Meyer lemon, rosemary, black pepper mousse & chocolate-dipped ginger shortbread

Meyer lemon mousse & ginger shortbread cookie

When I was 12 or 13, my friend and I made dinner for our parents. The whole meal – cordials, a main course, dessert. Our parents gave us complete freedom in the kitchen, and bravely agreed to eat whatever we set in front of them. I think I had just stopped eating meat at the time, but apparently I wasn’t averse to cooking it for others, because we boiled a whole chicken with copious amounts of dried thyme. (The smell of dried thyme still makes me think of that day!) We boiled a whole chicken! I can’t claim to know how to cook chicken, to be honest, but that just doesn’t sound right! We made little cordials with (our parents’) brandy and crushed blackberries. I’d drink that in real life! And for dessert we combined whipped cream, lemon juice and sugar, and then we froze it. That’s right, we made lemon ice cream. I made a meyer lemon mousse, yesterday, and the whole process reminded me of that day.

I like anything that combines lemon and cream. It’s such an unlikely combination – surely the cream should curdle! But no, it’s like magic! It all stays together, and the tartness of the lemon is such a nice contrast to the, um, the creaminess of the cream. As you may recall, I was very excited the other day to have discovered a method of making non-chocolate mousse without gelatin. The secret was pastry cream, my new best friend – so satisfying to make, so fail-proof, so thick and creamy when it’s done. Is this really the same substance that I found kinda gross in cream donuts all these years? Could it be? I infused the pastry cream with a couple of rosemary branches…I think I may have been inspired by a recipe for rosemary apple ice cream that Liz kindly left in the comments! And I added black pepper, for a little kick. I’ve made bread with rosemary, lemon and black pepper, and I like the fact that all three ingredients comfortably straddle the sweet/savory divide. They’ve taken a little leap over to the sweet side, in this dish! The rosemary is quite subtle, because I didn’t leave any actual bits of rosemary in. Maybe next time! And now we’re wondering, here at the test kitchens of The Ordinary, when a mousse is actually a mousse. This was thick, it was creamy, it was light, and it was delicious. It wasn’t exactly frothy or airy, though. Need it be, to be a mousse? Is it a pudding? A custard? Questions to be set before the creamy dessert division of The Ordinary.

Lemon syrup

The cookies are thin, crispy ginger shortbread rounds, coated in bittersweet chocolate. I made a ginger shortbread crust for a tart the other day, and I’ve been determined to try it in cookie form ever since. Very nice dipped in coffee, very nice dipped in meyer lemon mousse!

Here’s Gene Krupa with Lemon Drop
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Champagne mango tart (with cardamom pastry cream and ginger-shortbread)

Champagne mango tart

The Guardian recently had an article about alphonso mangoes. They sound magically delicious! They also sound like champagne mangoes, and I thought they might be the same thing. When I did a little research I learned that they’re closely related, but not the same. Alphonso mangoes come from India. Champagne mangoes come from Mexico, and they’re also called Adolpho mangoes. I love that! I love that they have people names, and that they’re close relatives. Can’t you just imagine a family reunion of mangoes from all over the world? If mangoes were people they’d be bright and sweet and pleasant, with just enough of a piquant edge to keep them interesting.

Champagne mangoes are ripe and cheap around here at the moment. They’re also irresistible. They have a mild, sweet taste (you can see why they’re also called “honey mangoes.”) They have small pits and pretty, velvety flesh, not at all stringy. I wanted to make a fresh little tart that would show them off nicely without overwhelming them. So I made a ginger-shortbread shell (which would taste good on its own as a cookie, as it happens!) And I made a pastry cream flavored with vanilla and cardamom. Pastry cream is my kind of custard. It has a little bit of flour in it, which means that you don’t have to worry too much about letting it curdle. And if it does curdle, you can process it till it’s smooth again. And – you know when it’s thick. There’s no doubtful “Is that coating the back of the spoon? What does that even look like? Should I be using a metal spoon or a wooden spoon? Will it get thicker, or will it just get RUINED?!?!” (I’m a nervous custard maker.) When pastry cream is thick, it’s thick.

Everybody liked the tart, even the littlest food critic, Isaac. And, you know, it’s just fruit and milk! Right?

Here’s Mango Meat by Mandrill. I love this one!!
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