The Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

The sheer delight of Cherries Jubilee

The sheer delight of Cherries Jubilee
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Cherries Jubilee is a dish with real heritage. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its name, it was created to celebrate a jubilee: it is thought to have been created by Escoffier for Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee celebration in 1897. It consists of cherries cooked in flaming brandy, and then served warm over vanilla ice cream, although in the original dish it was even more pared down, lacking the ice cream element.

The dish is flambéd, which means that the alcohol from the kirsch is ignited with an open flame, and cooked off quickly. Of course, safety is paramount: don’t let your six year old nephew take charge of this bit, make sure you’re doing it in an area which doesn’t contain flammable materials, and not in the vicinity of anything else which could catch light. Have a lid on hand, just in case you need to extinguish the flames quickly. It carries its risks, of course, but there are few things to make you feel more competent as a cook than watching the blue flames licking the cherries, before ebbing.

This is the sort of dish which demands to be kept simple: what Nigella would call ‘less of a recipe and more of an idea’, which I rather like as a genre of pudding. There’s no need to attempt to zjuzh it up with extra flavourings or components, complicated ice cream flavours do it no favours; I don’t even add cornflour to thicken the sauce. The joy of this dish is in using ripe cherries, and really good quality vanilla ice cream. The warm, boozy, soft fruit, and the cold ice cream, just beginning to melt where the cherries hit it. Here, I marinade the stoned cherries in the kirsch for a couple of hours before flambéeing, so that the alcohol really soaks into the fruit, giving it a kick, and making sure the fruit is tender and toothsome.

Cherries Jubilee

Makes: Serves 4

Takes: 2 hours, including marinading time

Bakes: No time at all

200g cherries

1 pint vanilla ice cream

65ml kirsch

50g caster sugar

  1. First, stone the cherries and remove their stalks. Pop the cherries in a small, lidded tupperware, and slosh in the kirsch. Put the lid on the tupperware, and shake a little: leave the cherries for a couple of hours to absorb the alcohol, occasionally shaking the container.
  2. Place the sugar and 50ml water into a deep pan with a long handle over a medium heat: heat until the sugar completely dissolves, and then continue cooking for a minute or two. Pour in the cherries and any excess kirsch. Using a long-handled lighter, and ensuring that the pan is in a safe area, where any flames will not catch anything else, ignite the liquid, and cook, shaking the pan very gently, until the blue flames extinguish.
  3. Scoop two balls of ice cream per person into individual bowls or a big sharing dish. Pour the cherries and their juices and liquor over the top, and serve immediately.

Written byThe Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

Olivia Potts is a former criminal barrister who retrained as a pastry chef. She co-hosts The Spectator’s Table Talk podcast and writes Spectator Life's The Vintage Chef column. A chef and food writer, she was winner of the Fortnum and Mason's debut food book award in 2020 for her memoir A Half Baked Idea.

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