Montagne Rouge

Strawberry & black pepper mousse, on a prosecco sabyon, with a basil jelly

Laura and I don't celebrate valentines day, because we met for the first time a week before the 14th (16 years ago as I write this) - so we get to go out on the cheaper weekend to celebrate. We are hopeless romantics.

I'm still training for this idiotic off-road marathon, so thought I'd take a couple of hours out to make something this year - and here we are; the red mountain.

Based on the idea of a Mont Blanc pâtisserie (one of my favourites), this valentines-ish dessert combines the classic flavours of strawberry, Prosecco or Champagne, basil and black pepper.

Makes 4 individual portions (with some spare cases, mousse & jelly)


For sweet pastry

  • 250g type 45 flour [Buy] (or just plain if you don't have any)
  • 140g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 40g ground almonds
  • 90g icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

For the strawberry & black pepper mousse dome

  • 165 grams fresh strawberries
  • 165g double cream
  • 40g sugar
  • 5g leaf gelatine

For the set Prosecco sabayon

  • 2g gelatine
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 80g Prosecco
  • 60g double cream

For the basil jelly

  • 25g fresh basil leaves (or leaves and stalks)
  • 20g vermouth - I used The Collector
  • 160g water
  • 40g sugar
  • 3g leaf gelatine

For the strawberry mousse topping

  • 2g gelatine
  • 200g double cream
  • 20g simple syrup (or just use Gomme if you have some in the cocktail cabinet)
  • 8g freeze dried strawberries

To decorate

  • Some extra freeze dried strawberries
  • Mini basil leaves
  • Gold leaf (optional)
  • Dehydrated strawberries (optional - if you have a dehydrator, just thinly slice some strawberries and dehydrate at 60 degrees C for around 8 hours)


  • Handheld whisk
  • Food processor or blender
  • 2.5 inch diameter semi-sphere silicone mould (with 6 holes)
  • 2.5 inch tart rings
  • Large-holed Mont Blanc piping tip

Strawberry and black pepper mousse

Hull and chop the strawberries, then place in a blender with 40g of caster sugar. Blend until the strawberries are a (quite liquid) puree. Weigh out 165g of this.

Soak the gelatine in cold water until soft. In the meantime, heat the puree until warm and add 5 twists of pepper from your grinder.

When ready, squeeze the water from the gelatine, and combine with the warm puree.

Whip the double cream until it reaches the soft peak stage, then fold in the puree. Pour this into the semi-circular moulds, then use a flat-sided spatula to make the tops perfectly level.

Place in the freezer until set (about 2 or 3 hours).

Basil & vermouth jelly

Soak the gelatine in cold water.

Heat a pot of water to the boil. Drop in the basil, and cook for about 20 seconds until softened. Remove from the pan with a spoon, then drain in a collander - squeezing out as much water as you can.

Place the cooked basil in a blender, then add the sugar, vermouth and water. Blitz the mix for 3 to 5 minutes, until the basil is as chopped as possible. When you've reached that stage, place a sieve over a jug, and a muslin cloth over the sieve. Pour the blended mixture through, and squeeze out as much juice as possible.

The mix should still be warm (if it isn't, add to a pot and warm it gently) - so remove the gelatine from the cold water, squeeze the excess off and combine with the basil juice.

Prepare a high-sided tray by lining with cling film. Pour the jelly mix in so that it is about a 1/4 centimetre thick (I used a 30cm x 20cm tray for this). Cling film tightly over the top of the tray so that none of the upper film is touching the jelly, then leave to set in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Make & bake the pastry cases

Attach a whisk to your stand mixer, and add the butter. Whip until the butter has been creamed, then add the vanilla extract, icing sugar, ground almond and eggs. When combined, tip about 1/3 of the flour in. It should be combined in a few seconds, so repeat with the next 1/3 and then the final amount of flour. Stop the mixer when the mixture looks combined and a bit like wet sand.

