Monday, February 06, 2006

That is a ludicrous number of recipes to have made

I went out for lunch with my friend Paul today, who I hadn’t seen in about 6 months. He asked me how my cooking project was going. I replied that it was going well, and duly whipped out a copy of the Australian Gourmet Traveller article for him to have a look at. He was rather impressed, and said, “I can’t believe you’re in a magazine! That’s so cool! So, how far into the book are you?”

I replied, “Um… including the crème caramel I made this morning, I think 265”.

To this, Paul replied, “That is a ludicrous number of recipes to have made”.

Quite true.


265. Chicken Stew with Couscous
266. Coconut Crème Caramel

This menu comes from the Weekend Lunch chapter, and was our dinner tonight. Both of these dishes technically should be started a day in advance, but as I can attest, they don’t need to be. I started this morning by making the crème caramel. I’ve tried crème caramels before, all spectacular failures, but with 264 recipes behind me, it appears I’ve picked up the skills to knock off a crème caramel without too much fuss.

The caramel part is just sugar and water, which you let boil (without stirring), until a deep colour. Then you pour it (carefully!) into the baking dish, which has been preheating in the oven, and tilt it around to coat the base and sides. By warming the dish beforehand, the caramel doesn’t come into contact with a cold surface and solidify on impact.


I should note that I had no appropriately sized dish which would be suitable for unmoulding, so I resorted to my much-loved 250ml ramekins again.

caramel-lined ramekins

Then you let the caramel harden while you get on with the custard part. The custard is egg yolks, eggs and sugar, beaten together, with warmed coconut milk whisked in. Once that’s all mixed up, you strain it into the dishes and bake them in a water bath at 160C. After 20 minutes of them being in the oven, I had to leave for my aforementioned lunch with Paul, but they hadn’t cooked through yet. I asked my mum to keep an eye on them, and to remove them when they seemed ready. I was afraid she might have forgotten about it, but when I came home 4 hours later, she’d taken the caramels out of the oven, perfectly cooked, and they were sitting safely on the bench. Phew!


I started on the stew after I got home. For this, you’re meant to soak dried chickpeas and cook them yourself, but Nigella does say you can used tinned. Which I did. Although this chicken stew is suggested as an alternative to the root vegetable couscous , it has more in common with the chicken and chickpea tagine of Cooking in Advance. It is a bit easier to make, however. For this one, all you have to do is brown some sliced onions in oil and spices, add chicken pieces, cover with water, and then add vegetables and harissa, and let simmer for 1 and a half hours. Serve it with steamed couscous (steamed over the pot in which the stew is bubbling) and you're done. Boom boom.


I did enjoy this, although I have to say it was different from what I expected. I thought it would be a thick and hearty chicken stew, but it was more like a clear broth. It was tasty, but I definitely preferred the other chicken tagine and the root vegetable couscous.

Now, I have to admit, another reason why I chose the individual ramekins for the dessert was because I thought small ones would be much easier to unmould than a large plonker. And luckily, these ones came out quite easily.


3 pots… Mmm, sugar!

It was nice! Crème caramel is my dad’s favourite dessert, so I thought he might get weirded out by the coconut flavour, but it was very, very subtle. Undetectable even. I thought that adding a splash of Malibu to the batter, or some toasted coconut flakes as garnish would help this… and can you imagine? It sounds like something you’d get at an upmarket Malaysian restaurant. A Malibu-infused coconut crème caramel, decorated with shavings of toasted coconut, served with a confit of rambutans and pineapples. I was pondering all this out loud as we ate, only to be dragged down to earth by my father. “No! This tastes good like this! I like it smooth! No toasted coconut!”

Ok then!


domesticgoddess said...

when i made this coconut creme caramel, i did it in a larger, singular mould. delicious though it was, i am now converted to your way of thinking for next time. in individual ramekins, you get much more of the caramel per person! mmmmmmMMMMMM. sounds like your family liked it as much as mine did!

Ilana said...

That some lovely presentation with the creme caramel! Way to go, looks lovely, as usual!! Glad to see you cooking and posting again.. I was missing you during your short hiatus!

Ilana xoxo

markii said...

Creme caramel is possibly one of the best desserts ever.

Looks amazing!

Also - congrats on the magazine thingy. So hot.