Long ago we gave up on the idea of planning a menu when the family gets together for a celebration like Christmas. We all like to cook. We all like to contribute. While we arrive with some prepared dishes as announced, some creative surprises just take on a life of their own.
Christmas this year was a perfect example. I’d planned the dessert.
Every year since I was born, mum has made a Christmas Pudding yet it somehow didn’t feel right this year. My brother has never enjoyed dried fruit. And the dessert which is of traditional British ancestory, also suits Christmas in a northern hemisphere mid-winter. There were only four of us this year. It was my first summer at home for Christmas for a while, and, I’m always banging on about using fresh seasonal produce. So I decided to make something celebratory but summer seasonal: Sparkling Red Soup with Floating Islands. This was my upside down take on our New Zealand neighbour’s traditional Christmas dessert of Pavlova with Seasonal Berries.
As it turned out I had all the ingredients, but somehow it was egg yolks, instead of egg whites, that I ended up using. My family had found a bottle of ’73 RD Bollinger. We chilled it, we opened, and as expected it wasn’t quite up to drinking. It had lost it’s bubbles. Surprisingly, there was still life in it. I just had to do something with it, and that is how our impromptu Christmas dessert was born:
Upside Down Summer Pudding with Panettone and Champagne Zabaione
To serve 4
750g of mixed red fruit (berries and cherries)
1 cup good red wine
4 neatly trimmed square slices of good quality panettone
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup champagne (or other alcohol such as Kirsch, or the traditional zabaione marsala)
For the red soup:
- Halve any cherries if using, and remove the stones.
- Place all the berries and the cherries in a saucepan, and add the red wine.
- Simmer slowly for about 5 minutes until some of the berries have given up their juice and melted into a soup like consistency. You want to try and retain some shape. To give more body use this technique for half the mixture and add the other half of the fruit, as you remove the mixture from the heat.
In the bowl:
- Trim a neat square of the good quality panettone, and place a piece in the centre of each of four individual serving bowls.
- When the soup has cooled slightly but is still warm, portion the soup equally over the panettone into each of the bowls.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour (the panettone will absorb some of the soup, the same as bread/brioche/cake will absorb the berries overnight for summer pudding)
To make the zabaione:
- Put a pot of water on the simmer (this is to use as a double boiler)
- Separate the eggs and place the yolks in a round bowl (that fits the double boiler)
- Whisk with sugar, and the champagne (alcohol) with the egg yolks, then place the bowl over the double boiler
- Keep whisking while the bowl is over the heat until it emulsifies (make sure that you keep whisking all the time, and all around the bowl)
- After about 4 minutes, when the luscious mixture is creamy thick, remove from the heat, but keep whisking, until it cools down a bit.
- When the soup is chilled in the bowls, and you are ready to serve, prepare the zabaione
- While the zabaione is still warm, top each bowl of upside down summer pudding with a generous dollop.
The intention of the original dessert idea was for Sparkling Red Soup.
Prepare individual quenelles of poached meringue in place of the zabaione.
When placing the soup in the bowls, omit the panettone, and instead, when ready to serve, add a splash of sparkling wine (I had intended to use a Sparkling Red – Malbec) to each bowl to invigorate the soup and make it celebratory. Top each bowl with two small or one large floating island (quenelle of poached meringue.)