When a date for our most recent Ottolenghi feast was announced, I swiftly staked a claim on dessert. Promising icecream served my cause well. There was still the matter of which icecream. In addition to the rich halva sundae from Plenty More (bzzzzt - already done) there are several online options, from a dense rocky road experience to a tropical coconut scoop served with roasted pineapple in the new NOPI book.
Ultimately, I leaned on those gorgeous strawberries doing the rounds right now. They're the major component of NOPI's strawberry and rose mess, blended up into a sorbet and also diced up fresh. Then there's a cacophony of sweet, sour, perfumed, creamy and crunchy supplied by mascarpone and crème fraîche, pomegranate seeds and syrups, meringues and dried rose petals.
The flavours and textures in my version were flawed but forgiving. The cream and the syrup were very runny, and didn't taste much of the rosewater or sumac they made use of. I seized on Ottolenghi's permission to buy ready-made meringues, and they were homogeneously, crisply dry. The sorbet was soft and frothy (I credit the corn syrup) and quick to melt. It mattered little, with everyone eagerly spooning into their share, saving the sorbet from its impending liquid doom. I took only my coveted new jar of dried rose petals home with me.
I can imagine making the strawberry sorbet, and perhaps even the entire dessert, again. It's pretty and tasty and flexible, and it survived half an hour's travel by bike. It could even be the recipe that inspires me to try aquafaba meringue-making as I attempt a vegan version.
Strawberry & rose sundaes
(slightly adapted from a Yotam Ottolenghi & Ramael Scully recipe
published in the Guardian)
1/4 cup water
40g caster sugar
40g icing sugar
30g corn syrup/liquid glucose
340g crème fraîche
2 tablespoons icing sugar
2 teaspoons rosewater
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon sumac
2 teaspoons icing sugar
2 teaspoons dried rose petals
Prepare the sorbet a day in advance. Wash and hull the strawberries, then blend them to a smooth puree. Pour them into a small-medium saucepan and add all the remaining sorbet ingredients. Stir them over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool a while on the bench, then refrigerate it to chill completely. Churn the sorbet in an icecream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the icecream to a container and freeze it completely, at least 4 hours.
Make the creamy layer by whisking together the mascarpone and crème fraîche in a bowl. Sift over the icing sugar and stir it in too. Whisk in the rosewater, then refrigerate the mixture until it's time to serve the dessert.
For the syrup, place the boiling water and sugar in a glass jar and swish them around until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pomegranate molasses and sumac, and whisk or shake everything together until well combined. Set the syrup aside until serving time.
Macerate the strawberries by washing and hulling them. Sift over the icing sugar and stir it through the strawberries. Allow them to sit for at least 15 minutes, until they're bright and glossy.
Remove the seeds from the pomegranate by whatever means works for you - I tend to tear at it over a bowl of water and discard the pith and membrane as I go.
Assembly will take about 5 minutes before serving. Divide the creamy mixture evenly among 6-8 glasses or bowls. Drop in the strawberries. Gently place a scoop of sorbet in each dish. Break up the meringues and arrange them in each glass. Drizzle over some syrup. Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds and dried rose petals. Done!