Southport flower show and a sherry sabayon

Southport flower show has the great honour of being recognized as the largest independent flower show in the UK. Initially run by the local council this historical celebration of all things horticultural has been wowing visitors since 1924.

This year the show had a Brazilian theme. I know, I know, I giggled too but I will endeavour to keep this post clean and avoid all inappropriate innuendoes.

On arrival we, the Broccoli family, nipped into the floral marquees to visit the plant stalls which were varied and good. Then off to the prize vegetable tent where we marvelled at the enormous leeks and pert gooseberries before being confronted by this mighty erection. Honestly it’s enough to make anyone blush!

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The show gardens were fantastic and hat’s off to the designers and landscapers who built them, just as hurricane Bertha decided to visit. The judges must have been impressed too as there was much silverware glinting in the afternoon sun.

But my reason for visiting was not just to wallow in this rich collection of horticultural delights, no, following on from last years shenanigans at the rhs flower show Tatton, I had been invited to give a cookery demonstration of a plot to plate nature.

So the night before the event I decided to browse a recipe book for a delicious dish that included seasonal berries. I like to cook whatever is available on my allotment and the fruit bushes were dripping with a colourful array of juicy berries. Blackcurrants, redcurrants and pink gooseberries all there ready for picking.

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In a delightful French cook I discovered berry gratin. Perfect. Berry gratin with a sabayon sauce. Hmmm sabayon, never heard of it but it looked simple. Egg yolks, got, sugar, got, sherry, happy to buy. And that evening I set about practising.

Charged with sherry I waltzed through the recipe putting berries in the ramekins then setting to work on the sabayon. Readers if you ever attempt a recipe that you believe to be written by a French cook, just double check, I didn’t. I got as far as making a fluffy mixture that I spooned onto my delicious berries then hit a hurdle. I had to broil the pudding for two minutes. Broil? Never heard of this american term before. Broil? Sounds like boil so I put it in the steamer, nothing, so I put it in the microwave, nope, so I lowered the dish into a pan of hot water, not that either. Desperately, I googled it. Broil, it means grill, or go at it with a blow torch. Now that’s my kind of cooking!

So I arrived at the food tent at the flower show and unpacked my battered saucepan and blow torch and set to work. Intoto kitchens  had provided an excellent hob and ovens and Chef Brian Mellor of Harthill cookery school was there to keep us all informed and entertained.( Although I’m not sure tickling the gardener/cook is conducive to a well executed sabayon!)

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www.brianmellor.co.uk    www.intotokitchens.co.uk

The seasonal berry gratin topped with sherry sabayon worked well and several visitors were keen to try it. For those wanting to have a go here’s how to make it.

You will need:

Freshly picked berries, 3 egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of caster sugar, 2 tablespoons of sherry and a sprinkling of brown sugar.

First put a couple of inches of water in a saucepan and allow to simmer. Next place the egg yolks, caster sugar and sherry in a jug or bowl and mix together. Place this mixture, still in the jug or bowl, in the pan of hot water and continue to whisk for about five minutes with the heat turned down low. You are aiming for a light fluffy consistency full of air and flavour, what you don’t want is scrambled eggs. When the mixture leaves a trail or, as Brian explained, you can make drip a figure of eight on the surface and it stays, your sabayon is ready. Remove from the heat. Fill four ramekins half full of berries and spoon on the sauce. Sprinkle with brown sugar and brown the surface with a blow torch or pop under a grill for a minute or two. The result is a delicious pudding of warm berries and boozy sauce. Mmmmmmm

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