Whipping up a special dessert treat

England’s hot young chef, Jamie Oliver is the author of the best-selling cookbook, “The Naked Chef” and he appears — fully clothed — on NBC’s “Today” show, to demonstrate how to make some delicious Italian ice cream. Check out his semifreddo recipe below.


Serves 12

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t groaned with pleasure at eating this! It is so delicious and really quick and easy to make. This recipe, with variations, is a great substitute for ice cream because, although I personally love making ice cream, who makes it at home in reality? Almost no one! We just go and buy some. I know I do.

Semifreddo is special in its own right — it’s as diverse and refreshing as ice cream. I have given you some of my favorite variations, but you can experiment with the basic recipe yourselves.

For best results, it’s important to gather all your ingredients together and make it as quickly as possible (no pressure intended! It’s just better to freeze it with as much air in as possible). After preparing your flavoring, the semifreddo takes literally four minutes to make. Once made, pour it into any chosen container — I like to use a large earthenware dish.

Then place it in the freezer.

I always make this quantity. If you make more than you need, just scoop the leftover piece into serving portions and put it back into the freezer.

Then, when you want a piece, take it out of the freezer, let it thaw slightly in the refrigerator to “semifreddo” (semi-frozen), and remember — the same rules apply to this as they do to ice cream, in that you can’t leave it hanging about and then refreeze it. That’s asking for trouble!

Semifreddo is quite rich. To complement it perfectly, serve it with some fresh fruit beside it —raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cherries — whatever’s in season. In Italy they often serve it with caramel or toffee, and even a fruit coulis sometimes. I don’t really like all that stuff, but it’s up to you. Just don’t try too hard.

Remove the seeds from the vanilla bean by scoring down the length and scraping the seeds out of each half. Whisk the vanilla seeds and sugar with the egg yolks in a large bowl until pale. In a second bowl whisk the cream until soft peaks form. (Important! Please don’t overwhip it.) Then in a third bowl whisk or beat the egg whites with an electric mixer with a pinch of salt until they form very firm peaks (this is when you can pull the egg whites in any direction and they will stay like it). At this point add the flavoring you have chosen (see the variations to follow, or choose one of your own), the cream and egg whites, to the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold in. Immediately scoop the contents into your chosen container. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until you’re ready to eat it.

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Praline Semifreddo


    • 11oz peeled hazelnuts
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup water


Baking Directions:

This is one of my real favorites, roasted hazelnuts in caramel, just superb! To make caramel successfully, it needs your undivided attention for about 10 minutes. You can’t leave it for a moment, and do be careful with kids around — caramel burns are some of the worst kind, no joke! I’ve never burned myself on caramel and nor should you, just use your head and resist the temptation to taste it at any time.Roast the hazelnuts in the oven at 425 degrees F until golden (about 4 minutes).Really watch them, because if you overroast them they go bitter and you can’t use them. Put the sugar and water in a thick-bottomed pan and place on a medium-high heat. The mixture will start to bubble and then turn into a clear syrup. To begin with, it will gradually start to color in parts or from the sides. Gently and carefully shake the pan, just moving it to mix the patches of color. When it’s all golden brown, carefully tip it away from you and gently add the nuts. Turn the heat down to a simmer and gently stir to coat the nuts in caramel. When the caramel is dark golden brown, turn it out on to a clean, lightly oiled tray, or on to a double thickness of waxpaper on a surface that won’t burn. It will cool to a flattish solid sheet.When completely cooled (which takes about 20 minutes), smash it up roughly and pulse it in the food processor until the pieces are still quite chunky (very approximate size about 1/4 inch). Remove about half the praline, then pulse the rest to a powder (or put it in a dish towel and bash with a rolling pin), and add both lots of praline to the semifreddo mixture.

Figs and Honey Semifreddo


    • 11oz dried figs, chopped
    • 3 generous tablespoons honey, or to taste
    • 6 fresh figs


Baking Directions:

Remove the little hard stalks from the dried figs. Pulse them in the food processor with the honey ‘til just chopped. Wash the fresh figs, remove the stalks, and roughly chop. Mix everything together. Add to the semifreddo mixture.

Turrón Nougat Semifreddo


    • 14oz turrón nougat (flavor of your choice — and the best one that you can find)
    • 5oz shelled unsalted pistachio nuts
    • 2oz bittersweet chocolate
    • 2 generous tablespoons honey


Baking Directions:

The French make nougat, the Italians make torrone and the Spanish make turrón. They are very similar, come in a variety of flavors and combinations and usually include nuts, candied fruit, honey, coffee and chocolate. Some are chewy, others are crunchy; crunchy is best for this recipe.Smash the nougat up roughly and pulse it in the processor until the pieces are fine (or put it in a dish towel and bash it with a rolling pin). Then add the pistachio nuts, holding some back to sprinkle on top afterward. Addthe nougat to the semifreddo mixture. Grate the chocolate on top and drizzle with honey.

Reprinted by permission of Hyperion Books. Excerpted from “The Naked Chef,” by Jamie Oliver. Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.