Prue Leith's fabulous festive recipes: Divine desserts (2024)

Continuingour brilliant series, we arebringing you a scrumptiousselection ofPrue’s festivepuddings. From an indulgent chestnut andchocolate moussecake to boozyprunes and poshcustard, you andyour guests willagree that thesetreats are mostdefinitely worththe calories!

Indulgent chestnut and chocolate mousse cake

This is a rich, light mousse cake, ideal as a pudding served with whipped cream or ice cream.


  • 250g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 250g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
  • 250g unsweetened chestnut puree
  • 250ml milk
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, separated

To serve

  • 300ml whipped cream
  • A handful of redcurrants or raspberries

Heat the oven to 160c/fan 140c/gas 3 and lightly grease a 23cm springform cake tin. In a saucepan, gently heat the dark chocolate, chestnut puree, milk, sugar, vanilla extract and butter. Stir until smooth and melted, but by no means boiling. Remove from the heat.


Instead of using fruit and cream, you could simply dust the cake with a light sifting of icing sugar.

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In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and then stir them into the chocolate mixture. Next, whisk the whites until stiff — but not dry — and gently fold them in. Pour the whole mixture into the cake tin and bake for 40 minutes or until the top looks firm but still has a little wobble in the middle. Cool the cake in the tin, then remove with care. When ready to serve, top with the whipped cream and red fruit.

Continuing our brilliant series, we are bringing you a scrumptious selection of Prue’s festive puddings. From this indulgent chestnut and chocolate mousse cake to boozy prunes and posh custard, you and your guests will agree that these treats are most definitely worth the calories!

Prunes in port with posh custard and candied pecans

Try this fancy version of a long-gone, old-fashioned school dinner pud. Oldies will love it. Once we had it for a Christmas Eve dinner and everyone got decidedly tipsy. The prunes absorb the port and, if they are the squashy, ready- to-eat kind, you don’t have to boil them (see my tip below), so they are highly alcoholic.

If you want to play safe, bring them to the boil in the port to drive off the alcohol.

You can also cheat and use ready-made custard to save time — no one will notice!

Serves 8 For the posh custard (600ml)

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1½ tbsp cornflour
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 pint (570ml) milk

For the prunes

  • 250g ready-to-eat stoneless prunes
  • 300ml ruby port

To serve

  • 150ml thick cream
  • 12 candied pecan halves (see recipe right, optional)


If the prunes are the hard, dry kind, soak them overnight in a mixture of half water, half port, then simmer until soft.

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First, make the custard. Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl. Then, in a saucepan, mix the sugar and cornflour together. Split the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into the saucepan. Stir in a little of the milk to make a paste, then add the vanilla pod skin and the rest of the milk. Stir over a high heat until boiling. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 seconds while stirring, then remove from the heat. Lift out the vanilla pod. Pour the hot milk over the egg yolks while whisking until it thickens. If serving cold, put the custard in a jug and cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming.

To make the rest of the dessert, blitz the prunes with the port in a food processor, adding the port to taste. Divide half of the prune mixture between 8 co*cktail glasses, top with the custard, then add the remaining prunes and finally spoon on the cream and the candied pecans.

How to make candied pecans

This is the simplest way to candy nuts. It works with walnuts and almonds, too.

  • 55g granulated sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp water
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Handful of shelled pecan nuts

Have ready a piece of baking parchment on a nearby surface. In a small, heavy saucepan, wet the sugar with the water and lemon juice. Melt slowly. When the liquid is clear, boil it fast, gently swirling it in the pan from time to time until it begins to turn brown.

Add the nuts, swirl to get them all covered, then boil until the sugar darkens to an even brown. As soon as this happens, tip straight on to the baking parchment and use two forks to separate the nuts from each other before the caramel hardens into strings. Allow to cool before serving.

Crunchy lime meringues

Brown sugar gives these meringues a delicious toffee centre. They are fabulous on their own or with my ginger ice cream (see below).


For the meringues

  • 4 egg whites
  • 225g light soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar

For the lime filling

  • 190ml double cream
  • 4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • Finely grated zest and juice of two limes, plus extra to garnish

Set the oven to 110c/fan 90c/gas ¼ and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Whisk the egg whites, which must be absolutely yolk free, in a clean bowl until they are stiff enough to hold their shape when the whisk is lifted.

Add half the sugar and the vinegar and whisk again until the meringue is glossy and thick and won’t run off the whisk when lifted.


If you prefer snowywhite meringues, justuse caster sugar insteadof brown sugar.

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Fold in the rest of the sugar. Using a large cook’s spoon (a long metal or wooden spoon with bowl-shaped head), dollop 12 spoonfuls of the mixture, evenly spaced, on the lined baking tray. Cook for 2 hours or until they feel dry and firm and are easily picked off the baking parchment.

Turn them over and bake for a further 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, then store in an airtight container until needed.

When you’re ready to serve, whisk the cream, yoghurt, lime juice and zest together until the mixture is stiff enough to hold its shape, then use it to generously sandwich two meringues together. Repeat with the remaining meringue shells and serve immediately with a light sprinkle of lime zest.

Starfruit and tangerines in rosemary syrup

Starfruit is near tasteless unless it’s so ripe it looks past it. But soaked in this syrup it’s very good — and because it looks so pretty and festive, I couldn’t resist including it. The combination of raw and almost candied tangerines is refreshing, and particularly good served with Greek yoghurt.


