I transferred from another elementary/primary school to high school. As a result, many of my classmates knew each other from before, and my classmates had friends in other sections. In the Philippine school system before college, sections of 40-50 students are stationary in the room, it's the teachers that moved around, so I never really got to meet anyone outside my 49 classmates in 4 years. Anyway, there was this boy from another section about a year older than me who was a paraplegic (? functionally, if not totally) and therefore always walked with crutches all over the campus. I knew his name but I didn't know anything else about him.
One day when the halls were pretty deserted, I was on my way out of the library when I spotted him making his way up the stairs. I'm not sure how my recollections have been colored (I was 14 at the time), but he was really struggling-- as he usually does. He climbs the stairs every day. So many thoughts ran through my head: he climbs the stairs every day. He never needs any assistance. He might get offended if a complete stranger offered him assistance now. I don't know why, but the thought that won that day was, stupidly, "Let me just run up the stairs as fast as I can and appear to be in a hurry so I can pretend that I'm too busy to notice him."
So that's what I did. And as soon as I was a meter away from the landing, I heard a trembling, almost angry remark: "Thanks."
Thanks. You cold, uncaring person. Thanks for not at least offering a hand to help me. Thanks for trying to pretend I don't exist. It haunts me to this day. Thanks.
Why was I so afraid of being humiliated? Do people really admonish others who try to come to their aid even if they don't need it? Is it possible to be hated because you thought they needed help? Maybe, but I don't want to think about those things anymore. I couldn't live with myself again if I knew that I could have helped someone but pretended not to notice them just to spare my own "feelings." I may not have been able to help him that day, but his sarcasm and his anger helped me. From that day, I don't ignore people who may need my help, whether they ask for it or not, whether they appreciate it or not. To hear no thanks is better than to hear it again from someone I've hurt.
Anyway. This dessert comes from the Michelin-starred Maze restaurant of Gordon Ramsay and Jason Atherton. When the sun is being oppressive, just pop out one of these domes of fresh, custardy goodness and it'll hit the spot. I tried to be clever and adopt Johnny Iuzzini's fluid gel technique for the orange jelly but it didn't look so pretty, so I'm just going to include the original recipe for the jelly here. The original presentation of the parfait is as a 1-cm thick 8-cm diameter disc sandwiched between 2 thin discs of mango, and served with mango sorbet and the jelly. However, I didn't have enough mangoes to make a sorbet, so I just served it as is, with a mango "carpaccio."
Mango Parfait with Orange Anise Jelly adapted from Gordon Ramsay's Maze
- 3 large ripe mangoes
- 3 large egg yolks
- 75g (6 tablespoons) sugar
- 180g (3/4 cup) heavy cream, cold
For the molds, you can use six 8-cm (3-inch) metal cutters, a silicone demisphere form, or a muffin tin. If using the cutters or the tin, line with cling film.
Peel the mangoes. Cut the flesh parallel to the stone in thin slices (see the picture-- I didn't peel it yet as our mangoes are too soft and I needed a good handle on them; I just cut the skin away from the slices). From the bigger slices, cut out twelve 8-cm (3-inch) circles using a metal cutter, or as large as you can manage. Set them aside chilled and wrapped with cling film.
Remove any trace of skin from the rest of the mango slices and the scraps, if any, and puree them. Push the puree through a fine sieve, discarding any fibrous pieces. Measure out 250g (about a cup minus 2 tablespoons) and set aside.
In a heatproof bowl set over barely simmering water, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar using a handheld mixer until it triples in volume and is thick and pale (ribbons falling from the beaters will leave a ribbon that slowly sinks). If you only have a stand mixer, just follow the recipe here, using 3 egg yolks, 90g (scant 1 cup) sugar, and 60mL (1/4 cup) water.
In a cold mixing bowl, whip the cream until it holds soft peaks. Fold the mango puree into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the whipped cream. Divide between the molds, cover with cling film and freeze until firm.
Orange and Star Anise Jelly
- 250g (1 cup) fresh orange juice, strained
- 2 star anise
- 2 sheets leaf gelatin, or 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
Sprinkle the gelatin (or soak if using leaves) in cold water. Meanwhile, heat the orange juice and star anise in a nonreactive saucepan until barely simmering. If using powdered gelatin, heat over barley simmering water until it is dissolved (or in a microwavable bowl on LOW power for a few seconds. If using leaf gelatin, squeeze out the excess water. Remove the juice from the heat and add the gelatin, stirring to dissolve. Pass through a fine sieve, let cool, and chill until set.
- 2 large oranges
Preheat the oven to 100°C (212°F). Using a vegetable peeler, pare the zest from the oranges and cut away any white pith that comes with it. Drop in a pan of boiling water for a few seconds, then plunge it in iced water. Repeat the boil/ice water cycle 2 more times, then pat dry with towels. Spread the zest on a sheet pan and dry for 30-40 minutes or until brittle. Process to a fine powder in a food processor or spice grinder.
To assemble: if using the metal cutters as molds, remove the parfaits from the plastic wrap and cutter, and place on top of a mango disc, then top with another mango disc. Spoon orange jelly (and mango sorbet, if available) on top. Sprinkle with the orange powder.