Something I truly despise and instilled into my very core during my younger years, is food waste. This includes purchasing more fresh food than can be consumed within the necessary time frame; leaving a tiny bit of food on the plate and throwing it away (why not just eat it – you ate the rest of the plate – it’s one more spoonful); and the boyfriend having an intrinsic aversion to finishing a jar / bottle / packet / box of food stuffs before opening another.
Me: ‘Why are there two bottles of milk open?’
Matt: ‘Because I wanted it fresh’
Me: ‘The older one is still fine’
Matt: ‘You can finish it then’
I can finish it, but this is of course not the point. I often do not notice the initial open bottle and continue to use the newer one. By the time I realise there was an older one open (which I would have happily continued to consume) it has already turned. Hence, the waste. We currently have five open jars of jam in the fridge. Is this necessary? I digress.
There are four egg yolks left over from the meringue making yesterday. Almost certainly the best part of the egg – I can’t bring myself to dispose of them. Having toyed with the idea of transforming them into mayonnaise, chocolate fondants or crème brûlée this evening (over a smoked salmon and rye lunch and a game of ping pong), I’ve settled on the brûlée as I have a pot of double cream in the fridge that needs seeing to. Also for a similar reason as yesterday – it’s not something I've made before and I've had a fully loaded blowtorch that hasn't seen the light of day since last year.
The ultimate dessert.
500ml / 18fl oz double cream
1 vanilla pod
100g / 4oz caster sugar (plus extra for the topping)
6 free-range egg yolks
Preheat the oven to 150C / 300F / Gas 2.
Pour the cream into a saucepan. Split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds into the cream.
Tip If you want to reduce the amount of cream used, you can replace some with some full fat milk to make up the same volume. I had about 2/3 cream and 1/3 milk. It will be less creamy but still delicious.
In a bowl, beat the sugar and egg yolks together until pale and fluffy. Bring the cream to boiling point – just when the bubbles start to form around the edge, turn the heat off.
Pour the cream over the egg mixture, whisking continuously until thickened - this indicates that the eggs have begun to cook slightly. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a large jug, and then use this to fill six ramekins to about two-thirds full. Place the ramekins into a large roasting tray and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up their outsides - this is called a bain-marie.
Place the bain-marie onto the centre shelf of the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the custards are just set but still a bit wobbly in the middle. Remove the ramekins from the water and set aside to cool to room temperature. Chill until needed.
When ready to serve, sprinkle one level teaspoon of caster sugar evenly over the surface of each crème brûlée, then caramelise with a chefs' blow-torch. If you are without torch, you can achieve the same effect under a very hot grill – keep an eye on it.
Tip I suggest caramelising well in advance of wishing to devour – put these back in the fridge until very chilled. In my opinion these taste far better cold. If you’ve just torched it, the custard will be a bit warm.
A couple of custard related challenges with this. My torch ran out of gas very early on (not as fully loaded as I thought) and so I had to resort to the grill – hence the burnt edges. Let’s try to ignore them. When the custard was poured into the ramekins they almost reached the top. Then during cooking the volume significantly reduced leaving some around the edges, which is what has burnt during the caramelising. I think the custard had too much air in it and these bubbles burst during the cooking. This would have been fine and I would have avoided heating up the sides if I was using the precise blow torch. Lesson learnt.