So rewarding, and so simple to make. No need for mysterious powder or ominously yellow stuff from a tetra pack; just make your own. It’s quick and easy to make, delicious, and free from artificial stabilisers, preservatives, colouring, other E-numbers and whatnots. You don’t even have to faff about with the Bain-Marie if you are careful.
Follow these steps:
Have 5 fresh medium sized free-range eggs ready at room temperature.
Mix half a pint of double cream with half a pint of whole milk and gently heat the mix in a saucepan. Use one with a heavy bottom so that it retains some heat when taken off the fire.
Meanwhile, separate the five eggs. Keep the whites for something useful; we only need the yolks for custard. Whisk the yolks with four to five generous tablespoons of sugar (80 to 100 g) until foamy. Add the seeds from one vanilla pod, or an equivalent amount of vanilla essence.
When the milk-cream-mix reaches boiling point, remove it from the heat, then whisk in the egg mix. Whisk vigorously for one minute more than you think necessary. The residual heat is enough to cook the egg but you must avoid scrambled egg, especially near the bottom and the edges of the pan.
Pour into a suitable jug or container and let cool down to room temperature, then chill in the fridge until it is time to serve it, perhaps with a fruit crumble.
Well that’s a very simple recipe, but it has a place here because I keep forgetting the correct proportions. For the record:
To make four portions of fruit-crumble-and-custard, mix
50 g butter, soft but not runny,
50 g ground almonds,
50 g white wheat flour and
50 g caster sugar.
Its 1 : 1 : 1 : 1, how hard can it be to remember?
I make this hours before the meal. Bring the four ingredients together with an electric mixer, add a handful chopped toasted hazelnuts at the end, and put in the fridge until it is time to bake the fruit crumble for approximately 18 minutes at 180 C.
Another base recipe for which I keep forgetting the proportions, so here’s my standard shortcrust base for the record:
200 g white wheat flour,
100 g butter (soft but not runny).
Whisk together vigorously with an electric mixer, adding one egg and a teaspoon of cold water over time.
This makes a sticky dough.
Many suggest to clingfilm it, then chill and roll when cold.
I prefer to get it done there and then. I roll it immediately between two sheets of baking parchment or greaseproof paper, then cut to size. Now I let it rest in a cool place until I need it, for example when making Apple Tarte Tatin for dessert.
I suppose you might be tempted to sweeten the dough for a sweet cake, such as a thin apple cake glazed with Calvados and apricot jam. I don’t have a very sweet tooth and usually find that the sweet topping is sweet enough so I don’t need to add sugar to the base but it’s up to you!
A tangy Greek yogurt ice cream served with poached pears and nuts.
For the ice cream, I make a custard from 250 ml double cream, 60 g sugar, four free-range egg yolks and half a vanilla pod. Whisk in a paste made from a heaped tablespoon of corn starch, this helps keeping the ice cream in shape later.
Whisk in 500 ml of Greek Yogurt in the last few seconds, remove from the heat. Let cool down, then chill. Churn it just after the main course; chilled well, this only takes about 30 minutes in the ice cream machine.
Poach one or two pealed and cored pears with 1 tablespoon of sugar and one start anise each in 250 ml water or rice wine vinegar. Take the fruit out after approximately 30 minutes, increase the heat and reduce the liquor to a thick honey consistency.
Poaching in rice wine vinegar will probably need sweetening with honey or apply jelly but makes a nice sharp contrast to the sweet ice cream.
The version in these photos uses a Balsamic Caramel. Good old Salted Caramel or simple Balsamic Glaze would also be nice, and so would be natural dark honey.
Add some toasted and chopped pistacho or macadamia nuts for added crunch and good looks.
Nothing beats a freshly churned ice cream, but these Parfaits come pretty damn close. The best thing is that they can be done and dusted a couple of hours earlier, or even a day or two before the event, so you don’t have to worry about anything at all during the meal, or after main course has been served.
We make them in little conical ramekins of anodised aluminium (~100ml). These take a nice portion size each and are easy to manage both in terms of portioning, freezing and getting out.
The sweet parfaits are all made in the same manner, but you need to decide which flavour to add. We love a Hazelnut or Pistacho Praline. Crushed and sugared Poppy Seeds were pretty popular, and I guess a generous helping of Orange Oil, maybe with tiny dice of crystalized Orange, would also work nicely.
