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Archive for the ‘custard’ Category

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Toronto, and I’d feel safe saying the rest of Canada, is waiting for the Spring.  We’ve reached that point in the year where we all start looking expectantly at the empty flowerbeds, strewn still with the remains of last autumn’s debris, hoping for that first glimmer of life; that tiny speck of brilliant, fresh green amidst the somber grey-browns.   We’re all needing some colour to freshen our senses and I’m drawn like a mouse to cheese by the buckets of bright, optimistic tulips lining the outsides of corner stores along the high streets.  At this time of year I find my palate also yearning for something fresh and bright and exciting.  All those gorgeous, comfy stews and thick, hearty soups are starting to seem old and overused and while I’ve no doubt I’ve a few left to make before the sweet peas bloom I needed a little something with attitude on the tongue this past weekend.  A vibrant, exotic Red Curry was dished up with plenty of fresh Cilantro, chili and coconut and to finish this little gem, which is cool and creamy and oh, so delicately flavoured with star anise, lime and cardamom.

*note: I served these little yummers with a good dollop of home made Meyer Lemon curd on the side.  Deeeelish.

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Lime and Coconut Creme Brulee

1 cup whipping cream (35% fat)
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
2 whole star anise
2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 egg
3 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar

about 2 Tbsp sugar extra

– Preheat the oven to 320˚F. Put a full kettle of water on to boil. Have a deep oven dish ready (a lasagna dish or a roasting tin for example).

– put the cream, coconut milk, lime zest, star anise and cardamom in a saucepan and scald (heat until just before boiling, when little bubbles and a bit of steam come off the surface).  Cover and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes.

– In a separate bowl beat the egg, yolks and sugar until well mixed but no longer than necessary.

– When the cream mixture has infused, stir in the egg mixture then strain the whole lot to get rid of the spices.

– Pour the custard into 6 small, individual oven proof dishes (ramekins are traditional, but I used oven proof glasses).  Put the dishes in the large oven proof dish and fill the dish with hot water to come half way up the side of the ramekins.

– Bake for 20 – 25 mins until the custard is almost, but not quite, set. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room tempurature

– Refridgerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

-Just before serving, remove from fridge and sprinkle each little creme with about a teaspoon of sugar.  Caramalise the sugar using either a blow torch or by placing the creme’s under a very hot grill for a few seconds.

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peach-w-meringue51

No, you are not imagining things and I have neither moved to the Southern Hemisphere, where peaches are undoubtedly about to come into a gorgeous new season, nor have I lost my love for all things seasonal.  This is merely another of my catch up posts for the recipe’s I never got around to posting over the Summer here in Toronto.

At the St Lawrence Market there is a produce stall on the upper level where, from the end of June, you can see people poking there noses around, lowering their glasses to read the hand written signs on the fruit displays, sighing a little, disappointed, and carrying on with their shopping.  They’re waiting, you see, for The Peaches.  The Peaches I speak of are no ordinary peaches.  Ontario abounds with peaches from it’s Niagara Region through the Summer, but this little, owner run stall in the market has found peaches of such good, consistent quality that they have people asking for them specifically.  And when the famous Peaches do eventually arrive, in baskets and boxes, they are pounced upon (gently, of course, to avoid any bruising) and bought in hoards.  People can be seen leaving the market, one hand weighed down by pounds and pounds of peaches, the other delicately eating a fresh, ripe peach right on the spot, juice running down their chins and a happy, far away glint in their eyes.

What to do with such peaches?  They seem to lovely to be turned into sticky jams and are far best eaten just like that, with the aforementioned juices running down the chin.  But sometimes one likes to, uh, tart a peach up a little, if you know what I mean.  This is a great way to make the best of the season’s hero’s while delivering a dessert that smacks just enough of glamour and decadence.

One of the best things about serving fruit for dessert is it’s ease of preparation and this little gem is pretty darn simple.  Other than a little whipping for the meringue and a little stirring of the custard there’s really not much to making this.  I must add here that I’m using the word “Custard” rather loosely since there’s neither milk nor cream in the mix.  But it turns out so creamy and velvety in any case that I couldn’t think of anything else to call it.

*note: I baked this for two, hence the 1 large peach, halved.  Multiply for more people. Also, I know it’s not always that easy to get great quality juice in North America. I use Ceres fruit juices from South Africa, available all over the place here, but alternatively you could juice a fresh peach.

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Baked Peaches with Meringue and Peach Custard

For the Peach:
1 large, ripe, white peach, halved and stoned
1½ Tbsp Vanilla Sugar
Drizzle of Basalmic Vinegar per peach

For the Meringue:
1 egg white
2 Tbsp caster sugar

For the Custard:
½ cup peach juice
1 tsp corn starch
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp butter

– Preheat the oven to 300˚F

– Place the peaches, cut side up, on a baking tray.  Sprinkle the vanilla sugar and balsamic vinegar over them.

