Pink grapefruit and basil posset with pistachio and cardamom shortbread

Posset dates back to the 15th Century when it referred to a drink, milk was heated to a boil, then alcohol mixed in, usually a wine or ale which curdled it then spice and sugar was added. Today we know it as the decadent little dessert. The traditional posset is lemon – the citrus reacts with the cream when heated to solidify without having to add any gelatine. In the winter we make blood orange posset which is very pretty as slightly blushed pink and we serve it with a squeeze of the pink juice on top and a crunch of a nut brittle – usually macadamia nut. Last year we got obsessed with making the perfect rhubarb posset, we found the best was to juice the rhubarb and simmer down to reduce to intensify the flavour, we then used honey instead of sugar – so in fact not a posset at all, rhubarb creams we call them. Gill Meller has a wonderful adaption which is elderflower with gooseberry – you simmer the elderflower in the cream for it to infuse, we have tried making it with cordial but it doesn’t work so well as has that intense cordial tang to it. Basil – the sweet smell of summer, we both have large plants on our windowsills, filling our kitchens with the scent. It is a happy smell. We use the herb in both sweet and savoury – and in cocktails too. An ice cream that we created a few years ago and have made a lot through the summer months since is a strawberry and basil ice cream, its simply delicious – although you have to make it when strawberries are in season for it to really work. Basil works wonderfully with other fruits too – try pineapple with chili, lime, mint and basil, or raspberry and basil sorbet – refreshing and fragrant. It goes hand in hand with citrus fruits, lime, lemon, grapefruit – all a beautiful match, and this is when it is fun to add to cocktails, very good in a margarita. You could do this recipe swapping the grapefruit for a lemon, but there is something a little softer with the grapefruit, as well as the pink hue. This is a very quick and easy dessert, we often make it at the end of the day when we realise we have people coming for supper and haven’t prepared anything – and it always sets in time. If in a terribly rush then the posset is done and dusted within 5 minutes, if you have for time to spare we do suggest making something crunchy to go with it and these cardamom and pistachio shortbreads are ideal. This recipe will create far more cookies than needed for dessert – but that’s the point, so you have them to look forward to eating tomorrow with a cup of tea.


    For the Posset:

    400g double cream

    bunch of basil

    100g caster sugar

    ½ vanilla pod

    juice of 1 pink grapefruit


    For the Shortbread:

    125g butter, softened

    60g icing sugar

    190g Plain flour

    2 tsp freshly ground cardamom

    handful pistachios, shelled and chopped

    pinch salt

    coconut sugar or demerara 


1.     To make the cookies. Beat the butter and the icing sugar together till pale, fold in the flour, cardamom, pistachios and salt to form a dough. Roll into a log shape, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for a couple of hours or till firm. Heat the oven to 180c. Take the dough out of the fridge and slice thinly sprinkle with your sugar of choice, place on an oven tray and bake for about 10 minutes till nicely golden. Take out of the oven and cool.

2.     To make the posset place the cream, sugar, vanilla seeds and basil in pan and bring to a light boil, simmer for 3 minutes and take off the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes. Remove the basil leaves and squeeze in the pink grapefruit juice, combine, pour into your ramekins, place in the fridge and leave to set (usually a couple of hours).

3.     Serve with edible flowers for decoration and the cookies.