A GOOD friend of mine owns a busy, booming cafe in Dublin.

He has weathered the recession and is ready to open a second branch. The secret of his success? The milk, apparently.

Alongside simple but delicious home-cooked food, he offered a small selection of deli stuff for office workers - and takeaway coffee. When very few could splash the cash, people loved it. At some point, he accidentally hit upon the most amazing coffee. Or, to be exact, the most remarkable milk. It is not some special secret. In every coffee they serve, they only use full-fat organic milk.

Originally, my friend bought cheaper, generic milk until his dairy accidentally delivered the wrong stuff. The texture of coffee was transformed; he was converted. The less that has been done to the milk, he reasoned, the better it must be; the better the source (ie organic), the richer the milk would be too. Both theories seem correct if his customers are anything to go by. The velvety texture of the creamy coffee he serves has won legions of regulars.

Milk and cream deserve the same careful selection as, say, free-range chicken, or the eggs or vegetables you would choose. It is easy to gloss over them with skimpy attention. With dairy farmers often struggling to get what is considered a fair price, we could support them with our wallets. Homemade desserts seem the best place to start with such lovely cream.

Mango, passion fruit and mint panna cotta

Recipes serve four

240g organic double cream

150g organic whole-fat milk

A vanilla pod cut in half lengthways, or good-quality vanilla extract

50g sugar

2 gelatine leaves

1 ripe mango

2 passion fruits

Several small mint leaves


1. Place a saucepan on a set of scales and weigh the cream and milk into the pan.

2. Transfer to a gentle heat to warm. While waiting, scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and place the seeds and pod into the cream. If using extract, add that instead. When the cream is hot, add sugar and stir in to dissolve. Do not boil.

3. Meanwhile place the gelatine leaves in a container of iced water for a few minutes or until they completely soften. Lift them from the water and gently squeeze out excess water. Stir the soft gelatine into the cream mixture. Remove the vanilla pod.

4. Allow the cream mix to cool a little, whisking from time to time to ensure the vanilla seeds remain dispersed throughout the cream. Once the cream mix has cooled a little (after around 30 minutes), but is still warm and liquid, divide between four serving glasses such as tumblers. Pour in carefully so it does not mark the sides. The panna cotta mixture should be about three-quarters to half-way up the glass. Do allow room for the addition of the fruit. This can all be done in advance. Refrigerate to chill so they set (at least three hours). Once cold, cover with cling film to prevent other aromas tainting the cream.

5. Peel the mango and cut the flesh away for the stone, then chop it into neat dice and transfer to a small mixing bowl.

6. Cut the passion fruit in half and with a teaspoon, scoop out the pulp. Add to the mango and toss gently to coat, taking care not to bruise the fruit. Pick the mint leaves if they are small or shred finely with a knife if they are larger. Scatter half of these through the mango and fold in, reserving the rest.

7. To serve: remove the panna cottas from the fridge 30 minutes before serving to allow them to come up to room temperature. Arrange the fruit neatly across the top, scattering the reserved mint on top then serve at once.

A creamy fool with the last of the pinkest rhubarb

900g pink (ie not dull green-tinged ) rhubarb, trimmed and leaves removed

310g caster sugar

1 tsp angostura bitters (optional)

Grated zest of 1 orange

350ml double cream

1. Heat the oven to 190C. Coarsly chop the rhubarb. Mix with the sugar and orange zest and place in an ovenproof dish. Add the angostura bitters if using. If not using, do not add any liquid substitute or water.

2. Cover with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes until the fruit is soft.

3. Set a colander over a bowl. Drain the fruit, reserving the juices. Puree the fruit until smooth in a blender. Chill the reserved juice and puree separately until completely cold.

4. Whip the cream in a large, chilled bowl until ribbons are starting to form then fold the puree and some of the juice so it forms streaks and ripples. Divide between serving glasses or place in a large glass serving bowl. Chill briefly for up to a few hours covered in cling film, then serve cool from the fridge

Geoffrey Smeddle is chef patron of The Peat Inn by St Andrews. Fife, KY15 5LH 01334 840206 www.thepeatinn.co.uk