To make a praline, shell the nuts. Toast them if you want. Prepare a caramel from 100g sugar, dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water, on moderate heat (and while not stirring). When the caramel turns into the appropriate colour, remove from the heat, add the nuts, then spread the lot thinly on a sheet of baking paper or slilicon. Let cool down completely, then crush in a blender to the desired consistency.
For the parfaits, beat 1 medium-sized free range egg yolk per portion. This takes some while, so it is best to use a kitchen machine rather than a hand mixer. Beat the yolks until they turn very pale from the trapped air. Meanwhile, dissolve one tablespoon of castor sugar with a tiny splash of water and put on moderatee heat just as if you were cooking a caramel. This time, you’re done just before the mix gets a colour.
While the egg yolks are still being beaten, slowly pour in the hot sugar sirup. This will cook the eggs. Keep beating the mix to prevent lumbs and allow the yolks to be cooked evenly.
In a seperate bowl, beat 50ml double cream with 1/2 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 vanilla pod per portion.
Add your flavouring to the egg yolk mix (still beating!), then stop beating and fold in the whipped cream. Distribute into the ramekins and freeze for a couple of hours.
To serve, remove the ramekins from the freezer and very briefly and very gently re-heat. I hold and turn each portion for 15s in my hands, t’is all. Then turn out onto a plate (a cake fork comes handy when pulling the parfait cone from the ramekin), decorate as you will (e.g. more praline dust, fruit or fruit coulis, etc), and serve immediately.
One of the household favourites, over many, many, years. This delicious pudding is known in Portugal as a pudim flan, in Spain as a caramello, in France as creme caramel. We call it pudim flan, or flan for short.
It’s very easy to make, and totally delicious:
Scrape the seeds from one vanilla pod, and mix well with 125g of castor sugar. Add 4 whole eggs and one extra egg yolk.
Melt 125g castor sugar with two tablespoons of water in a saucepan, then heat the solution on fairly high heat. Try not to do anything, no shaking, stirring, nothing.
The books often suggest that you should heat 1pt milk together with the vanilla pod in a saucepan, remove from the heat just before reaching the boiling point and set aside and let cool down for 10 minutes. I say don’t. Your pudding may not keep as well if you skip this step, but it’ll be so delicious that shelf-life won’t be an issue. Take milk from the fridge. Allow it to warm up a little in the room, especially if you are running your fridge on a cold setting, but use it at still a few degrees less than room temperature. Starting with cold milk leads to an airy flan, light as a feather and milkier in taste. According to our extensive self-experimentation, this makes the pinnacle of flans. A flan fit for a queen!
Prepare a Baine-Marie. Use a tall baking dish such as a 2inch high Pyrex baking dish. Add a kettle of boiling water and six ramekins. We’ve made flan in coffee cups on one occasion, almost anything will do because the heat isn’t all that great, but a fairly heavy porcellain ramekin is preferred over thin anodised aluminum affairs. The thicker wall distributes the heat evenly and allows the temperature to rise slower in the mix.
Preheat the oven to 150C (290F).
Once the sugar turned into a caramel with the colour of dark honey (possibly throwing milk-chocolate coloured bubbles), distribute the caramel among the ramekins. Take care not to engage your bare fingers or tongue, the caramel is at a very high temperature right now. It hurts a lot to lick that spoon!
Finally, pour the milk through a sieve into the egg mix, whisk briefly, then distribute the mix among the ramekins. Cook the whole thing in the oven at 150C for 40 minutes (until the top begins to darken in spots), then remove the ramekins immediately from the water bath and let them cool down.
Chill in the fridge for 2 hours or more. Keeps a few days.
To serve, turn over and resist the urge to add anything.
American cheesecakes require no baking, and make for a perfect desert. Never fails to please the crowds, this one.
Just before the American Cheesecake Police gets to my throat, yes, I have seen baked cheesecake in America, too. Anyway, this one is American in style, and does not require baking.
This makes several single-portion cheesecakes, with lots of room for being creative, how’s that?
For a first step, you’d need to find a suitable form to make the cheesecakes in. Cook’s rings are ideal. I have two sets of rings, a 10cm diameter, 4cm tall one, and a narrower, taller one (approximately 65mm diameter, 70mm tall).
The plan is to provide a thin and crumbly biscuit base, topped with an American cheesecake mix, topped with something fruity. The photo shows a nectarine compote. We have also used Strawberries, Raspberries, or a delicious prickly pear compote. The sky is the limit!
