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Pink Peppercorn Shortbread, Berry Compote and Chocolate Cups

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I am constantly inspired by the changing seasons and all the riches each brings. The Burren hedgerow is a great larder, offering new ingredients every few months to create different flavours. Making a cordial from hedgerow flowers and berries every few months between May to December is a fantastic way to taste the changing seasons; Elderflower in Spring, Meadowsweet in Summer, Rowan in Autumn and Sloe in Winter, to name but a few.

A berry compote is a versatile and delicious use of a good berry harvest. You can use anything! But definitely throw a few blackberries into the mix, to give it a rich forest flavour. The compote will keep in the fridge for a week or more and is delicious with yoghurt, ice-cream, pancakes... anything really.

I absolutely love to bake shortbread biscuits. I love that you can add such variety of ingredients to them and achieve such different flavours. My children love the super sweet chocolate chip shortbread of course but I am really getting into adding different seeds and spices to the dough, depending on what I am serving them with. I made these pink peppercorn shortbread for a wedding and they went down a treat. Sweet; but with a bite of aromatic flavour and spice - and pink! They go fantastically well with the berry compote and a smooth, dark velvety chocolate pot.

This is a perfect dessert for a dinner party, as everything can be made ahead of time and put together last minute. It looks really impressive and tastes fantastic. Please use the best chocolate that you can find!

Berry Compote

  • 500g mixed berries - blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, etc
  • 80g golden caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod (or cinnamon stick if you prefer)

Tip all the fruit in a pan, with 2-3 tablespoons of water, the sugar and the vanilla pod. Gently bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Don’t overcook, as the fruit will loose it’s shape.

Pink Peppercorn Shortbread

Makes approx 40

  • 250g softened butter
  • 90g icing sugar, sifted
  • 315g plain flour, sifted
  • Half a vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns, crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the flour, pink peppercorns and scrape in the seeds from the vanilla pod. Bring the dough together with your hands but don’t overwork it.

Roll it into a log shape and wrap in clingfilm. Refrigerate for at least an hour before using.

Preheat the oven to 150c/300f/gas 2 and line a large baking tray with non-stick parchment. Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into 5mm rounds. Place them on the baking tray. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle the shortbreads with the caster sugar as soon as they come out of the oven and leave them on the tray for 5 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

They will keep in an airtight container for about 4 days.

Chocolate Pots

Makes 10

  • 225g dark chocolate, broken in to pieces
  • 375ml double cream
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 50g icing sugar

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, then allow to cool to room temperature.

Put the cream and milk into a pan and heat until it is just about to boil. Remove from the heat.

Put the egg yolks and icing sugar into a bowl and beat together with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and forms a ribbon pattern when you lift the beater. Very slowly add the hot milk and cream to the egg yolks and sugar, whisking constantly. Then whisk in the melted chocolate.

Once everything is mixed together, pour into small individual pots, ramekins or espresso cups and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight before serving.

Julia Murray-Scott