Thursday, 29 March 2007

An English Classic?

Now that I am fully on board the catering train with my BookTheCook service, I have quickly learned that minimum fuss equals minimum stress. Although I can't turn back the clock, if I could, I would be taking this philosophy on for when I famously went into public meltdown on the final day of MasterChef Goes Large. AAAAGGHH! How I still have nightmares about that day.

What that day did teach me was to not overdo things, and by that I mean try to do more than you can really do. I could have kept it very simple and progressed through to the final 3, but instead I swapped dishes at the last minute thinking that my original menu was too simple. 'Regrets, I've had a few...'.

Anyway, they say that all things happen for a reason therefore I am glad that I am learning from these mistakes. And I am going to if I want to succeed in this competitive world of catering. So far so good, and as long as I retain my passion and continue to put my all into producing food that hopefully tastes amazing and looks good (and fills people up!), I hope to be doing this for a long long time.

Onto the food. A very simple dessert that has caused many 'oohs' and 'aahs' from my menus is a variation on a Créme Brulée. In Jane Grigson's English Food, she tells a tale which could dispense the common knowledge that this classic dessert is French. As much as I adore the French and their superb cuisine, it makes me happy to think that we could lay claim to a good old Burnt English Custard! I think that we may be grasping on straws if we do believe that we invented this dish, but I am seriously considering changing the name on my menus, at least for controversy's sake.

I can eat a Créme Brulée, or a Burnt English Custard (take your choice), at any time of the day. It is so simple yet so sublime. There are no corners to be cut when you make one; it has to be full blown double cream and lots of egg yolks to maintain that dreamy thickness that melts in your mouth. Every time you pop the spoon in, you have to resist piling it on, as the moment of pleasure eating a Brulée could be over very fast if you are too greedy. My version utilises a fruit, in this instance pear that has been cooked down in a little sugar and spice. Leave a couple of centimetres of the spiced pear puree at the bottom of your ramekin and it makes for almost a double dessert.

There is also the topping to discuss. A blow torched sugary topping which just edges on being burnt is magnificent. But sometimes I yearn for more of a crunch, something to smash with my spoon and crunch with my teeth. In my photo, you will see a topping not unlike a hole in a frozen pond, which has been attained by making a caramel and pouring onto the cold custard rather than the sugar and cooks blowtorch method.

So, the simple things in life are indeed the best. Well, they are when you are trying to win a TV cooking competition as well as maintaining your fine dining business. I think I've learnt my lesson. Honest John.

Spiced Pear Burnt English Custard
Feeds 4-6 people depending on size of ramekin

For the puree
4 Pears
50g sugar
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick

For the custard
300ml double cream
3 large egg yolks
1 vanilla pod
50g sugar

For the topping
A sprinkling of icing sugar which you can torch with a cook's blowtorch or place under a very hot grill or, make a caramel with 100g sugar and a little water and pour on.

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees C, GM1.
2 - Peel, core and chop your pears. Simmer in a pan with the sugar until they turn into a puree. Remove the cloves and cinnamon, job done. Tip into 4 ramekins, you want about 2cm in each, and allow to cool.
3 - Split and scrape your vanilla into the cream. Heat the cream in a pan until almost boiling point then take off the heat.
4 - Beat the egg yolks with the sugar thoroughly, then pour on the hot cream, stirring all of the time.
5 - Pour the hot custard into the ramekins. Place into an oven tray then pour enough hot water in to reach halfway up the ramekins. Cook for 50mins-1 hour or until it is just cooked, a slight wobble when you shake them.
6 - Cool completely, place in the fridge then when ready to eat, choose your choice of topping - thin burnt option or thick ice rink.


Patricia said...

I've been wanting to write comments on all of your beautiful recipes over here, but then I didn't have much time on my hands lately (growing veg etc.) I just want to say that you are a great chef/cook and that I really enjoy reading your blog.

Piggy said...

the creme brulee looks delicious! thanks for the recipe, i'll try it out soon! :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi David, we are Fans of Daz and we are delighted for you all!

My hubbie is in need of some good food and found myself at the library today looking for some inspiration when you were here all along... I am going to have a go at the Baked Mushrooms.

Great blog!!


theboydonefood said...

ooo sounds a cracker, gonna have to try this one!

Hope you're keeping well mate. Glad to hear about your bro. How's everything with book the book?