Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Cherries with almonds & Sabayon sauce

Cherries & green almonds

The first English cherries have arrived with early varieties Inga and Merchant making an appearance at market over the weekend.  Warmed in the last few days by a sun we had almost forgotten existed, the Ingas are slightly tarter and firmer than the Merchants.  So, while we're feasting on handfuls of the latter, I decided to make a dessert of the Inga cherries.  With temperatures hovering around 30C in London I had no wish to heat up the kitchen any further, so it had to be something easy and cooling.

Cherries, green almonds, Sabayon

Having picked up a handul of the last of the fresh velour-overcoated green almonds at market and with some elderflower cordial in the larder, I had a head start.  Mature almonds will work fine but if the cherries and the green almonds happen to overlap, it's a nice way of using the early nuts which are milky and fresh tasting.

So far, so easy; but what to add to make it look like I'd made an effort without expending much time or energy at all?  A thin cooled custard perhaps?  Then I thought how long it had been since I'd made a sabayon or zabaglione, whichever you prefer to call it.  Dairy-free and cloud-like, it seemed just right for a hot summer's day.

Cherries, green almonds, Sabayon sauce

Sabayon is so easy to make and I find Jane Grigson's advice the best.  It takes only 2 minutes whisking with an electric whisk if you want a warm frothy sauce to eat immediately, 5 minutes to produce a 'creamier' one. If you want to make it up to an hour ahead (the one in the photographs above), you just need to keep whisking it off the heat until it has cooled.  This stops it separating before you get to eat it.

Cherries with almonds & Sabayon sauce
(Serves 4)

300g cherries
2 tablespoons elderflower cordial
1-2 teaspoons caster sugar
4-5 almonds

For the Sabayon:
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 tablespoons sweet white wine, Marsala or elderflower cordial

Wash, halve and de-stone the cherries over a bowl.  Add the Elderflower cordial and sugar.  Allow to macerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the Sabayon, put all three ingredients in a heatproof bowl.  Place over a pan of just simmering water so that the bowl is not touching the water.  Whisk for about 2 minutes until pale and uniformly frothy - at this point you could serve it immediately as a warm sauce. 
For a 'lightly-whipped single cream' consistency for immediate serving, continue whisking over the pan for another 4-5 minutes.
If you want the sauce to stand for an hour without separating, take the bowl off the heat and continue whisking for a further 4-5 minutes until the mixture has cooled and thickened a little more. 
Drain the fruit and serve - sauce or fruit first is up to you.  Top with slivers of almond and a sprig or two of mint.

The excess juice from the macerated cherries makes a lovely drink topped up with water.