Two Wednesdays ago, Pete and I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon at the Novelli Academy, the Cookery School run by handsome French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli.
Located in Tea Green, a small village on the outskirts of Luton, not far from the airport, the Academy is located in a beautiful 14th century farmhouse where Novelli also lives with his family.
Novelli has teamed up with well known ice cream makers Carte d’Or and developed a set of recipes using their range.
During our session, we were shown how to make Baked Alaska, Rum & Raisin Pain Perdu and a chocolate trio (below).
We were also treated to a marvellous lunch of sea bass in a tomato sauce, cider and honey braised pork (with a coffee and cocoa gravy), boulanger potatoes and vegetable alongside. Although the pork was cooked long and slow, we watched Novelli making the other dishes before us, learning many useful tips along the way.
Novelli is an animated and enthusiastic teacher, keen to really engage with his students and share his own passion for eating well. Throughout the session we were invited to smell, taste and get involved.
Also helping during the day was Felice Tocchini, an Italian chef from Lucca, Italy. Felice owns two restaurants in Worcestershire and teaches some of the classes at the Academy.
Novelli is very focused on creating tasty food without throwing in unnecessary calories. He cuts back on saturated fats and sugar as often as possible, anywhere he can do so without compromising on flavour.
In fact, when he made his summer Baked Alaska, he used only 2-3 tablespoons (30-45 grams) of caster sugar for 6 egg whites! To our surprise, the meringue held its shape perfectly well and it worked, though I found it just a little too lacking in sweetness for me. But it completely put pay to the belief that meringue won’t work without a minimum of 50-60 grams of sugar to every egg white. I’m definitely intending to experiment to find a midway point between the austere 40 or so grams Novelli used on the day and the 250 grams he lists in the standard recipe.
I was also very happy to learn how to make spun sugar spirals and delighted when I succeeded! And as we had a little time at the end, Novelli also did an adhoc demonstration of making choux pastry, with more great tips about how to ensure the best results.
Jean-Christophe Novelli’s Summer Baked Alaska
Novelli’s Baked Alaska combines a traditional summer pudding with a simple Baked Alaska. Instead of a plain cake or bread base, the ice cream sits on a summer pudding full of fresh, delicious summer fruits.
The recipe refers to making individual individual puddings but for our demonstration, Novelli made a single larger one instead.
- 450 g soft fruits - strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackberries
- splash water
- star anise
- sprinkle cinnamon
- 1/2 loaf white bread or Genoese sponge cake
- sprinkle caster sugar
- 300 g Carte D’Or Cherry Blossom ice cream
For the meringue
- 6 egg whites
- pinch salt
- 250 g caster sugar
- 1/2 vanilla pod
The night before...
Toss the fruit and the spices, along with a splash of water, into a hot pan and let it simmer. After 3 minutes, take it off the heat and remove the star anise before you cover up your purée and let the flavours infuse.
Cut the crusts off the bread and lightly toast the slices. Or if you’re using sponge cake, cut it very thinly and toast it in a dry hot pan.
Drizzle a bit of fruit puree into the bottom of 6 dariole moulds and line them with the toasted bread (or sponge). Remember to keep some slices back for the tops.
Spoon in the rest of the fruit purée mixture and top with a toasted slice, then press it all down firmly. Balance a heavy plate on top of the puddings and leave them overnight in your fridge.
On the day...
Place six scoops of Carte D’Or Cherry Blossom ice cream in the fridge for 3 hours prior to serving.
Now for the meringue. Add a pinch of salt to your egg whites and roughly whisk, then add 2-3 teaspoons of caster sugar, along with the vanilla seeds and start whisking again until the mixture is stiff.
Sprinkle in the remaining sugar and spoon all of the mixture into a piping bag.
Turn out the puddings onto a heatproof plate and balance a scoop of Carte D’Or ice cream on the top of each one.
Quickly pipe the meringue over the ice cream and cover the puddings completely.
(The dessert can be put aside in the fridge or freezer at this stage, and then finished just before serving.)
Give them a dusting with caster sugar and flash them under a hot grill until the meringue is golden. Speed is of the essence.
Serve immediately and tuck in at once, before the ice cream melts!
Kavey Eats attended the Novelli Academy as guests of Carte d’Or and Jean-Christophe Novelli.
Many thanks to Neil at GolinHarris.
Additional images provided by GolinHarris.