Lemons, the last of Malta’s winter crop, need using up. With lamb tagine on the menu for the Easter Sunday family lunch at my sister-in-law’s, and in keeping with the Middle Eastern-North African theme, I juiced and zested away to make this light spring dessert; a tangy lemon mousse. Still a whole bowl full of lemons to go yet, so, as my sis-in-law suggested, time to try our hands at preserving them in salt for tagines to come.
It’s a tradition in my husband’s family for communal feast days, high days, birthdays and so on to see a combined effort on producing the festive lunch. The division of labour is unsaid, needing barely an email to jolt us in to action. Invariably, one sister-in-law hosts and does main course; the other brings starter – usually a divine soup; while I do the honours on dessert.
Having been laid a bit low of late, I wasn’t too creative but it gave me chance to delve into those food porn cookery books I tend to hoard, adding even more recently to my Amazon wishlist (woe betide they make it to checkout!). A cook book plug coming up in this post in fact, for those who have the same addiction as myself to print even if we’re avid online foodies! The tagine was inspired by Greg & Lucy Malouf’s ‘Saha, a Chef’s Journey through Lebanon and Syria‘ which is in the personal travelogue-cook’s tour (but packed with recipes too) genre of cookery writing. It’s very drool-worthy, and now in my wishlist I must add. My sister-in-law admitted to not owning ‘her’ copy as it had been on embarrassingly long loan from friends for five months. It’s that good.
For this dessert, I chose to wack open the hefty tome of Katie Quinn Davies of ‘What Katie Ate‘ food blog fame; and I mean serious fame as she’s won just about every food photo award in the past year or so. As a graphic designer by original trade, Katie has cooked, photo-ed and designed her way through a beautiful cookery book named as the blog, and is just about to finish her second, in as many years. I admire her dedication to food blogging and learning the photography ropes to pro standard in a very short time. A lot to drive the motivation of the aspiring! So no brownie points my way for the lemon mousse recipe, though a slight change of name as I thought the nut part slightly more crumble like than crisp in my version; that soggy bottom bit under the mousse, induced perhaps by its transportation and lack of chilling en route to the family venue! I think yours should be crisp though if you top it last minute and not before chilling.
All images © Liz Ayling 2014
- 200g hazelnuts (without skins)print button transparent
- 10 Savoiardi biscuits
- 300ml whipping cream
- 50g caster sugar
- 2 x 1cm pieces of root ginger, peeled and finely grated
- zest (finely chopped) and juice of one large lemon and one lime (I used a bit more as I like the citrus zing!)
- 2 large egg whites
- Pre-heat oven to 180°C (fan). Place the whole hazelnuts on a small roasting tin and lightly roast for around 8-10 minutes until slightly golden. Do not leave long as they burn quickly! Allow them to cool, place in a food processor and pulse and then whiz until just chopped (unevenly is fine; no need to make them powder). Tip the nuts into a bowl and then pulse the Savoiardi biscuit quickly in the processor to break them into medium-sized crumbs. Mix the biscuits and nuts but first retain around 2 tbsp of the nuts to top the desserts.
- Zest and juice the citrus fruit. Then, whisk the cream, sugar, citrus zest and juice, and grated root ginger until the cream is just thickening; it shouldn’t be really stiff.
- With scrupulously clean beaters, whisk up the eggs whites to soft peaks (not a stiff meringue). Fold the egg whites into the cream and juice mix using deep scooping motions with a large spoon. You need to fold the whites in retaining their lightness, not whisk or beat them to a smooth ‘batter’.
- Take the ramekin or other small dessert bowls or glasses and place a couple of dessert spoonfuls of the nut mix in the bottoms. Spoon the mousse over the top. Cover the ramekins (I used small plastic lids from yoghurt or ricotta tubs). Chill in the fridge for around 3 hours minimum before serving.
- To serve, just sprinkle the remaining nuts on the top along with some more citrus zest. Serve with extra Savoiardi biscuits is desired.