For the syrup

  • 5 sprigs rosemary, stems removed, plus extra to garnish
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 570ml water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 star anise

For the fruit

  • 6 seedless, easy-peel tangerines
  • 1 large ripe starfruit or 2 small ones

To serve

  • Greek yoghurt or ice cream

Place rosemary sprigs with the sugar and water into a wide-bottomed pan over a low heat. Add lemon juice and the star anise and simmer. With a very sharp knife, cut three unpeeled tangerines into four or five slices, discarding the ends. Chop the starfruit to a similar thickness. Add the fruit to the poaching liquid and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes or until the tangerine rind is soft (to test this without getting burnt or sticky fingers, simply use scissors to snip the end).

When ready, lift fruit out carefully. Boil liquid down to a thick syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Peel and slice the remaining three tangerines into four or five slices and finely chop the leaves from a couple of sprigs of rosemary. Strain syrup into a jug. To serve, arrange fruit, cooked and raw, on pudding plates, pour over a little syrup and garnish each with chopped rosemary, a star anise and a spoonful of yoghurt.

Old-fashioned rum nicky with boozy butter

I had never heard of this until I found myself with Paul Hollywood on The Great British Bake Off. He told me the recipe originated from his hometown of Liverpool. There are several theories about the name — one is that the dockers unloading the ships from the Caribbean would nick a bit of rum, which their wives would use to make the pies. Another refers to the ‘nicks’ made in a solid pastry lid (see my tip above) to let out the steam.

It is best made in an old-fashioned enamel pie-plate, which allows the bottom crust to cook through much better than a ceramic one.

Serves 6-8

For the filling

● 225g dates, stoned and coarsely chopped

● 100g dried apricots, coarsely chopped

● 55g stem ginger in syrup, drained and finely chopped

● 50ml dark rum

● 55g soft dark brown sugar

● 55g unsalted butter, cut into 1-2cm cubes

For the shortcrust pastry

● 200g plain flour

● 100g unsalted butter, diced

● 1 egg, beaten

● Squeeze of lemon juice

● 2 tbsp cold water

● 1 tbsp milk

For the rum butter

● 100g butter, softened

● 225g soft light brown sugar

● 75ml dark rum

IN a bowl, mix together all the filling ingredients except the butter. Set aside. For the shortcrust pastry, put all the ingredients except the milk into a food processor and whizz into a ball. Wrap this in cling film and rest it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4 and put a baking sheet on the middle shelf to heat. Cut a third off the ball of dough and roll out the larger piece on a floured work surface to line an enamel pie-plate, with a bit of a border hanging over the edge. Spread the filling in the pastry case and dot with the butter.


You could also give this asolid lid. Just roll out thepastry, crimp the edgestogether and makeseveral long ‘nicks’ in the top.

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Roll out the remaining pastry to cover the pie. Cut carefully into 1cm-wide strips and use to make a lattice pattern. Dab the ends of the pastry strips with a little milk to help stick them to the pastry base.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 160c/fan 140c/gas 3 and cook for a further 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the rum butter. Beat together the butter and sugar, then gradually add in the rum. Refrigerate until needed. Serve the tart warm with a spoonful of rum butter.

Apple compote with cassis and berries

This is very striking to look at and delicious. It works well with pears, too, though they take about half an hour longer to cook.

Serves 4

  • 4 eating apples
  • 225g blackberries, fresh or frozen

For the poaching liquid

  • Juice and 2 strips of peel from half a lemon
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 2 strips orange peel
  • 115g sugar
  • 150ml creme de cassis
  • 150ml red wine

To serve

  • 4 tbsp yoghurt or creme fraiche

Put the poaching ingredients into a large, shallow pan and simmer over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Peel the apples, cut in half and scoop out the cores with a spoon or melon baller. Add to the poaching liquid cut side up and cover the pan with a lid. Poach the apples over a low heat for about 15 minutes or until tender right through, basting frequently using a bulb baster to avoid damaging the fruit. Take the pan off the heat and leave the fruit to cool in the liquid. The longer the apples are left in the poaching liquid, the more coloured they will become. Remove the cooled apples with your fingers and place cut side up on a plate. Strain the cooking liquid back into a clean saucepan and simmer over a moderate heat until reduced to a thick syrup. Stir in the whole blackberries and leave to cool. To serve, put one or two apple halves on each of four plates and add the blackberries. Pour the syrup over the fruit and add a spoonful of yoghurt or creme fraiche.

My unbeatable ginger ice cream

Delicious with my lime meringues but also divine on its own.

Serves 6

  • 85g granulated sugar
  • 150ml water
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 570ml double cream, lightly whipped
  • 6 pieces stem ginger in syrup, drained and cut into strips, with 2 tbsp syrup reserved

Place sugar and water into a heavy pan. Dissolve over a gentle heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 1 minute. Whisk egg yolks and ground ginger in a bowl, then pour the hot sugar syrup on top without letting it touch the whisk. Allow to cool. Fold in the whipped cream and two-thirds of the stem ginger, then transfer to a freezer-proof container and freeze. Check after two hours. When the ice cream is frozen but not rock hard, take it out, chop it into chunks and whizz in a processor. This will beat more air into it and ensure the ginger doesn’t sink to the bottom. (If you don’t have a processor, whisk the ice cream with a fork when it is half frozen.) Return to freezer. Take it out about half an hour before it is to be eaten and scoop into glass bowls. Sprinkle over reserved stem ginger strips and drizzle with ginger syrup. Serve on its own or with the brown sugar and lime meringues.

BOOK OFFER: Get a 20 per cent discount on Prue’s autobiography Relish: My Life On A Plate, £16 (normally £20), and her novel The Prodigal Daughter, £7.19

(normally £8.99) until December 16, 2017, both published by Quercus. Order at or call 0844 571 0640, p&p free on orders of £15 or over.

Photography by Toby Scott/Kate Whitaker. Food styling by Lorna Brash/Lizzie Harris. Prop styling by Morag Farquhar.

Prue Leith's fabulous festive recipes: Divine desserts (2024)
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