All kids love jelly. It’s the wobble-factor mainly, but also the bright colours, the cool, slippery mouthfuls, and the sucking sound it makes as your spoon liberates your next bite. When I was a kid (probably, when all of us were kids) jelly only came from packets of dry crystals in little boxes. It was a wondrous thing to watch the pale, lumpy contents become bowls of brilliantly coloured, jewel-like desserts simply with the addition of hot water. There was always a touch of magic to the fruity fragrance that rose with the steam and the transformation of shimmering liquid into wobbling solid. The thought of all of those colour additives makes my adult self cringe, but as a kid, a bowl of cold red jelly with vanilla ice cream was pretty close to the perfect pudding.
When I was about 10 or 11, a craze for jelly crystals swept through the school. We would bring packets of Gregg’s jelly to school, pour a mound of dry crystals onto our palms and slowly lick them clean with the tips of our tongues. We did the same thing with packets of powdered orange juice, ending up jittery from all the sugar, with teeth dyed bright orange, red or purple. I don’t have a good explanation for this, except that I was a kid and kids can be disgusting!
Chardonnay Jelly with fresh raspberries has a finesse that Gregg’s simply can’t match, but the the pleasure of each cool, sweet spoonful is very much the same. This is Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Slut-Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly, but despite this hilarious name, when I’m eating it sluttiness couldn’t be further from my mind. The jelly is tinged a delicate salmon colour, the raspberries float like bobbing apples, and the whole thing tastes floral, fruity and frivolous. I don’t really know what Nigella was thinking, but it’s not the slightest bit bold or trashy. It’s a pudding to be eaten by ladies in the garden on a warm summer day, not mini-skirted wantons with smeared lipstick. I just had to lose the “Slut” and besides, it doesn’t really go with my stories of childhood innocence.
But…I first made this dessert because of a slut, there is that. Our book club had read Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard and met for lunch at the beautiful country property owned by one of our members. Given that the book was set in London, we tried to make dishes with some sort of British influence (Beef Wellington, Eton Mess and so on). My point of reference was the main character who embarks on an exciting affair, so the pudding was a tongue in cheek nod to what I expected to be a sort of sophisticated Mills & Boon. However, the book turned out to be dark and violent, which was completely at odds with my light, fragrant jelly. I’m thankful that the slutty name attracted my interest in the first place, but despite the wine-soaked berries, this pudding is more virgin than whore.
However you choose to take your Raspberries and Chardonnay Jelly (with a side of titillation or not) it’s a fantastic recipe and a real crowd pleaser. You need to make it ahead, or even the day before, so it’s perfect for a party or event when it’s helpful to have pudding sorted and stashed away. Nigella recommends eating it with double cream, but I prefer the slight tang of full-fat Greek yoghurt. Vanilla ice cream would also be fantastic, and a return (of sorts) to the red jelly and ice cream of my childhood (but now with alcohol).
Fresh Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly
1 bottle (750ml) fruity chardonnay
1 tsp vanilla extract
16g gelatine leaves
225g caster sugar
To serve: Greek yoghurt, cream or vanilla ice cream
Check the raspberries for debris and then place in a large bowl and pour over the entire bottle of wine. Alternatively, if your raspberries need washing, immerse them gently in a bowl of water, and then remove to paper towels to drain. When they have air dried, place in a large bowl and add the wine. Either way, allow the berries to steep in the wine for 30 minutes.
Carefully strain the wine through a sieve into a medium saucepan. Transfer the raspberries to a bowl and place in the fridge. Heat the wine over a medium heat. While the wine is heating, soak the gelatine leave in cold water for about five minutes, after which drain off the water and gently squeeze any excess liquid from the gelatine.
When the wine comes to a boil allow it to boil for a minute to enable the alcohol to evaporate. Switch off the heat and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Add the vanilla extract. Add one third of the hot wine to the wrung-out gelatine leaves in a measuring jug and stir to dissolve, then add this mixture back into the rest of the wine and stir well. Strain through a fine sieve (to ensure that no lumps of gelatine remain) into a large jug. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, otherwise the heat may crack your delicate serving bowls or glassware.
Divide the raspberries into six wine glasses or small serving bowls, or place all of the raspberries into a large glass bowl. Pour the cooled wine over the top. Transfer the dishes to the fridge and allow to set for several hours. The setting time will depend on the temperature of your fridge. Mine usually take about six hours to fully set so it’s easiest to make it the day before I want to serve it.
Remove the jellies from the fridge about 15 minutes before you would like to serve them. This softens the jelly very slightly, making each bite more unctuous. Serve with double cream, full-fat Greek yoghurt or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.