The other night we were sitting at a bar looking out into Sydney Harbour. Because it was a weekend night and it was a beautifully clear evening, it was quite crowded. Tables were just inches apart and as a result I was heard the conversation at the table next to me as if I were sitting with them. A man was enjoying his dinner and when he finished he put his napkin down with a flourish and sighed contentedly. His fellow diners remarked at his audible satisfaction.
"During the week I eat nothing but tins of tuna," he said "And when the weekend rolls around, I splurge on food!" His friends pressed him on this and he explained that on the weekends, he spends money on expensive meals and indulges in anything that he wants. He reeled off a list of delicious but calorific foods and one of them was creme brulee. "One of those big ones with lots of toffee on top" he elaborated before smacking his lips. It sounded like one of our conversations with friends.
I know exactly what he means about a crème brûlée with lots of toffee. If there's no crackle then it's a bit of a disappointment. I was inspired to make a cardamom crème brûlée from a long ago Australia Day visit to Sefa Kitchen in Bondi where they served a delicious one up with prunes on the side. I decided to hide some Pedro Ximinez soaked prunes under a blanket of cardamom infused custard. I would be serving it at dinner with two of my dearest friends Miss America and Queen Viv. The latter adores creme brulee and I knew that it would put a smile on her face.
Fear not with this crème brûlée recipe for it is an incredibly easy recipe that is yet to fail me. It does require the services of a blow torch as I haven't been able to get the crackly crust using a hot grill. I also have terrible luck with blowtorches and have broken two in the past few years and I'm not quite sure why I keep breaking them. And I promise that there were no Flashdance moves involved!
What I liked about this dessert apart from its otherworldly flavour and delicious surprise of soused prunes was that I could blow torch it a few hours ahead and keep it in the fridge without the toffee going soft. I blow torched them at 5pm and served them around 9pm and the toffee was still hard giving us all that satisfying clink when we touched spoon to toffee.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you look forward to breaking the toffee layer on a crème brûlée? And do you eat differently on weekends?
Cardamom Crème Brûlée with Pedro Ximenez Prunes
An Original Recipe by Not Quite Nigella
Preparation time: 5 minutes plus waiting time. Recipe can be done ahead of time.
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Makes 4 x 150ml/5ozs creme brulees
- 12 prunes soaked in 1/2 cup of Pedro Ximinez preferably overnight or for a couple of hours
- 300ml/10fl ozs. cream
- 300ml/10fl ozs. milk
- 4 cardamom pods
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup caster or superfine sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4-6 tablespoons white sugar extra for brûlée top
Step 1 - Heat the cream and milk in a small pot. Crush the cardamom pods and add these to the cream and milk when simmering. Turn off the heat and allow to steep for an hour.
Prunes soaking in PX
Step 2 - Whisk the egg yolks, the first lot of sugar and the cornstarch together. Add a tablespoon of milk if it is too thick. Heat the cream again and when almost at boiling point, turn down the heat to low and add the egg yolk mixture stirring well. Stir until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Sieve the custard to get rid of any lumps and the cardamom pods. Place cling film directly onto the surface of the custard and allow to cool.
Step 3 - Place the prunes at the bottom of the ramekins with a little of the Pedro Ximenez. When the custard has cooled, spoon it over the prunes and allow to chill in the fridge for 2-4 hours or overnight.
Step 4 - Just before serving, sprinkle the sugar on top and blowtorch. I've found it works better if you add the sugar just before torching it so sprinkle with sugar individually and then torch. I've never found that a grill works for this, only a blowtorch but if you can get your grill to do it, then it saves buying a blowtorch!