Pistachio semifreddo with chocolate and cherries

Choc-cherry semifreddo with pistachio praline.
Choc-cherry semifreddo with pistachio praline. Photo: William Meppem

Here is a fabulous frozen dessert that doesn't require an ice-cream machine and can be made up to a week ahead of serving on Christmas Day. Although there are several components to this recipe, it's relatively straightforward when you break it up into stages. For example, you can make the praline a few days ahead and store it in an airtight container in the freezer until ready to make the semifreddo.


For the praline

2 tbsp water

125g castor sugar

90g pistachio nuts

For the semifreddo

480ml double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 egg yolks

1 egg

50g honey

50g castor sugar

¼ tsp salt

50g candied mixed peel or citron, finely chopped

To serve

120g dark chocolate, melted

fresh cherries


1. Line a large loaf tin (approx 23cm x 13cm x 7cm; 1.4 litre capacity) with baking paper, leaving an overhang on the sides.

2. Start by preparing the praline. Line an oven tray with baking paper and set aside. Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar has melted. Increase the heat to medium and simmer, without stirring the syrup, until it begins to turn brown at the edges. Gently swirl the pan so that the caramel cooks evenly – again, do not stir. When it has turned a deep amber colour, add the pistachio nuts, stirring just once, then tip the caramel onto the lined baking tray.

3. Set caramel aside to cool completely, then break into pieces and place in the food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped – irregular is good, but you don't want pieces larger than about ½ cm. Transfer to an airtight container and set aside until ready. (If not using the same day, store in the freezer for up to 1 week.)

4. For the semifreddo, place the cream and vanilla in the bowl of a cake mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until soft waves form. Transfer to a bowl and keep refrigerated.

5. Fill a medium saucepan a quarter full of water, place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, honey, sugar and salt in the bowl of the cake mixer and set it over the simmering water. (Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.) Whisk continuously until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is very warm (about 5 minutes).

6. Immediately transfer the bowl to the cake mixer with the whisk attachment in place and beat on medium-high speed until the eggs have doubled in volume and the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (about 5 minutes).

7. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, then add about a third of the chilled whipped cream. Fold through until it looks streaky, then add another third of the cream. Fold again, then add the mixed peel, most of the praline mix (reserve 2 tbsp for the garnish), and the rest of the cream. Fold until incorporated and no white streaks remain. Scrape the mix into the prepared tin and smooth over the top with a small spatula. Cover with cling wrap and freeze for at least 12 hours.

8. When ready to serve, remove from freezer and invert onto a serving platter. Spoon melted chocolate on top, letting it drip naturally and attractively down the sides. Place some cherries on top of the chocolate and sprinkle the reserved praline all over. Garnish with more cherries around the platter and bring to the table. Slice with a hot knife (dipped in a tall jug of hot water, then wiped dry) into 3cm-thick slices and serve, with fresh cherries on the side.

Tip: This dessert can be made in individual moulds or ramekins, but I love the idea of bringing a centrepiece to slice at the table.