I recently made loads of effort with a dessert, and it wasn’t worth it. Too many components, too much fuss, not enough finesse and definitely not enough appreciation. Which was altogether pretty annoying. Not least because I only had myself to blame.
Normally my judgement and application are much better, though I probably do tend towards a deceptively flashy finish; the effort for which is rarely truly acknowledged by anyone who doesn’t already know, you know? (All elements home made, from the filo or puff through to the ice creams, custards and shards.)
Which brings me to possets. These puds look simple, are simple, and yet always go down remarkably well. I’m continually surprised by the miracle of science that occurs when you briefly boil sugared cream, add citrus and then just leave it to set like a thick custard. Add a compote below or on the side, or a layer of jelly on top if you’re feeling racy. But otherwise it’s about 5 minutes work, a few hours of cooling and infusing, waiting and setting, and pretty much just the one pan to clean in the meantime.
Lemon is so often the suggested flavouring — and why re-invent the wheel? That said, for this one I added a bit of anethole (the flavour compound associated with anise), which is a fine partner to lemon, and makes things just a little bit more grown up. Oh, I made biscotti too (also anetholed up), to provide a bite to proceedings. But you could just go to the shops and buy that part.
This was originally a recipe attached to my series on spices for Borough Market — specifically relating to a run down of aniseeed, star anise, fennel seed and liquorice.
Lemon and star anise posset with fennel seed and liquorice biscotti
There’s just a hint of anise in both the posset and the biscotti — not so much that it’s overwhelming, but enough to make both things interesting. Perhaps the combinations are surprising, but they absolutely work and are well worth trying.
For the lemon posset
Serves 4, doubles up easily
- Cooking time: 15 minutes. Chilling: 3 hours.
- 1-2 lemons
- 300ml double cream
- 60g caster sugar
- 1 star anise
Zest and juice one large lemon. (You need 35-40ml of lemon juice for this, which should be one lemons, though you may require a little squeeze more).
Decant the cream into a small but high sided saucepan. Add the sugar and whisk until dissolved. Add the lemon juice and star anise and place over a low-medium heat. Slowly bring the cream to the boil. When it’s properly bubbling, set a timer for two minutes and watch as it froths up the saucepan — if the cream looks as though it will bubble over, place a metal spoon or fork in the pan and the froth will reduce. Boil for precisely two minutes and remove from the heat. Leave to cool for 30 minutes.
Stir the cooled cream and pour it through a sieve into a pouring jug, discarding the zest, star anise and any claggy skin. Divide the posset into little cups, glasses or ramekins. It’s quite rich, so portions should be small.
Leave in the fridge for at least 3 hours to chill and set.
Fennel seed and liquorice biscotti
Makes enough for 4 people, with a few biscuits left over to go with tea or coffee a day later
- 110g plain flour
- 30g ground almonds
- 2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly bashed using a pestle and mortar
- 1/2 teaspoon liquorice powder
- 100g caster sugar
- Grated zest from 1/2 lemon
- 15g shelled, unsalted pistachios
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- Icing sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 180C Fan (200C). Line a small baking tray with greaseproof paper or a silicon / non-stick baking sheet.
Mix all the dry ingredients except the icing sugar together in a bowl. Add the egg and mix with a fork until most of the dry ingredients are damp and coming together. Now use one hand to push and pat the mix into a firm dough.
Dust a clean surface with a few tablespoons of icing sugar. Tip the dough out onto the icing sugar and pat into a long, high sausage shape — about 6cm in diameter. Carefully lift this on to the baking tray and place in the middle of the oven. Cook for 20-25 minutes until golden and relatively firm — it will spread a bit. If you’re concerned about having a tight biscotti log, you could push the sides closer after 15 minutes and they’ll hold there from then on.
Remove from the oven and allow to full cool and harden.
When ready to finish the biscuits, set the oven to 150C Fan (170C). Use a serrated knife to cut into biscotti lengths across the log and lay the pieces cut side up on the baking sheet. Cook for another 20 minutes, then leave to cool.
Store in an airtight container until required (up to 3 days is fine).