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….with a crisp almond & brown sugar topping and lime

I sit down and write, a part of my journey, a place in my daily struggles to find who I am.

IMG_6761I want to know me, in my entirety and what I want. I want to walk this earth with gratitude but also fired up with great purpose. I want to lead, to share, to teach and to stand up convincingly for what I believe in. I find fulfillment in my parts – mum, sister, friend, colleague, neighbour, teacher, mentor, mentee, writer, photographer, person…I could go on and on.

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But for every success I have in these parts, I fail. Not just because I’m human, but because I’m me. Like you. Like the others. And yes, that’s human but that’s also more. Because I’m more than just human, I have hopes and dreams and thoughts and cares and what scares me most of all is if I’ll ever achieve all I want.

Sometimes I wonder if all the things I am, equals who I am. Is my whole greater or less than the sum of my parts?

I’m talking synergy. If all the different things I do separately, in a mutually exclusive manner are good, I can only imagine that if I can be a great writer and an outstanding photographer(black & white inclusive) and a great cook (who has conquered the art of French cuisine) and being the mother of my dreams and the wife I want to be and rich :-), oh yes, stinking rich and please, please, please….don’t tell me money can’t buy happiness. Yes, I know that. I also know, like my mama says, ‘It can buy comfort’, which is what I’m after.

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I think I’ve done my time, I’ve worked hard, whether you believe it or not. I have. Its time to relax, rest, win the lottery (which I don’t play :-)) and you know, get on with doing what I want to do. Anyone willing to make me an offer?

And you know what, I also want to teach, and mentor and coach on ‘Life and finding your passion’ and travel the world, yes with my man and three ‘uns. I want to see O Cristo Redentor in Brazil, take a cooking class in Tuscany and pick my own lemons on the Amalfi Coast. I want to taste the new wines of the world, and know what cut of beef to pair them with.

I want, I want, I want…….

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But what can I have today? What do I have now, that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole? What is it today with me, which has individual ‘good’ elements but the sum, oh the sum, the coming together of all these is heaven? Ladies and Gentlemen, here it is, my twist for the Hay Hay its Donna Day event where the task was to make (or recreate) Donna’s Blackberry Cheesecake Pots. I am sending this on to Mardi of Eat, Live, Travel, Write’s as she hosts it after winning the last event which is facilitated by Denise of Chez Us.

Even as we focus on my discussion above, I must describe each element to you. Then you be the judge of the superb synergy it makes as one pot, all based on the humble blackberry – not the phone but the fruit!

IMG_6814We begin with a making a blackberry syrup, leaving the crushed fruit in. It is lovely on its own: works well as a drizzle and garnish, great strained and made into a jelly and is terrific at the base of a cream dessert and gently folded into whipped cream too. It is good for A lot. I should know – I did all of the afore-mentioned and still have more to do.

At the base of this verrine is a burgundy-coloured jelly, which captures all the flavour essence of the blackberry, just sweetened and thickened. It looks like blackberries, smells like blackberries and tastes superbly like blackberries….albeit a tad bit sweeter. It is wonderful on its own but can get a bit boring (being alone rarely does a lot for a person). It is made from the strained blackcurrant syrup, mixed with gelatine and refrigerated to set.

We move on to the cream. See, since I discovered the mystery of cooled whipped cream, it has become a staple in my kitchen. And what do you get when you chill your mixing bowl and your whisk? Well, I’ll tell you – cool, luscious, light and airy cream. At this point, the blackberry syrup goes down two paths. Route #1 sees a spoonful of syrup and fruit carefully ladled into the glasses with the set jelly, followed by sweetened whipped cream + mascarpone. At this stage, it goes into the fridge for an hour: I left mine overnight as eating after 7pm is not recommended. Except you are starving, or you just ‘need’ a late-night snack! I didn’t want to spoil my fun, I waited. And while I LOVE this cream, it would make me sick if I consumed spoonful after spoonful, with neither a thought nor care for anything else.

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Route 2? Well, take the whipped cream+mascarpone and gently fold in some of the blackberry syrup and bits. Spoon this over the jelly, and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

The penultimate element is the crisp sugar topping – flaked almonds, sprinkled with soft light brown sugar and grilled in the oven, till toasted and crisp. This simple bake takes a few minutes but the results are wonderful, when cool. Though not so good that I would sit a whole evening munching my way through bags of sugared flaked almonds.

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And the last…but by no means the least of ‘pieces’ of this dessert puzzle? Lime. Oh my word. Lime zest and lime juice. Oh yes, the stars are aligned for this one. Choose the freshest of limes, and the juiciest too. Cut a slice, not down the centre or to form a wedge, but off the sides. Why? it is pretty. Take some of the zest off too….and set aside for service.

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The final assembly goes something like this: pots of cream and jelly come out to be served. They are lovingly sprinkled with some sugared almonds and then topped with lime zest. Extra lime slices and cuts are available on the side. They go out to the table, complete with long spoons. The host(ess) sits down and with grace, she squirts some lime juice over the top, and she takes her first spoonful. She is stunned….like I was at the amazing fragrance and freshness of the lime. Its citrus aurantifolia acidic flavours are a perfect match for the dish. And while it is one element….on its own, my God, its addition to this dessert makes the whole so much more than the sum of its parts. And the ‘bouquet’ it brings, worth getting your fingers wet and sullied for.

