When I was little my parents used to take me and my brother to a little restaurant in a converted watermill called Bluebeckers. I loved it there. It was my favourite restaurant and always on the tip of my tongue when my parents asked if we wanted to eat anywhere special. Through my nine-year-old, rose-tinted view, the food here was magical. If we were good and minded our manners, there wasn’t a limit to the greasy and sugary delights we were allowed to shovel in on these special occasions.
I remember beaming from ear to ear, straining upwards in my seat, back so ram-rod straight and cutlery so carefully held and deployed that I must have looked like a marionette as plates of steak and juicy burgers dribbling cheese over thick-cut chips were placed in front of me. I remember the violent green of the ‘Vampire Float’ that came topped with a bobbing and writhing puff of vanilla ice cream, slowly dissolving into the fizzing, toxic spillage soft drink. I remember my brother rowing me out onto the little lake they had and smacking me in the face with an oar and the chocolate fudge cake my mother fed me to make the pain of my fat lip go away. But mostly I remember the hot fudge Sundaes they served there.
Before Bluebeckers I don’t think I had ever had a proper Sundae. I’d run for Fabs and Zaps from the ice cream vans that pootled along our road; I’d wolfed down globes of Gino Ginelli’s fudge swirl when I was staying at my grandparents in Dorset and I distinctly remember my first magnum ice cream and the dangerous crack of chocolate that thundered from that first, wondrous bite.
These Sundaes where the real deal: tall glasses with chocolate and vanilla ice cream layered with fudge bites and popping candy that arrived with a jug of warm, fudge sauce. Bluebeckers might be long gone now but I still dream about their baby jugs of fudge sauce.
So when I was asked by luxury Swiss ice cream brand Mövenpick if I wanted to create an original Sundae recipe using their premium range of ice creams, I was elated. And it would mean that I was in for a chance of winning a two-hour master class with The Langham’s head pastry chef, Cherish Finden, as well as afternoon tea in The Palm Court. I might not be able to have another Bluebeckers Sundae but I could still make my own version.
How can you possibly improve on such a winning combination as ice cream, fruit and sauce? The only thing I could think of was to make it more grown up and what do grown ups like? All together now, booze! Well, at least this grown up does and there’s nothing more that I love on balmy, summer days like this than a glass of Pimms, full of chopped fruit and clinking with ice.
So here it is, my Pimms Sundae where orange Pimms jelly and lemon syrup infused shortcake meets candied cucumber, crystallised mint and as much creamy Mövenpick ice cream as I can squeeze into a glass, all topped with lashings of Pimms and strawberry syrup.
It’s grown up jelly and ice cream with a few little treats and surprises layered in, because everyone knows that half the fun of a Sundae is eating your way down through each layer until you manage to excavate something new.
It may seem like there are a lot of different components to this, but most of them can be made in advance. You can store the cucumber thins and mint leaves in tupperware for a few days until you’re ready to use them and the jelly, syrup and shortcake can be made the night before, meaning that come serving time the only thing you have to worry about is how much you can shove into a Sundae glass without looking like Bruce Bogtrotter on a mission.
for the orange Pimms jelly
6 ripe oranges
2 tbsp caster sugar (to taste)
10 strawberries, quartered
3 sheets of leaf gelatine
These jellies pack a hugely alcoholic punch and aren’t overly sweet, which make them the perfect accompaniment to the rest of the sugary ingredients in this Sundae recipe. Most Pimms jelly recipes use pre-made jelly cubes or lemonade, but this easy-peasy one just uses fruit juice and gelatine to set these bronze-coloured wobbly beauties.
You’ll need to start by making the jelly as this can take up to five hours to set in the fridge.
- Slice and squeeze the oranges, making sure you get all the juice out and add the juice from the lemon – I like to warm citrus fruits in the microwave for 30 seconds or leave them in the sun for an hour or so to get the juice flowing.
- Pass the juice through a sieve to get rid of most of the pulp and any stray seeds you may have squeezed into the mix and add the 300ml of Pimms – you should have about 600ml of liquid now.
- Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water until they’re soft while you warm half of the juice mixture in a saucepan on the stove. When it’s warm, squeeze the excess water from the gelatine and stir into the warmed juice.
