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Egg yolks, sugar, cider brandy

This is Hugh's version of zabaglione: the heady but light-as-air Italian dessert. It does take a bit of whisking – an electric whisk is essential, unless you have the arms of Hercules – but it uses only three storecupboard ingredients to produce something very delicious and elegant. We're assuming your storecupboard includes a bottle of brandy – Somerset cider brandy lends a special flavour here. Rich and creamy (although actually dairy-free), this pud is lovely served alone, or with a fairly plain little biscuit, such as a langue de chat or savoiarde, for dipping. It’s also stunningly good heaped over raspberries.


Pour a 4–5cm depth of water into a large saucepan and set it to simmer on the hob.

Put the egg yolks and sugar in a large heatproof bowl and whisk together with an electric whisk for 2–3 minutes, until thick and creamy. Stand the bowl over the pan of gently simmering water and slowly whisk in the brandy. Continue whisking until the mixture is pale, thick and billowy, and roughly quadrupled in volume. If you lift the beaters, the ‘trail’ that falls on to the mixture should hold its shape for a few seconds, before slowly sinking back in. This will take at least 10, more likely 15 or 20 minutes, so you might want to make sure you have a glass of wine, or a cup of tea at the very least, by your elbow. Ensure that the water in the pan is only just simmering and that the bowl doesn’t get too hot, or the eggs will start to cook and the mixture may split.

Serve straight away or at least within minutes, while still warm, in elegant glasses. After 20–30 minutes, it will start to separate.

Serving suggestions


For an espresso version, pour a tablespoon or two of very strong coffee over the finished zabaglione. It messes it up a bit, but the taste is exquisite.

Don't have cider brandy?

If you don’t want to use cider brandy, any good brandy or Calvados will do. Traditionally, zabaglione is made with the Italian fortified wine marsala, which is also lovely.

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  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 100ml cider brandy

This recipe is taken from...

Hugh’s Three Good Things