Pumpkin parfait with walnut ice cream, sweet black sesame sauce and walnut praline

The origins of the traditional Jack-o’-lantern have largely been lost in the midst of time and surprisingly they are relatively absent from literature. Vegetable carving is an ancient practice. In 17th century England and Scotland, turnips were carved into grotesque faces and, to resemble a will-o’-the-wisp, were illuminated from within to mimic the glowing lights seen across peat bogs – and with terrifying effect. Without doubt, the pumpkin has been imported from North America. It is larger and in some ways more versatile than the turnip for designing Jack-o’-lanterns. Its flavour is also versatile as a sweet or savoury dish. I hope you will agree the pumpkin is not just for halloween.

For the pumpkin parfait

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup (60 mls) caster sugar

14 oz (400mls) condensed milk

2 cups pumpkin flesh, simmered in water for 20 minutes and puréed

4 leaves of gelatine, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes

Set a glass mixing bowl above a boiling pan of water. Add the egg yolks and cream in the sugar. Gently add the condensed milk, mixing all the time. Be careful not to let the mixture  exceed 60C/140F else the yolks will split. Squeeze out water from the gelatine and add the softened gelatine to the mixture and stir. Sieve the contents into another container. Fill a pipe mould with the pumpkin mixture and refrigerate.

For the walnut ice cream

⅔ cup (180 mls) walnuts

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup (60 mls) caster sugar

1 cup (250 mls) double cream

1 cup (250 mls) milk

Soak the walnuts in cold water for an hour. Lift them out of the water and using a coffee grinder grind them into a smooth paste. Add some of the soaking water if necessary. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugar and cream them together, Bit by bit add the cream and milk then add the walnut paste. Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker and freeze in a container.

For the sweet black sesame sauce

1/2 cup (125 mls) black sesame seeds, soaked in 1/2 cup (125 mls) water for 24 hours

1 tbsp honey

2 sheets leaf gelatine, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes and squeeze-dried

2 tsp sesame oil

Warm the sesame seeds with the water in a pan and add the softened gelatine. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend. Sieve the mixture into a squeezey dispenser.

For the meringues

3 egg whites

5 oz (150 gms) caster sugar

1/2 tsp cream of tartare

Prehaet an oven to 260F/130C. Using a clean mixing bowl, use an electric whisk to whip the egg whites. As they become white and glossy, continuing with the whisking process, add the sugar little by little then add the cream of tartare. Continue whisking until the mixture forms stiff peaks when lifted. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Transfer the mixture with a piping bag and plain spout attachment, pipe out small mounds of the mixture onto the parchment. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

For the walnut pralines

1/2 cup (125 mls) split walnuts

1/2 cup (125 mls) sugar

Place the walnuts and sugar in a pan and heat on a hob until the sugar has melted and the walnut halves coated. Allow to cool.

Plating the dish

Push out the parfait onto the plate from the pipe mould. Arrange the meringues, pralines and sesame sauce around the plate. I have used clotted cream and mint leaves for decoration. Finally add 2 quenelles of the walnut ice cream.


Catalan Lamb Ballotine


The numerous swine farms of Catalonia make this region the main source of pork in Spain. Not surprisingly, the menu in Rousillon, the historic capital of the region is replete with pork-based dishes. Although a principality of France, some major influences are Spanish and Arab. Globe artichokes are popular in the region and indeed I would have loved to use baby versions of them in this dish. Without a doubt the dish can be enjoyed more in the Belle Époque setting of Perpignan, the city where Gaulish chieftains met to consider Hannibal’s request for a conference.

The dish combines the wonderful flavours of lemon, rosemary, aniseed and honey. It works well as a spectacular Sunday lunch. One large lamb shoulder will feed 5 – 6 people. It is absolutely imperative that you use lamb of excellent quality or the texture of the shoulder will be wrong. Most supermarket acquired lamb will not suffice for this dish.

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Prepare the lamb shoulder

Flatten one large shoulder of lamb using a rolling pin. Flatten it into a rectangular shape and if necessary, trim the edges

For the stuffing

4 oz (120 gms) finely diced lamb (use excess lamb from the shoulder trimmings)

4 oz (120 gms) chopped streaky bacon

1 oz (25 gms) chopped almonds

leaves of 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped

1 tbsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp grated lemon peel

1 slice of fried bread

Ground black pepper to season

Combine all the ingredients into a food processor and process for a short time until the mixture forms a course paste. You do not want the stuffing paste to be too smooth.

For the lamb ballotine

Fill the centre of the lamb with the stuffing. Carefully roll the shoulder and sew the edges together to form a cylinder. Don’t make the ballotine too tight else it will burst as it is being cooked.



Completing the dish

12 new potatoes, peeled and boiled in salty water for 5 minutes

6 small apples, peeled and cored

6 small pears, peeled and cored

6 apricots, peeled and stoned

6 peaches, peeled and stoned

6 figs

Heat 6 tbsp olive oil in a large casserole pan. Gently place the lamb ballotine into the hot oil and brown the skin all over, rotating the ballotine gently. Reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 60 minutes. Add the part boiled potatoes, gently stir the potatoes around the lamb, close the casserole lid and cook for a further 15 minutes. After a further 10 minutes, add all the rest of the ingredients and close the lid. Cook for a further 10 minutes. Place the ballotine on a serving platter and display the fruits around it. Serve the ballotine as slices.