Sunday, 14 December 2014

Ile Flottantes

This day last year I was in Paris. After a hearty bean stew full of sausage, bacon and ribs in a bistro beside our hotel that coincidentally happened to be on the Guardian's list of best cheap eats in Paris, we ordered Il Flotantes (translates to Floating Islands) for desert. Served in a shallow enamel dish, it was a curious looking thing. Squares of mallowy meringue drenched in caramel floated on a sweet custard. Simple, homely, stunning.

I can't believe it has taken this long for me to make it at home. It's perfect after a heavy meal and great for those with a simple palette.

From Ed Kimber's  Patisserie Made Simple

For the Custard
400ml full fat milk
100ml single cream
5 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean

For the Meringue 
3 egg whites
100g caster sugar
1L semi skimmed milk

For the Caramel 
100g caster sugar

1. For the custard. Heat the cream and milk in a pan with the vanilla bean split lengthways or the vanilla bean paste until almost boiling.
2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar with a whisk in a bowl. Add the hot milk in a continuous stream whisking constantly.
3. Pour back into the saucepan whisking constantly over a gentle heat until the custard thickens to the consistency of single cream- not as thick as traditional custard.
4. Pour into a clean bowl and leave to cool completely in the fridge.
5. For the meringue beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until the meringue is glossy.
6. Put the semi skimmed milk in a large wide saucepan and heat to barely simmering. Using two tablespoons dipped in cold water, shape the meringues into ovals- called quenelles.
7. Slide into the warm milk and cook in batches for around 10 minutes with the lid on, turning them half way through.
8. Take the meringues out with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen paper.
9. When you are ready to serve, make the caramel. Put half of the sugar in a large saucepan and heat over a low heat until melted. Add the rest of the sugar sprinkling evenly oven the melted sugar. Heat the caramel until medium brown.
10. To serve, ladle the custard into a shallow bowl. Top with two meringue "islands" and drizzle over the caramel sauce.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Cherry and White Chocolate Tiramasu

Let's get Christmassy. It is 6 December and the tree is going up, cheap baubles and all. Let's embrace that warm fuzzy in our stomachs and hit the shops like we are Pretty Woman and Richard Gere just gave us his credit card. There are a few cookbooks on the cards this Christmas and plenty of baking plans. Just part of the fun and excitement.   

White chocolate cherry Tiramasu is a great Christmas dinner party option. Easy to prepare in advance, the red and white colour contrast makes for a stunning visual. You can use jam jars to keep in style with your hipster glasses and brand new 'beat up' boots or tumblers to keep things simple. I used martini glasses for an extra 'ooh' and 'ah' factor, I never pass up an opportunity to pump up the glamour. If you feel you want to keep your martini glasses purely alcohol filled, I appreciate and respect that. 


Adapted from Neven Maguire's Home Chef

For the custard (or buy good quality custard)
3 egg yolks
1/2 tbsp cornflour
1/2 tbsp custard powder
2 tbsp caster sugar
150ml milk
50ml cream

For the cherries
150g fresh cherries pitted and halved
150ml red wine
35g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1star anise
2  tablespoons amaretto or port

For the marscarpone cream
250g marscapone
75g cream
80g white chocolate
4 sponge fingers

1. Make the custard. Beat the egg yolks, caster sugar, cornflour and custard powder in a large bowl.
2. Heat the milk and cream until almost at a boil. Pour the hot milk and cream over the egg yolk mixture whisking constantly.
3. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk constantly over a medium heat until the mixture gets very thick. This could take 5-6 minutes. Pour into a clean bowl and cover the custard with a circle of greaseproof paper to avoid a skin forming.
4. Chop 40g of the white chocolate very finely. Heat 2 tablespoons of the cream in a small bowl in the microwave or a small saucepan until below boiling. Add the chocolate and stir until thoroughly melted. When cool add to the cooled custard.
5. For the cherries, put the red wine, caster sugar, cinnamon stick and star anise in a small pan and bring to the boil. Turn now and simmer with 5 minutes with the lid off until the mixture reduces.
6. Add in the cherries and cook for 5 minutes until slightly tender but holding their shape.
7. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
8. Put two tablespoons of cherries in the bottom of each glass. Break one of the sponge fingers for each glass and place over the cherries sugar side down. Spoon over the red wine mixture until all used up, discarding the cinnamon stick and star anise. Put in the fridge to cool.
9. Grate the white chocolate. Beat the rest of the cream in one bowl until thick. Beat the mascarpone until soft and then fold in the cream and white chocolate.
10. Spoon the mascarpone mixture over the cherry mixture. Top with a sprinkling of cocoa powder and fresh cherries.