Red is my new favourite colour.
I love it bright like juicy ripe strawberries and glossy like currants; I love it luscious as raspberries or deep burgundy like in-season British cherries.
Red inspires me to think of stewed berries served with crème fraiche or soft-serve Madagascan vanilla bean ice cream. Their red-and-white contrast like gingham blankets laid out on a summer’s picnic; bubblies on the side.
It puts me in the mood for barbecues and cocktail parties. But most of all, it makes me crave for punnets full of berries simply layered in cream and amaretti biscuits. An easy recipe for a fuss-free summer dessert, after all why spend the day inside when the sun we’ve all been beckoning has finally arrived!
I made a strawberry version of this dessert for the girls back home. They loved it! So I thought I’d share the recipe with you too. Serve it with a chilled fruity white or prosecco and have ‘Summer Holiday’ playing in the background. I reckon Sir Cliff would approve.
1 punnet raspberries
1 small punnet strawberries
1 small punnet red currants
300ml double cream
¼ cup icing (also confectioner’s or powdered) sugar
Amaretti biscuits (3 pieces per parfait, plus 2 more to serve with)
6 – 8 parfaits served in wine glasses; I used the plastic ones that came with my picnic bag
The creamy bit
Spoon the mascarpone into a deep, large bowl. I do this because it helps break the cheese into smaller chunks, which makes whisking it later an easier task.
Next, whisk in the icing sugar and half of the double cream. You could use a hand-held mixer or even stand mixer but I find a bubble whisk works perfectly fine, and gives the arms a good workout.
Add the remaining double cream and whisk until smooth. Set it in the refrigerator to chill until you are ready to assemble the parfait.
Top and hull the strawberries. Then dice them into (roughly) 2cm x 1cm chunks. Set aside.
Pick half the currants off from each stem, leaving half of the currants still attached to the stems. These will be used as garnish. Set aside.
The happening of a parfait
Divide the strawberries between the glasses. Using a teaspoon drop a (heaped) spoonful of cream into the glass. Smooth it out to the sides, gently pressing the cream down to fill a little of the gaps above the berries. Repeat with another teaspoonful. Do the same for each glass of parfait.
Next, crumble a single amaretti biscuit into each glass. Add a layer of raspberries, and repeat with a layer of cream. Crumble another amaretti biscuit onto the cream, and scatter the loose currants.
Finally, stick the bare stem of each bunch of currants into the cream; deep enough that it would not fall off but shallow enough to let some currants dangle over the side of the glass prettily.
Place each glass on a clear or white porcelain saucer. Place 2 pieces of amaretti biscuits on the saucer for your guests to crumble into the parfait for additional crunch. Any leftover berries and cream can also be presented in serving bowls for friends to have seconds.
When I made the strawberry parfait in Malaysia, I used cream cheese instead of mascarpone. It adds a very slight salty edge to the cream. Every ingredient in this dessert cannot be sourced locally due to the Malaysian climate, and imported goods are precious. I stood at the dairy counter for a good 20 minutes or so, contemplating the price of a tub of mascarpone. The storekeeper asked if I was fine, and I explained my horror at the price. He looked perplexed. I whipped out my phone and did the conversion to pounds; it worked out to be just over £6 for a 250ml tub of mascarpone. I just couldn't wrap my head around it.
I was taught to always wash my fruits and vegetables; it is a hard habit to change. Berries tend to soak up any liquid, so go with what you feel comfortable doing. What I do is place the strawberries in a colander before I top and hull them. Using one hand I swivel the colander, whilst the other hand pours filtered (another of mum’s doing) water through them. I do the same with any other berries. I have tried to leave them be but then I will start searching through my food looking for bits of dirt.
This dessert is best served chilled; very chilled especially if you are living in a tropical climate. Therefore, on a very warm day I would recommend assembling it down to the last layer of cream and currants, then placing them in the fridge to chill again. Only crumble the final layer of amaretti right before serving and serve immediately.
If you are using a shallower dish with a wider rim, everything will be much more spread out. You might find yourself with a thinner layer of everything, which will still taste great but the layers may just not be as prominent. Do feel free to multiply the cream mixture or use more amaretti. This dessert is so brilliantly versatile so you can play around with the layers and serving dishes to discover your favourite combination.