For the base, per portion:
One hob-nob biscuit. Ginger biscuits are also very good and provide a slight ginger kick. For a cherry-topped version I used dark chocolate hob-nobs in reminiscence of a black forest gateaux. Just be creative at the biscuit shelf in your local superstore.
A teaspoon of dry bread crumbs and
a nob of soft unsalted butter.
Blitz the biscuits and bread crumbs ingredients in the blender, then swiftly include the butter. I find it both easy and quickly to add the butter with a fork. This makes about one heaped tablespoon of base.
Find a chopping board big enough for all your portions, and small enough to fit into your fridge. Cover it with greaseproof paper, then arrange the cooking rings. Fill each cooking ring with one tablespoon of base, distribute the base mix evenly. Wrap your masher or some other flat headed cylindrical shape with clingfilm, then use this to firm up the bases. Set aside in a cool place.
For the cheesecake mix, per 6 portions:
300g of cream cheese such as Kraft’s Philadelphia,
300g of some nice soft fresh cheese or German Quark, strained.
Seeds from one pod of fresh vanilla,
Three leaves of gelatine.
Soak the gelatine in a bit of water. Meanwhile, whisk the other ingredients together, then gently melt the gelatine in the Microwave oven and add to the mix. Distribute the mix among the portion cakes, leaving space for the topping.
For the topping, use your imagination.
Strawberries are easiest, just wash and clean them, put the pretty ones upside down onto the cheesecakes and use the not-so-pretty ones to make a thick jam to coat and seal the tops.
Similar procedures apply to other fruit: a fruit topping from soft fruit or from a thick fruit jam. Cover fresh fruit with jam so that it keeps better.
Dark sweet cherries, covered with a cherry glaze (made from cherry juice, sugar and gelatine) worked out pretty well.
A skinned half Apricot, covered with a glaze made from fig jam, lime juice and gelatine, also was a hit.
Cover with cling film and allow to set in the fridge for 2 or more hours.
A delicious Apple Tarte Tatin, free from the frequently-seen puff pastry nonsense, lightly caramelised for stunning golden looks.
Tarte Tatin is an upside-down cake, with a topping of caramelized apples on a shortcrust base (but made upside down, crust on top). You need a fire-proof frying pan for it, one with a metal handle (or take off the plastic handle), as it needs to go into the oven.
Mix 150g white flour with 70g soft butter. Add a pinch of salt, and mix thoroughly until you have fine crumbles. You can do this in the blender or using a hand mixer and a tall bowl. Now add one whole medium-sized free range egg, and a tablespoon of cold water. Mix until it forms a homogeneous glue.
Place a layer of cling film on your worktop, big enough to cover the frying pan. If necessary, have two strips of cling film overlap. Place the dough in the middle and flatten it out by hand as much as you can, then cover with the same sized cling film arrangement.
With the dough between the cling film sheets, roll it to an even 3mm.
Put flat into the fridge to rest. I never have space in my fridge for this, so I simply put it flat down onto a cool stone or tiled floor.
Peel five firm and aromatic apples. Braeburn, Kidds Orange Red, Ped Pippin or Jazz are my favourites. Cut into quarters, remove cores. Sprinkle juice form half a lime all over, then set aside.
Preheat your oven to 190 Celsius.
Preheat your frying pan on fairly high heat on your gas or electric cooker. Mix 80g white cane sugar (= 4 tablespoons) with the seeds from one vanilla pod (keep the remaining pod for later). Heat this vanilla sugar mix, just to the point where the first sugar crystals start dissolving. Add a generous knob of soft butter, then add the leftover vanilla pod, and then distribute the apples into the mix. Remember your looking at the underside, so make the apply core cut-outs face you.
Add 100ml of Armagnac, Calvados or Brandy and give it a little shake to dissolve the sugar. Take care nothing catches fire (I’m serious! There’ll be a cloud of combustible alcohol vapor, so do take care).
This should now be bubbling away merrily. Allow to bubble for a couple of minutes, depending on the amount of liquid produced. You’re done when the caramel begins to get a golden colour and some of the excess liquid is evaporated, maybe after 3 minutes or so.
Remove pan from heat.
Take dough out of cling film, and cover the apples with it. Tuck it in around the edges so that it makes an upside-down cake.
Put into the oven at 190 Celsius for approximately 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and immediately turn upside down onto a suitable cake serving plate. Don’t wait for the pan to cool – turn over immediately!
Service with or without vanilla ice cream (with optional plum and Calvados mix-ins).