A Midsummer Night’s Dream; otherwise entitled, ‘and you thought your love life was complicated’. This Shakespearian comedy, set in Athens, has four main plotlines, all connected through the marriage of Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, the Amazon Queen.
So are you paying attention? Good, then we’ll begin.
The wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta is plotline one. The second plotline concerns Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius; the original love triangle (love square?), in which no-one loves who they’re supposed to and the course of true love never did run smooth.
Plotline three follows a theatre troupe who will put on a play to be performed at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. Bottom is an enthusiastic player who offers to be all three of the play’s main characters.
The fairies make up the final plotline. Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the fairies, want to attend the upcoming wedding. They’ve had a falling out, and Oberon ain’t happy. He calls upon Robin ‘Puck’ Goodfellow, an elf- that merry wanderer of the night- and asks him to make a love potion from a flower, the juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid will make a man or woman madly dote upon the next living creature that it sees. He tells Puck to pour it into Titania’s eyes, so that she will fall in love with the first animal she sees in the forest.
Meanwhile, Hermia (who is betrothed to Demetrius) and Lysander (who Hermia truly loves) have run away and plan to elope. Helena tells Demetrius about their plan, and he runs after them. Helena tries to get Demetrius to love her instead of Hermia, but he’s not interested. Oberon overhears, and tells Puck to pour the love potion in Demetrius’s eyes too, so that he will fall for Helena.
Puck gets it wrong. He gives it to Lysander instead. So now, Lysander loves Helena, who loves Demetrius, who loves Hermia, who loves Lysander. Oberon sees that Demetrius still does not love Helena, so he sorts it out himself, and charms Demetrius- the right Athenian.
Then no-one loves Hermia and everyone loves Helena. A fight breaks out, the two men plan a duel, and Oberon, seeing what his interfering has done, removes the charm from Lysander. So Lysander goes back to loving Hermia, and Demetrius still loves Helena.
Happy ever after? Not quite. There’s still the play to perform and Oberon’s revenge on Titania. The thespians are in the forest, where Puck meets Bottom and because he’s a mischievous elf, he transforms Bottom’s head into that of a donkey. Nearby, Titania sleeps, but she’s been laced with love potion, remember, so when she sets eyes on Bottom, she falls instantly in love. Methought I was enamour’d of an ass! Oberon has his way, then orders Puck to reverse the effects of the potion, remove Bottom’s donkey head, and send all four lovers to sleep so that they would think the events were all a dream.
The fairies disappear and as morning comes, Theseus and Hippolyta (remember them?) walk through the forest and find Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius. Demetrius no longer loves Hermia, so their arrangement to wed is cancelled. Theseus and Hippolyta are married, the play goes ahead (and it’s so terrible everyone laughs and thinks it’s a comedy) and Puck wakes in the forest, wondering if the entire thing wasn’t just a dream after all. And this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream.
And congratulations if you’ve managed to make it to the end of this (incredibly brief) summary. Reward yourself with a little Midsummer Ice Cream. This is the easiest ice cream to make, and incredibly rich and creamy. The fruit puree adds a tart kick, like a mischievous forest elf, and of course, it would work with any variety of fruit, but the pun title doesn’t work as well with anything else.
So if you’re stuck in the middle of a love triangle and fairies keep trying to poison you, forget the love potion. Whip up some ice cream, squirt it in people’s eyes, and get ready to fight the suitors away.
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MAKES 1.5 Litres
PREP 30 mins
FREEZE 4 hours
▪ Once frozen, eat within three months.
FOR THE FRUIT PUREE
2 cups of frozen summer fruits (raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, etc.)
5 tbsp caster sugar
FOR THE ICE CREAM
100g caster sugar
300ml double cream
1 Begin by making the summer fruit puree. Add the fruits and the sugar to a saucepan and cook on a medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, or until the fruits have softened and released their juices. Remove from the heat, then use a hand blend it until smooth. Finally, strain the puree by pouring the mixture through a sieve. Use the back of a spoon to press it down to get all the juice out, but keeping the pips in the sieve. Leave to cool.
2 Next, make the ice cream. Separate the eggs, then whisk the egg whites in a stand mixer or using an electric hand whisk, until it forms stiff peaks when the whisk is removed. Slowly whisk in the sugar until the meringue is glossy and smooth peaks form.
3 In another clean bowl, use a balloon whisk or electric hand whisk to whip the double cream into soft peaks. Whisk the egg yolks together, then add to the meringue, along with the whipped cream. Use a large metal spoon to fold the cream and egg yolks into the meringue mixture, cutting through the mix rather than stirring it to avoid knocking out the air.
4 Crush the meringues into the mix and fold in, along with half of the fruit puree. Fill a freezer-safe container about one-third full with the ice cream, then drizzle over the puree. Repeat again, until the container is filled, then drizzle any remaining puree over the top and use a cocktail stick to swirl it in a marbled pattern. Cover with a tight fitting lid and freeze for at least four hours, ideally overnight. ▪