Turn this out onto your work surface and press it all into a smooth ball. Place the ball on some cling film, then flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Wrap it in the cling and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

When the pastry has rested, take your baking mat, place it on a tray, then the individual flan rings on top of that. Remove the pastry from the fridge and, working quickly, dust with icing sugar roll to a thickness of about 3mm. Try and make it as square as possible.

Cut the rolled pastry into 6 even pieces, then carefully - using an offset spatula, the rolling pin or carefully with your hands - lift, and unroll each piece over the rings. This is the part where disaster can strike, so try and start the unrolling with enough "edge" to cover the closest part to where you're standing. If it has worked, start pushing the dough into the edges of each ring, leaving any excess folded over the top. Don't trim it yet. If you find any cracks, just patch them with spare pieces of pastry or some of the edge overhang.

Turn your oven on to 170C.

To help stop shrinkage, freeze the tart cases instead of just putting them in the fridge. Leave the tray in there for about 30 minutes until nice and cold. When you're ready to blind bake, quickly remove the cases from the freezer and place some silver foil (matte side down) into each one. Scrunch the foil down over the top edges of the cases so each one is completely covered in foil, then gently some baking beans into each one.

You need to add a bit of extra cooking time due to the frozen case, so bake for about 20 minutes. After this time it should look anaemic but be solid - so remove the foil and beans, then brush with a beaten egg and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Remove and leave to cool for about 10 minutes, then use a sharp paring knife to trim the outer edge of each case. Carefully remove the rings, then brush out any pastry crumbs.

Make the set prosseco sabayon

Soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes.

Place a pot of hot water on your cooker and bring to a simmer. Take a heatproof bowl, add the egg yolk and sugar then whisk until pale yellow. Pour in the Prosecco, then put the bowl over the simmering water and begin whisking. Keep going until the mixture stops bubbling and begins to get thicker.

Remove from the heat, squeeze the excess water from the gelatine, then mix with the hot sabayon. Whip the double cream to soft peaks, then fold the sabayon into it.

Let the mixture cool down, then pour into the pastry cases and place in your fridge to set.


Before getting to the next stage, make sure everything that you've made so far has set.

Strawberry mousse topping

Place the gelatine in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes. Take the freeze dried strawberries, and grind in a spice grinder until they are as close to a powder as possible - this is important, as if you have lumps they'll clog up the Mont Blanc piping tip.

Heat the sugar syrup in a small saucepan over a gentle heat until warm. Pour the heated syrup into a bowl, then squeeze the excess water out of the gelatine and mix with the syrup until combined. Add in the strawberry powder and mix again.

Working quickly (so that the gelatine doesn't set), place the double cream in a bowl, and drop in the food colouring. Whisk until you have soft peaks, then gently fold in the strawberry syrup. When everything is mixed, spoon the cream into a piping bag fitted with a Mont Blanc / grass nozzle. Use immediately.


By now you should have pastry cases with set sabayon, a set and frozen mousse dome, a set jelly and your freshly made mousse topping.

Make sure your dehydrated strawberries, blitzed freeze dried strawberries, mini basil leaves and gold leaf (if using) are nearby.

De-mould the strawberry domes onto a tray or chopping board. Pipe the strawberry topping mousse over the top, starting with the lowest part of the dome, moving round in a circle, then moving upwards when you come back on yourself. When you reach the top, just nick the bag slightly so it pinches away. Repeat with the other domes.

Take a circular cutter slightly smaller than the size of the pastry cases, and cut 4 circles of basil jelly. Use a flat spatula to move one jelly disk onto each of the Prosecco sabayons, then move each of the strawberry domes over on top of that.

Working quickly, sprinkle some of the freeze dried strawberries over each one, then slot in a dehydrated strawberry. Use some tweezers to add a couple of mini basil leaves, and finally some gold leaf (if using).

Place these in the fridge for a couple of hours, so that the mousse defrosts. When ready to eat, bring them out for 10 minutes then serve.

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