27 JULY 1996, Page 49

Cool collations

WE HAVE a plethora of saints this week: Lawrence of Brindisi, Mary Magdalen, Brigit of Sweden, St Christopher, Joachim and Ann, the parents of Our Lady, and Pantaleon, the patron saint of the medical profession; but the strangest saint comes on 24 July, Christina 'the Astonishing'. Her first extraordinary piece of behaviour hap- pened after she had suffered some sort of fit and seemed dead. During her requiem mass, she suddenly rose from her open cof- fin and sped up to the rafters of the church. Thenceforth, she continued to behave as one of the great eccentrics of Christendom. She dressed in rags bound together with saplings. She liked being swung round and round mill-wheels, and never seemed to get hurt.

To escape the smell of humans she would frequently hide inside ovens. At a church in Wellen she climbed into the large font and sat in the water. Despite her behaviour, many people came to her for good advice and counsel. She sounds perfectly splendid, and we should have more like her in the National Health Service.

I found a nice summery first course in a book called Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook by Ruth Van Waerebeck (Work- Man).

Smoked trout mousse with watercress sauce

2 smoked trout (about in lb each) 11/2 teaspoons gelatine

3 tablespoons cold water 2 tablespoons finely minced shallots 1 tablespoon olive oil

11/2 teaspoons lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon paprika

pinch of cayenne pepper

salt and freshly ground pepper

6 fluid oz double cream, whipped to soft peaks watercress and diced tomato for garnish

You can use any smoked fish for this, such as salmon, eel or haddock. Remove the skin and bones from the fish, then place in a food-processor, whizz to a smooth puree. Sprinkle the gelatine over the cold Water in a small saucepan. Let it stand for five minutes to soften. Place the saucepan over a low heat and stir until the gelatine is dissolved, but never let it boil. Add the dis- solved gelatine, shallots, olive oil, lemon Juice, paprika, cayenne and pepper to the pureed trout, whizz until smooth and well- blended. Fold in the whipped cream and adjust the seasoning. Brush a one-pint mould (a fish one if you have one about your person) with oil. Fill with the mousse mixture, cover with cling-film and refriger- ate for several hours or overnight until set. To serve, dip the mould into hot water for a couple of seconds and invert the mousse onto a dainty dish. Decorate with water- cress leaves and diced, skinned tomato, and serve with toast and

Watercress sauce

112 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1 shallot, finely minced 1 large bunch watercress, tough stems discarded 1 pint double cream

juice of la a lemon

1 tablespoon chopped chives salt and freshly ground pepper

Chop the watercress roughly. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over a low heat. Add the shallot and watercress, stirring frequently until softened, eight to ten minutes. Transfer to a blender or food- processor, add the cream and whizz to a purée. Stir in the lemon juice and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. As a varia- tion you can add about two tablespoons of horseradish sauce when you are making the puree. This pretty sauce can also be very good with cold salmon for a change instead of mayonnaise.

Now for a beautiful seasonal pudding.

White peaches in redcurrant syrup 4 fluid oz sugar (measurewise) 2 tablespoons water

3/4 lb fresh redcurrants

4 ripe peaches, preferably fragrant white peaches 4 fresh mint leaves

If by some heaven-sent chance you can lay your hands on those wonderful garden- wall white peaches, they are the best, other- wise use any you can buy in the market.

In a small saucepan, heat the water and the sugar over a medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Rinse the redcurrants well, then pick them over, dis- carding the tough stems; don't worry about the small stems attached to the fruit. Place the currants in the middle of a clean kitchen towel or some layers of butter- muslin. Wrap the sides of the towel round the fruit and twist the ends. Hold over a bowl and continue twisting and turning to squeeze as much juice as possible out of the fruit. Add three-quarters of the sugar syrup to the currant juice and taste, add more if desired. Place the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove and peel when cool enough. Halve and stone the peaches. Arrange in a glass dish, pour the redcurrant juice over them, cover with cling-film and leave to marinate overnight in the refriger- ator. Serve with a mint leaf and some good vanilla ice-cream. Divine.

Jennifer Paterson