- When it’s dissolved, pour in the remaining cold juice and mix. Test to see if you need to add any caster sugar to make the mix sweeter (I like to keep mine quite sharp to offset the sweetness of the Sundae) before pouring into glasses or containers and adding the fresh slices of strawberry. Refrigerate for four-five hours until set.
for the candied cucumber
As I dreamed this Sundae up, I wondered if anyone had ever made a sweet cucumber garnish. While cucumbers are usually chucked into salads or gin and tonics or pickled and brined, you don’t see too many cucumbers being turned into sweets, which is odd when you consider how naturally sweet a vegetable they really are. A quick internet search revealed one recipe for candied cucumbers using the exact method I was planning to. So I have to dedicate these toffee-like, floral cucumber tuiles to Cluracon from The Indestructables.
200g caster sugar
half a cucumber
half a bunch of mint
- Wash your half a cucumber under cold water before slicing thin discs using a serrated knife – the thinner the better as they will crisp up in the oven as opposed to staying quite water-logged and chewy.
- Roughly chop the mint leaves from your half bunch.
- Heat the sugar and the water on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and a clear syrup has formed. Add the mint leaves and give it a stir before throwing in the delicate little cucumber thins.
- Leave these to poach for about 20 minutes while you heat the oven to a very low 90 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment.
- After 20 minutes, carefully lever out the soft cucumber slices – which will now look a little bit like stained glass windows – and spread them on the baking tray.
Keep the poaching syrup from the cucumbers as a glug of this minty, fresh syrup makes an AMAZING addition to gin and tonics, glasses of prosecco or simple cloudy lemonade.
- Pop into the oven for around two hours to slowly dry out and crisp up as the residual sugar syrup dissolves.
- Be careful when you’re pulling these from the baking parchment as they can be really sticky and break easily. I like to remove them when they are still warm as they’re a little more pliable.
for the crystallised mint
the leaves from half a bunch of mint
100g caster sugar
1 egg white
Crystallised mint leaves as easy peasy to make and use the same technique as making edible flower decorations.
- Just rinse the mint leaves and dab dry on kitchen towel before brushing them with egg white and wiping them through a bowl of caster sugar on both sides.
- Lay them on a lined baking tray and you can put them in the oven alongside the cucumbers to dry so that the sugar can crystallise.
- Take them out after about and hour and carefully peel them from the parchment and you’ll have delicate little fronds of iced mint – so easy but so effective for drink or cake decorations!
for the lemon syrup shortbread
100g softened butter
50g caster sugar
125g plain flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
- Beat the butter and sugar into submission with a wooden spoon before mixing through the flour. You can use an electric mixer but it’s really easy to overwork this dough, making the resulting biscuits harder and less crumbly.
- Gather the dough into a ball and roll out to about 1cm deep before cutting out rounds. I used three different sized cutters for this recipe to follow the trumpet shape of the Sundae glass.
- Bake for ten minutes or until just golden at 190 degrees and leave to cool. If the biscuits have spread during cooking you can cut them down to size again with the cutters while they’re still hot and soft.
- Squeeze the juice of a lemon with a tbsp caster sugar into a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add more sugar if it’s too tart and drizzle over the biscuits when they’re warm from the oven.
for the strawberry Pimms syrup
A punnet of ripe, British strawberries
100g caster sugar
- This syrup is a great way of getting rid of overripe strawberries and goes fantastically on its own with ice cream or shortbread biscuits.
- Hull and quarter the strawberries before adding them to a heavy bottomed saucepan along with the water, Pimms and sugar.
- Let the mix come to the boil before leaving to simmer gently for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the mixture has reduced to a deep, rich, ruby coloured syrup with chances of strawberries still floating then you’re there – don’t leave it any longer than 20 minutes though or you’ll end up with jam!
Now you’re finally ready to assemble your Sundae. Start with a layer of jelly in the bottom before adding the smallest biscuit and a generous scoop of Mövenpick vanilla ice cream. Top with a splodge of strawberry sauce and a few cucumber rounds before repeating until you’ve created a towering, boozy ice cream mountain of lusciousness.
I used a scoop of Mövenpick‘s deliciously decadent white chocolate ice cream in between the two vanilla scoops for an extra sweet treat – heavenly!