James Bond (Sean Connery) realises there’s something fishy about the waiters serving dinner onboard the ocean liner at the conclusion of Diamonds Are Forever (1971) when one of the waiters, Mr Wint (Bruce Glover), fails to recognise that the Château Mouton Rothschild he presents to Bond is a claret.
Bond’s connoisseurship saves the day, but, at the same time, the episode shows that even Bond has gaps in his food knowledge, the lacuna here being desserts. Had he been more of a dessert person, he would have remembered that the bombe part of the bombe surprise, which Mr Wint’s partner-in-crime, Mr Kidd (Putter Smith), holds aloft as Mr Wint runs through the menu, is typically a dome-shaped concoction that may contain sponge and fruit and be encased in meringue – as this one appears to be – but, most importantly, must include ice-cream. It should, therefore, be served immediately after being prepared, lest the the ice-cream melt all over the floor while the diners are enjoying their oysters Andaluz, shashlik, prime ribs au jus and salade Utopia.
That the dish was presented prematurely ought to have led Bond to smell a rat a little sooner than the wine and Mr Wint’s aftershave did.
What of the bombe surprise itself? Having a meringue casing, and assuming it contained ice-cream rather than an actual bomb, it is, in essence, a baked Alaska, a dish that in France is known as an omelette en surprise. The recipe below is based on instructions for omelette en surprise published in 1966 in Mary Reynolds’ French Cooking for Pleasure.
- Sponge fingers
- 2-3 tbsp brandy
- 3 egg whites
- 110g caster sugar
- ½ can of peach slices, drained
- Block of ice-cream
- A few glacé cherries
Heat the oven to 230C (210C fan; 450F). Lay the sponge fingers (about 8-10) side by side on a flat, oven-proof dish, enough to go from one edge to the other. Pour the brandy over the sponge fingers.
While the fingers are soaking the liquid up, whisk the egg whites – either manually or in a food processor – until very stiff peaks are formed. Add half the sugar to the egg whites, whisk again, then fold in the remaining sugar.
Arrange the peach slices on top of the sponge fingers, then place the ice-cream block – cut to match the area of the sponge fingers – on top of the peaches. Spoon the meringue mixture into a piping bag with a wide nozzle, then pipe the meringue so that the ice-cream, peaches and sponge fingers are fully covered. Carefully place a few glacé cherries on top of the meringue.
Put the dish in the oven and bake for 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.