Easy-to-make-ahead showstopper summer desserts are the order of the day and increasingly I find myself looking towards ones that give foolproof results. Recipes that use pre-made ingredients - like ice-cream sandwiched between store-bought cookies, jars of fruit jam spread between layers of cake, or frozen pastry puffed up and piled with sweet whipped cream and berries - can be put to work to help your dessert become more of an assembly job than one that has you stuck in the kitchen for too long.
Ice-cream cakes are pure nostalgia for me, and recipes like baked Alaska, Arctic roll and even jelly and ice-cream instantly evoke the dreamy kids' birthday parties of my childhood. I think there's still plenty of room for the good old ice-cream cake to make a comeback, perhaps with a slightly more sophisticated twist. My triple chocolate tiramisu cake is not only easy to assemble but is a really cool and elegant way to finish any summer meal. Best enjoyed with a little shot of espresso.
Speaking of retro desserts, anyone who enjoyed childhood desserts like hot fudge sauce over vanilla ice-cream, a towering knickerbocker glory and a classic banana split will understand the beauty of an ice-cream sundae done right. This recipe for my strawberry and white chocolate crumble sundae might be devoid of whipped cream, chocolate sauce and the traditional maraschino cherry on top, but for all that it lacks in over-the-top frivolity, it makes up for in simplicity.
My final slice of summer sweetness comes in the form of a creamy semifreddo, a classic Italian frozen custard-like dessert that can be adapted with countless flavour combinations. Here it's rippled with a strawberry swirl for a true taste of the season. Three desserts to bring a little sweetness to your summer!
Semifreddo is the ideal make-ahead dessert - the basic recipe here can be garnished with different toppings of your choice, but is delicious with the summer's freshest strawberries.
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g caster sugar
400ml double cream
200g strawberries, hulled
2 tbsp icing sugar
3 tbsp strawberry jam, sieved (optional)
200g strawberries, hulled and halved, or quartered if large
1. Double-line a 1.5-litre-capacity loaf tin with cling film.
2. Place the egg, egg yolks, vanilla extract and caster sugar in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water.
3. Using a hand-held electric whisk, beat for about 8 minutes until the mixture is thick and pale. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. In a separate large bowl, whip the double cream until it is stiff. Fold in the pale egg mixture until combined.
5. Pour half the mix into the prepared loaf tin.
6. Blitz the strawberries and icing sugar in a blender until smooth and then ripple half the purée through the creamy mixture.
7. Cover with cling film and place in the freezer to set for 6 hours or overnight.
8. To serve, turn the semifreddo out onto a serving platter and carefully remove the cling film. Then simply drizzle with the jam and garnish with the prepared strawberries, and serve in generous slices and enjoy!
A modern take on the ice-cream sundaes of my childhood. The toasted white chocolate crumble keeps well in a jar for a week or two and can also be used over griddled stone fruit with yoghurt, or as a cake or cupcake topper.
For the crumble:
100g white chocolate, finely chopped
50g jumbo oats
2 tbsp maple syrup
250g strawberries, quartered
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
250ml vanilla bean ice-cream
25g roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Small handful mint leaves
1. Heat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.
2. Lay the white chocolate and oats across a flat non-stick baking sheet, toss with the maple syrup, then place in the oven to roast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread across the sheet. Cook for another 10 minutes until you have a golden brown colour on the chocolate and the oats are toasted.
3. Remove from the oven, spread once more, sprinkle with a little sea salt and allow to cool completely, before crumbling into rough chunks.
4. While the crumble cools, combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. Toss to combine and leave to marinate for at least an hour.
5. Arrange a scoop of ice-cream in a bowl, followed by some strawberries and crumble; repeat once more. Top with the roasted hazelnuts and mint leaves.
If you're a fan of tiramisu, you will enjoy all those core flavours transformed into a cool and creamy summer ice-cream cake. Enjoy with a shot of espresso!
500g tub chocolate ice-cream
125ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, seeds removed
100g white chocolate, melted and cooled
150ml coffee liqueur
14 finger biscuits
Cocoa powder, to serve
1. Line the base and sides of a 2lb loaf tin with cling film; you may need to oil this first. Arrange the ice-cream in the base, creating a smooth surface.
2. Whip the cream with the mascarpone and vanilla until soft peaks form. Once cooled, fold through the white chocolate until fully incorporated.
3. Stir the coffee liqueur with the espresso in a bowl. Dip 7 of the fingers in and arrange on top of the ice-cream.
4. Spread the whipped cream on this and then dip the remaining fingers into the coffee mixture. Arrange these on top and freeze for at least 5 hours, or overnight.
5. When ready to serve, remove from the freezer and dust liberally with cocoa.
Fish & Chips
I don't know how we left it so long but we've had our first fish and chips since getting back home. On a grey evening on the pier in Howth, we devoured a portion of smoked cod and chips drenched in vinegar with plenty of salt. A true home comfort made all the more memorable by having to share it with a mob of seagulls!
Our weekends are providing plenty of time to rediscover the beauty of Ireland's gorgeous outdoors. We've been telling the kids tales of Ireland's mythology and our last outing was lunch at Aideen's Grave, the ancient portal tomb on the grounds of Howth Castle (above). A perfect spot to tell the stories of Finn McCool and the Fianna.
I picked up a bounty of kitchenalia at Triggerfish Cookshop as we prepare to film a new TV show later this month. It was my first shopping experience after lockdown and the very stylish Triggerfish, run by owner Bob Toal, is a true hidden gem in Dublin's Blackrock Village. Stocking an inspiring range of gorgeous kitchen equipment, it was a treat to browse their collection of pots and pans, kitchen gadgets and knives. Visit or order online at triggerfishcookshop.ie