– Whip the egg white untill stiff, then add the sugar 1 Tablespoon at a time, beating between each addition.

– Top each peach with the meringue mixture.  Bake in the 300˚F oven for 25 mins, then lower the temperature to 250˚F and bake for a further 10 mins.

– To make the custard, stir the corn starch into the cool peach juice.  Add the yolk, vanilla and salt and mix well.

– Over a moderately low heat, stir the peach custard untill it thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.

– Before serving, stir the butter into the warm custard until melted.

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Pear Patina

A small group of friends gathers now and then, on a rotation of residence basis, to toast a toast and marvel at each others themed cooking. You might remember a colourful affair a while back. We’ve had a lemon theme and a Childhood Memories evening, where we reminisced about such delights as Three Bean Salad, Tuna Casserole, Mac ‘n Cheese and Pineapple Upside-down Cake. The latest exploration was for Roman Food, and my, did we eat like Caesars, one and all. With stuffed grape leaves, and large, fragrantly cooked dishes of lentils and beans and cauliflower we stuffed ourselves just short of, well, you know…

A little space was left, thankfully, for dessert. Pear Patina, voila. Simply put, a sublime, slightly fragrant and utterly pear-y baked custard served with a white wine honey sauce. Perhaps this is what the Hun was looking for on his little trip through Rome? Thank goodness something is helping me get out of my cooking funk. The fresh, sweet taste of pears in this velvety concoction, after such a beautiful and flavoursome meal, has refreshed my cooking soul a bit.

Poached pears

Roman Pear Patina

2 large, ripe Bosc pears
500ml white wine
2 eggs
½ cup cream
½ cup milk
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp white pepper
pinch black pepper
1 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp best Olive oil

For the honey sauce:

2 big, oozing Tbsp honey
¼ cup white wine

– poach the pears, whole, in the white wine in a heavy based saucepan for 20 – 25 mins, or until very tender, turning the pears every few minutes.

– preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease and sugar a 500ml Pudding basin (or souffle dish/caserole)

– allow the pears to cool slightly before pealing and coring them. Mash/process the pears until smooth.

– beat the eggs and add to the pear pulp along with the cream, milk, cardamom, peppers, honey and olive oil.

– Pour mixed batter into pudding basin and bake for about 25 minutes until golden on top, but still jiggly in the middle.

– To make the sauce, warm the honey until it’s quite liquid, add the wine and mix.

– best served slightly warm.

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Vanilla Custard

When I was growing up in my Parents’ home, helping my Mom prepare the evening meals in the kitchen, one of her favourite sayings was, ” waste not want not”, which I believe she learned from her own mother. My Grandmother’s generation grew up in the time of the depression, when luxuries were rare and people made use of what they had to the maximum of it’s abilities. Clothes were handed down from brother to sister to cousin to neighbour until they finally became the rags used to wash the floor or clean the windows. Broken appliances or shoes were mended not replaced, and women had to be inventive with the small amount of food the money could buy. The skimping and stretching habits of two generations back have slowly disappeared in our society with a more buoyant economy but I still battle to ignore my Mother’s voice in my head when I’m in the kitchen. A recipe calls for 3 egg yolks and I’m often left with little jars of egg Whites sitting in my fridge until they have to be removed with tongs and a gas mask. I battle throwing food away until the very last minute, when it’s more likely to walk out of my fridge than be removed by myself. Last night’s stew is great on a baguette for lunch, and I hardly ever pre-dress a salad so that it stays crisp in the cold until the following day. I scrape the last bit of sauce from a bottle with a spatula until the glass is nearly clean and left over bits of pastry from a pie are kept in the fridge for making singe serving tarts for my lunch.

So what do you do when you’ve made a delicious chocolate mousse and have three egg yolks in the fridge in a cup? You make custard. Now, I know that these days, most people couldn’t be bothered making fresh custard. It’s just so easy to pop across to the corner store to pick up a carton of ready made, or make it from a powdered version, but let me tell you, neither of those options comes even close to the real thing. And what I find strange is that it’s not in the least difficult to make. It requires no special skills or specialised ingredients, just some basic things and about 15 minutes of your time. And you know that the ingredients are pure and fresh and 100% natural.

For a special treat, try using a real vanilla pod instead of vanilla extract, but for this recipe I didn’t happen to have any fresh pods in the pantry.

Fresh Vanilla Custard

1 cup cream
3 egg yolks
½ a vanilla bean (or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
40 ml castor sugar

– Beat the yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy. If using extract, add to the egg and mix well.

-Heat cream with vanilla (if using a bean) until it almost boils. Remove from heat.

– Add 2 Tbsp of the cream to the egg and mix.

– Gradually add the rest and stir to combine.

– Return mixture to pot, heat over gentle heat, stirring continuously until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

– strain, remove vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds into the custard.

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