Hazelnut praline semifreddo

This rather grand sounding River Cafe dessert is perfect for kids

Trust us on this one - children will love making (and eating) this hazelnut praline semifreddo!

Italian cuisine can be intimidating. Never mind cooking the stuff – even the terms used to describe the dishes can be challenging.

Thankfully the River Cafe is here to help. Over the past four decades this brilliant West London restaurant has served perfect, seasonal Italian cookery in a refined, yet unpretentious setting.

Now co-founder chef Ruth Rogers and current head chefs Sian Wyn Owen and Joseph Trivelli have demystified their delicious process a little further, via The River Cafe Look Book, the restaurant’s first book aimed at both children and less experienced adult cooks.

In these pages you’ll find perfect pasta, risotto and focaccia recipes, as well as simple guides to good kitchen skills.

What’s more, the book also features the work of the brilliant photographer Matthew Donaldson, who lifts amateur cooks' spirits and aspirations, not only with his accomplished food shots, but also with his idiosyncratic observational photography, which sits besides each food picture, as a kind of creative prompt and visual palette cleanser.

Pages from The River Cafe Look Book

Beside the image of this hazelnut praline semifreddo is Donaldson’s shot of a beautiful, country railway track at dusk on a summer’s night. It’s the perfect accompaniment to this sweet, nutty dish.

A semifreddo, as The River Cafe Look Book readers will learn, is basically a mousse-like ice cream; the term translates as ‘semi cold'. They aren’t the easiest dish to make, but the book simplifies everything, even dividing ingredients into the stuff needed for the praline and those used in making the semifreddo itself.

For the praline you’ll need olive oil, for greasing; 300g (1 ⅞ cups) of blanched hazelnuts; and 225g (1 cup plus 1 ½ tablespoons) of caster (superfine) sugar.

For the semifreddo itself its 900ml (30 fl oz/3 ¾ cups) of milk; 650ml (22 fl oz/2 ¾ cups) of double (heavy) cream; 8 large (extra-large) egg yolks; and 175g (⅞ cup) caster (superfine) sugar.

First, to make the praline, preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 (400°F). Line a baking sheet with baking (parchment) paper. Then grease the paper. Add the nuts to the prepared baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 4–5 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to cool. Put the sugar and 150ml (5 fl oz/⅔ cup) water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook for 8–10 minutes until it turns into a dark caramel. Younger cooks should ask an adult to help them pour the caramel over the nuts, though adults should manage this fine. Then leave this mixture cool until solid. Once it’s cool, put it in a food processor and break up as finely as possible. This is your praline.

To make the semifreddo, in a heavy saucepan, combine the milk and 300ml (10 fl oz/1 ¼ cups) cream. Heat over a high heat until almost boiling, then remove from the heat. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl for about 5 minutes until pale. Mix a cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks with the whisk. Transfer the whole lot back into the pan. Stir over a low heat for 10–15 minutes until the mixture has thickened. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool. This is your semifreddo.

Stir the praline powder into the cooled semifreddo mixture. Transfer to a 2-litre (2-quart) freezer-proof container and freeze for an hour-and-30 minutes. In a bowl, lightly beat the remaining 350ml (12fl oz/11/2 cups) of the cream to form soft peaks. Mix the cream into the semifreddo and freeze for an hour.

This posh sounding River Cafe dessert is perfect for kids

The River Cafe Look Book

For a more detailed recipe, as well as much more besides, order a copy of The River Cafe Look Book here.