By rights I shouldn’t really have fond memories of Babycham from the 1970s given that I was a child during this decade. But I do recall an aunt giving me a small glass of Babycham at Christmas time (presumably when my mother wasn’t looking). If truth be told I was more in love with the playful fawn on bottle than the drink itself but it did make me feel terribly grown up.
I’d always assumed that Babycham was a sparkling wine. It was some years later (once I was able to drink legally) that I discovered it is, in fact, perry. Perry is the fermented juice of perry pears, a bit like cider. Although it’s appley cousin has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity (including those vulgar fruit cider concoctions) I was alarmed to hear on the Food Programme that we are in danger of losing perry forever. For this reason it has been added to Slow Food’s Ark of Taste. Sadly, perry is not so easy to come by as cider but it is worth seeking it out particularly the sparkling varieties which are exceedingly refreshing served chilled on a balmy summer’s day.
Now, I know a lot of people scoff at Babycham. It has a reputation for being a bit girly and naff. However, it is actually very drinkable and heck of a lot cheaper than the over hyped prosecco. It’s also very versatile in the kitchen and prompted me to create the recipes below. So I hope you will join me in raising a glass of this iconic drink which has endured since the 1950s and help save perry from extinction.
Pear, Blue Cheese & Walnut Stuffed Pork Fillet
- 50g dried pears
- 50g walnut pieces
- 100g blue cheese e.g. gorgonzola
- Black pepper
- 4 x 150g pieces of pork fillet or 4 chicken breasts
- 8 slices prosciutto crudo
- 25g butter
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 2 tsp plain flour
- 250ml Babycham, perry or sparkling cider
- Sprig thyme
- Preheat the oven to 180℃.
- To make the stuffing roughly chop the pears and walnut pieces. Add to a bowl and crumble in the cheese and a grinding of black pepper. Mix thoroughly.
- Using a sharp knife make a deep insertion lengthways in each piece of pork fillet or chicken breast to create a cavity. If using pork open out the cut fillet and cover with clingfilm. Take a rolling pin and bash the fillet to flatten slightly (it shouldn’t be wafer thin). Take a quarter of the stuffing and place in on one half of the pork fillet then fold the other half over to enclose the stuffing or push it into the chicken breast cavity. On a piece of cling film place two slices of prosciutto then place the pork or chicken at one end of the ham and roll it up (as you would a swiss roll cake) to enclose the stuffed meat. Repeat with the remaining pork fillet/chicken breasts.
- Melt the butter over a gentle heat and cook the shallot until softened but not coloured. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two before adding the Babycham and thyme. Transfer to a large casserole or baking dish into which the stuffed chicken breasts will fit in one layer. Add the chicken breasts, cover with foil and bake for around 20 – 25 minutes for the pork or 25 – 30 minutes for the chicken until the meat is cooked through. Cut each portion into thick slices and serve with some sauce drizzled over the top and with vegetables of your choice.
Babycham Jellies with Cinnamon Syllabub
- 100ml water
- 75g sugar
- 5cm cinnamon stick
- 5cm strip lemon zest
- 4 leaves gelatine
- 500ml Babycham
- 150ml double cream
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 tbsp brandy
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- Fresh berries to decorate
- Bring the water, sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile soak the gelatine in cold water for 5 mins (or according to manufacturers instructions). Remove the cinnamon and lemon zest then add the gelatine leaves. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved then allow to cool (but not set).
- Reserve 2 tbsp Babycham. Stir the spiced syrup into the remaining Babycham and pour into 4 wine glasses (they need to be able to accommodate around 200ml in volume. Place in the fridge to set.
- Just before you are ready to serve, beat the cream, icing sugar, brandy, ground cinnamon and Babycham until thick but floppy. Spoon over the jellies and decorate with fresh berries of your choice.