Mascarpone cream, roast cherries with Christmas spices and candied almonds

Andrew McConnell's roasted cherries with Christmas spices.
Andrew McConnell's roasted cherries with Christmas spices.  Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

The arrival of cherries every summer is always timed perfectly with Christmas. The combination of spices and cherries remind me of Christmas and usually make it to the table in some guise. The spice mix works particularly well with pickled beetroot or cherries. A pinch is also great added to a glaze for Christmas ham.


Mascarpone cream

225ml cream

100ml milk

1 vanilla bean

75g sugar

1 leaf gold-strength gelatine

150g mascarpone

Chocolate sauce

120g chocolate

60ml cream

Christmas spice mix

1½ star anise

1½ cinnamon quills

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp whole cloves

1½ tsp ground nutmeg

1½ tsp ground ginger

Spiced roast cherries

400g cherries

2 tbsp raw sugar

1 tsp spice mix (see recipe above)

Candied almonds

100g skinless almonds

1 tsp grapeseed oil

1 tbsp icing sugar


For the mascapone cream, take the mascarpone from the fridge, cover and set aside to come to room temperature. Meanwhile bring the cream, milk, vanilla bean and sugar to a simmer. Soak the gelatine leaf in cold water to bloom, squeeze out the excess water, then add  to the hot cream. Whisk well and leave the hot cream to cool to room temperature. When cool, strain and gently fold into the mascarpone. Pour into a single container or six individual bowls.

For the chocolate sauce, bring the cream to a simmer and remove from the heat. Add the chocolate to the cream in a medium heatproof bowl and leave to soften. After a few minutes, gently stir the chocolate cream and transfer to a piping bag. Leave at room temperature until ready to serve.

For the spice mix, place all the ingredients in a spice blender and grind to a fine powder. Store in an airtight container.

To make the spiced roast cherries, preheat oven to 180°C. Line a small baking tray with baking paper. Halve and stone the cherries and arrange, cut side up, on the tray. Sprinkle the raw sugar and spice mix over the cherries and  roast for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 150°C and cook for a further 10 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

To serve, spoon each set mascarpone cream on to a serving bowl. Arrange the roasted cherries on and around the cream, along with any juice that may have formed. Sprinkle a few candied almonds over the dish and pipe the chocolate sauce on and around the cherries.These spiced roast cherries are great as a standalone dish served with some double cream or vanilla ice-cream, or as an accompaniment to a traditional Christmas pudding.

To make the candied almonds, preheat oven to 180°C. Line a roasting tray with baking paper. Roast the almonds for three minutes, remove from the oven and transfer to a small stainless steel bowl. Drizzle the oil over the almonds, add a pinch of salt, toss well, coating evenly. Sprinkle the icing sugar over the nuts to coat. Return the nuts to the oven and cook for three more minutes. Remove from the oven. When cool, roughly chop the almonds.