 2nd day of 2014 I made a spiced plum sauce with the plums I brought home from Central Otago. The sauce is eventually stirred into glossy egg whites and softly whipped cream. The plums are spiced with cardamom which is lovely and not too dissimilar to pepper in this case. As you stir the quickly softening plums stick your head into the rising sweet and spicy steam with the heady, wood smoked scent of cardamom.
The cardamom though, follows suit with the plums and softens out, relaxing into the gentle folds of the cream and beaten egg whites. Once frozen, this dessert has a bite to it – the plum sauce, swirled through the white, has a tart edge, which is well suited to the icy chew of the semifreddo.
I was branching out with plum semifreddo – a new recipe and new flavours – recognising that some occasions, like Perrin’s birthday, are deserving of more showy desserts than fruit crumbles or galettes, and that a birthday, much like a new year and cooking from a new recipe, is the time to abandon our comfort zones.
Ever so slightly adapted from Bon Appetit. The plum purée can be made a few days ahead.
8-10 plums, cut into chunks
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/3 cup sugar + 1/2 cup sugar
3 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cream
vegetable oil spray
Spray a loaf tin with vegetable oil and line with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang on each side.
Combine plums, cardamom, 1/3 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the plums release their juices, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook for a further 6-8 minutes until the plums soften and begin to fall apart. Let cool slightly.
Purée plum mixture until very smooth and set aside to cool.
Whisk egg whites, a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of sugar in a medium heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the bowl. Heat whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm, about 4 minutes. Remove bowl from saucepan. Add vanilla, and using an electric mixture on high, beat until the mixture is tripled in volume, glossy and completely cool, about 10 minutes. Note: the mixture will not form stiff peaks like normal beaten egg whites.
Using clean beaters whip the cream until soft peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the cream into the egg white mixture until just combined. Fold in remaining whipped cream until just combined. Fold in the plum purée, (reserving 1 cup for serving), until large streaks appear throughout the mixture.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin and smooth top. Lay the plastic wrap over the semifreddo and freeze until firm, at least 8 hours.
Unwrap the semifreddo and lift out of the tin using the edges of the plastic wrap. Lay onto a plate to slice into thick slices and let soften for a few minutes before serving with a spoonful of the plum sauce.