birthday brulee

vanilla creme brulee

In my experience, when it comes to dessert there are two types of people. In one group there are those who prefer to leave their perusal of the dessert menu until after they have devoured their savoury course(s). On the other hand are the people who turn to the dessert section first and shape their menu choices all around the much anticipated final course. These are the people lucky enough to be blessed with that most useful of things: a separate dessert stomach.

Those in the former group are the people who can only entertain the idea of something sweet once they have experienced the rest of the meal. The type of people who would generally be happier filling any remaining stomach space with a decent hunk of cheese than some sticky confection. And as much as I adore baking tarts and whipping up batch after batch of icecream, my allegiance tends to be with this group.

My gorgeous petite sister, Nao, on the other hand is very much a dessert girl. That is as long as the dessert is free of the thing she detests most: chocolate. And the funny thing is that when I am cooking for her I usually tend to start my menu planning with dessert.

So the other day when I was deciding what to cook for a belated birthday dinner for Nao and her beau Joel,  my thoughts immediately turned to dessert. And more specifically to Nao’s favourite of all desserts: creme brulee.

It’s funny, one of my favourite memories of Nao in the kitchen is of her wielding a full industrial sized blow torch. She had borrowed it from the farm next door and looked so cute with the giant blowtorch at work on her delicate ramekins. Needless to say it was the best brulee ever to be produced in the Mount View kitchen.

With a French dessert on the menu, and given that both Nao and I have Francophile tendencies, I decided to stick to a French vibe for the rest of the meal. And what better than a classic Salade Nicoise given a twist with poached eggs rather than boiled, and presented in elegant layers. Colourful, fresh, tasty and light enough to allow space for the brulee without having to delve into dessert stomach space…all good things…

a birthday brulee dinner
tuna nicoise
vanilla creme brulee

tuna nicoise
serves 4
Adapted from Where the Heart Is by Karen Martini.

This is one of my favourite salads and while I’m happy to serve it with good quality tuna in olive oil flaked into chunks, using fresh tuna takes it to a new level.

This layered version is lovely and elegant but you could adapt for a picnic. Just tear tuna into chunks and then toss with all the potato and bean mixtures, capers and olives and place in a plastic container. Place mayo mix in another container. You could sub in boiled eggs for poached or give the eggs a miss. At the picnic serve salad on plates with mayo on top and lemon wedges or for plate-free eating serve with pita bread or mountain bread for everyone to make their own wrap.

1/2 bunch basil, leaves picked
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
4T extra virgin olive oil
300g small green beans
1/2 small red onion, finely sliced
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
500g kipfler potatoes, scrubbed
zest 1 lemon
50g butter
6 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2C whole egg mayonnaise
2T natural yoghurt
4 yellowfin tuna steaks, approx 150g each
2T small salted capers, rinsed
small handful black olives
2T white vinegar
4 eggs
lemon halves, to serve

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add beans and cook for 3-4mins or until just past being crunchy. Remove beans and place in a bowl. Toss with herbs, onion, tomato halves and 2T oil and season. Keep warm.

Meanwhile add potatoes to the pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until tender when tested with a knife. Drain potatoes and while still hot slice thickly and toss in a bowl with lemon zest, 2T oil and saly and pepper. Keep warm.

Preheat a BBQ or char grill pan. Bring a fresh pot of water to the boil and add vinegar. Combine mayo and yoghurt in a small bowl. Combine butter, anchovies and garlic in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until garlic is starting to brown and the anchovies are starting to melt. Keep warm.

Brush tuna liberally with olive oil and season well on both sides. Cook on a very hot BBQ for 1-3 minutes each side or until cooked to your liking. I like to have the outside charred but the middle still very pink and rare.

To assemble salad spread a generous dollup of mayonnaise mixture on each of 4 plates. Top with a layer of potato slices and then divide tomato and bean mixture between the plates. Place a tuna steak on each.

Poach eggs in vinegary water for 3-4mins. Drain and place one on top of each tuna steak. Drizzle over anchovy sauce and scatter with olives and capers and serve immediately with lemon wedges.

vanilla creme brulee
serves 8
Adapted from Justin Quek via Chubby Hubby

 

I pinched the idea to serve brulees free from the constraints of the ubiquitous ramekin from the talented Singapore based blogger Chubby Hubby. Makes for a nice change and would be even better if you were serving the brulees with some poached fruit or marsala spiced prunes. But feel free to serve them old school if you don’t have silicone moulds.

Justin Quek uses brown sugar on his brulee. I found that this actually caught alight a few times and made for a bit too-heavy-on-the-burnt brulee. I switched to castor sugar for the remainder and managed to achieve a brulee with more balanced caramelly goodness.

The cooking time here is for the ingredients at room temperature. You’ll need to increase the cooking time if they are cold from the fridge.

8 egg yolks
600mL thickened cream
100mL milk
100g sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
castor sugar, extra

Preheat the oven to 100C. Whisk yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale then whisk in cream, milk and scraped vanilla seeds. Pass through a sieve and then divide between 8 silicone muffin moulds or ramekins.

Bake brulees for 1hr 15mins or until still wobbly in the middle but slightly thickened. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Cover and place in the freezer for at least 6 hours.

Half an hour before you’re ready to serve, remove brulee from moulds and place each on a serving plate. Sit in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To serve sprinkle the top of each brulee with an even layer of castor sugar. Brown with a blowtorch until sugar is melted and browned in places. Allow to cool slightly before topping with more sugar and continuing to brulee until the desired colour is achieved. Serve immediately.

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