IMG_6855Ladies and Gentlemen, this is arguably the most delicious dessert of my times. Without ado, the recipe and my notes

Tips on gelatine

2 sheets of gelatin=  1 teaspoon of powdered gelatine. This is enough to soft-set 160ml of liquid.

To use gelatine leaves, soak them in cold water for 5 minutes to soften, then remove and gently squeeze out excess water.

To use gelatine powder, add to a few tablespoons of warm water and stir until dissolved.

Don’t cook/boil any gelatine mixture.

Gelatine powder and sheets are derivatives from Pork material. Agar-agar is a jelly-setting alternatives but doesn’t set as firmly real gelatine. Keep this in mind depending on what you use.

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Blackberry cream & jelly verrines

Makes 6 ‘125ml capacity’ pots

Ingredients

1+ cup caster sugar (1/2 for the jelly, 1/2 for the whipped cream and the +, just in case you want to sweeten your jelly further)
1 cup (25oml) water
150g Blackberries
3 gelatine leaves (or gelatine powder)
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, whisked a bit to loosen and break structure
1/2 cup single cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1-2 limes, to serve
Extra blackberries, to serve
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How to

#1 Blackberry syrup

Place the sugar and water in a pan on medium heat, stirring till the sugar is dissolved.

Add the blackberries and gently stir. Allow to cook till the blackberries are soft and can be squashed.

Remove from heat and let cool.

Blitz in a blender or with a handheld blender .

Now this next step is crucial. Because the jelly will lose some of its sweetness when it cools down, taste the syrup now and add more sugar if necessary, stirring to make sure it dissolves well.

If making the jelly, strain 160ml of the liquid mixture for the jelly (don’t throw the blackberry mass left behind, put it back with the remaining blackberry mixture and refrigerate)

BTW, the remaining mixture is DELICIOUS with some yogurt, of the Turkish or Greek kind. I just had some with my brulee’d French toast for dinner…..HEAVEN!

#2 Blackberry jelly

If using gelatine leaves, soak them first in water for 4-5 minutes till the soften and swell, then add to 160ml warm blackcurrant syrup, stirring till it dissolves. If using powder, sprinkle onto a few tablespoons of warm water and leave to stand for a few minutes, then combine with warm blackcurrant syrup and mix till dissolved. Note that I used gelatine leaves so my instructions for the powder are a guide.

When the liquid is ready, gently pour equal portions into your 6 tumblers. Cover and leave to set for a couple of hours (or overnight).

#3 Cooled, whipped cream

Cool your mixing bowl and whisking attachment in the freezer for a half hour before whipping the cream. When the utensils are cool, combine the cream, 1/2 cup of sugar sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl and whip till light and soft. To this creamed mixture, add your mascaporne and gently fold in. Depending on what route you take, you’ll either top the jelly pots with some blackcurrant syrup and add this plain, whipped cream mixture at this stage or you will go down the road of gently folding in some blackberry syrup and fruit into the cream, then spoon that over your jelly.

Whatever you do, when you’re done putting your cream on the jelly, place in the fridge for at least an hour (or overnight).

#4 Sugared Almonds

Pre-heat your top grill to the highest. In a baking tray, place the flaked almonds and gently sprinkle the light brown sugar on top of the almonds.

Place the tray two racks down from the heat source and let brown for 3-4 minutes.

Remove from oven , pour into a bowl or unto a plate and let cool for a few minutes.

Use to garnish as you see fit.

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Serve this dessert that is fit for a king, and queen….or save it all….just for you.

Please, please, please….don’t ask me what I did.

If you must know, my husband wasn’t feeling well. He didn’t want any desserts. He  only wanted some Nigeria soup, with a lot of chile pepper and good wife that I was am, I made it for him. He ate it. He was very happy and satsified. He wanted nothing more and he went to bed early…..

And yes, I ate all six pots on my own….over a few days.

IMG_6850Well, 5 actually.

Pot #1, I had to try the jelly when I made it. It was without the cream.

Pots 2 – 5 I ate on Friday, I had to sample the different combos to see which I preferred: I rather enjoyed the version which had the blackberry syrup and the plain cream to the blackcurrant cream version. I think the distinct layers and inter-twining flavours had me, plus I loved the way the blackberry juice snuck its way up when you piled the cream on…..a feast for the eyes.

Pot 6, I finished off on Saturday morning before I headed to the Dutch wilderness, camping – a tale for another day…and yes, I did have S’Mores and they were just ok…but I know why. I will tell you later.

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I first squeezed some lime over my glass before I dug in, using my long-handle spoon. I scooped up a bit of everything, from top to bottom – a bit of jelly, sauce and cream. Oh, the gentle explosion of flavours…..the purity of the blackcurrant, its fruity notes singing a sweet, sweet melody with every taste of its gloriousness. It was a symphony, an arrangement only a master could have conducted

Have a great start to the week….and a superb end of month, May and the start of June when I will celebrate, life, love, and more.

And for sure, I know I have many parts….but like this dessert, which took time to construct and refine, I will get there and someday my whole will be…greater than the sum.

Stay blessed X X X

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