Tuesday 17 July 2012

A Guest with Passion (fruits)

Now we have a rule at Contrary Towers, 'No Guest Posts' so here is a lovely recipe from a FoCT* which if we can get him to cook this for us, we may end up as coming over all moussey and passion fruity.

Mango and Passion fruit Liquid mousse: In homage to Contrary Towers

Here’s a little something of a Sunday lunch collaboration between myself and my pre-teen niece. The joint effort involved me dreaming up, selling the idea, suggesting where to google for pointers, listing ingredients and producing everything. Her half of the work involved printing out a recipe… which I sort of followed. Recipe? I know… not quite in the spirit, but a mousse can be a tricky thing to tame and success requires pinpoint accuracy and thorough advance planning. My intention was to start by making a mango puree or coulis or something (not part of the recipe…) which would freeze in a perfect shape and defrost as the mousse set in the fridge. Here we go.

Firstly, have an inquisitive prod at the mango. It needs to be ‘ready’ if you know what I mean… not completely soft but not bouncy hard either. Give it a bit of a squeeze, with an expression that makes others think you know what you’re doing. I didn’t have a clue. It seemed quite ripe, so I laid in hoping it would spring apart like a ripe avocado. [*snorks at mango prodding* - ed]

How difficult can it be?!
You need a bigger bowl than the one I had ready, it makes a real mess. I’ve seen pictures in books where you kind of cube it up and turn it inside out, but both my mangoes refused point blank. I ended up squishing them through a sieve, it too ages and was quite messy.

Next step was the passion fruit: all the flavour is held in tight little sacks surrounding the seeds and they don’t give it up easily. I cut them in two, spooned out the centres and spent 20 minutes trying to separate the stunning heady aromatic juice from the sacs surrounding the seeds. It sort of worked. I forgot to mention; before I did that I had about a quarter of my mango squish in a separate jug to which I added the passion fruit. 

Spend at least half an hour running round the kitchen looking for some kind of mould in which to make the ice. I planned use 3.5” stainless rings for the mousse, so you need something similar, smaller, sort of round. Ice cubes are too wonky – I’m a perfectionist. I ended up balancing the empty passion fruit skins on a tray, poured in 6 equal (ish) quantities of puree and set to freeze. [struggling with concepts of planning and perfection here but using the passion fruit skins is a stroke of culinary genius - ed]

Originally I was intending to make the mousse the next morning but the ¾ puree left was looking forlorn. Oh what’s the harm I thought and cracked on with the mousse bit. Next stage was to take the free range egg whites and beat into stiff peaks. What egg whites? What stiff peaks? I got out a suitable metal round bowl and started off whisking.

Stiff peaks
Next step: gently add the sugar mixture heated to 118 degC. What sugar mixture? *checks ingredients* 3 ½ oz of sugar (about…that much) and 3 tbs of water (Teaspoon? Tablespoon? Who knows. About… That much) Heat to 118 deg C then cook for four minutes. I could have been whisking egg whites, but they were already done. 118 deg C is also known as ‘soft ball stage’ so that when rolled between thumb and forefinger, the molten sugar is still yielding but forms balls. Sort of adolescent toffee. 

As it happens 118 deg C is quite hot. [brings in volunteer to do the hot sugar testing thing - ed]

Sugar heated, I was ready for the next step: Holding the bowl in one hand, gently drizzle the boiling sugar over the egg whites, continuing to whisk. Continuing? I’ve got boiling sugar! If you’ve been paying attention you will also notice that I do not have three hands. More were recruited for this delicate stage, which passed without a hitch. Nearly at the bottom of the page, not long now. [I've often thought that 3 hands would be quite a distraction in the kitchen - ed]

Gently fold in 6 ¼ oz of double cream whipped into firm peaks. HUH? OK gets cream gets bowl, (you need a lot of bowls for this) gets whisk. 6 ¼ oz equates to… bit more than… about that. Splash more. Whip damn hard because this should have been ready to fold 1/3 of into the egg mixture. It will seem like a lot going on the floor, but really it isn’t. DONE.

Folding time. What is it with thirds? Gently fold 1/3 of the cream into the fluffy setting egg white. You don’t want to lose the air from the mixture. Now is the time to start worrying that nobody has mentioned mango in a while. Keep folding. Put half of the remainder back into the cream, keep folding with 1/3 of the mango mixture and… end of page. Ah. So it’s not near the end then, there are a couple more steps on the next page. Stay with it.

I think the next bit was about optional gelatin, which I omitted because it makes it a bit too stiff (ooh er) and because Niece has found out how it’s made and it’s icky. It’s optional, so there are a good few paragraphs that I gratefully skipped. Basically I ended up mixing it all in together, gently of course to keep the texture. Next stop is to spoon it into moulds, I used some very cheffy stainless steel rings which were a good size, and had fun trying to get the mix actually inside some of the rings.

If you had planned ahead, now would be the time to retrieve your icy passion fruit lovelies from the freezer, although mine had only been in an hour and were merely cold. If you’re organised, put in half the mixture (or even… here’s a thought, divide the mixture into two, gelatin one half up and start off with that for a springy base to put your iced puree on) in the ring, iced puree in the middle, cover with more mousse, get to the fridge quick.

On the other hand I spooned everything into the moulds, not ‘crossing the ice bridge’ until about 1am when I snuck down and gently inserted the icy semi spheres into the stiffening mousse, then to chill out in the industrial ‘fridge ready to calm down in the morning. [checks out purveyors of industrial fridges - ed]

I have to say, they were sensational. The mango mousse is delicate, naturally sweet and fruity, but the liquid passionfruit centre really brings it alive. The effect is like a moussey fresh chocolate fondant, which was the intention, so I was quite pleased. I’ll make it again one day, although it may not be quite the same…

This is complicated and we may need to watch a chef at work, whilst drinking a suitable dessert wine.

*Friend of Contrary Towers. Obvs.

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