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Wednesday, July 13, 2011
We all know that the meaning of food has expanded beyond the humble role of a sustenance fuel.... how else would one explain the popularity of reality TV programs like Masterchef, Topchef, Ironchef, Hell's Kitchen...? Among these productions, my favourite has to be the Australian Masterchef. As Lisa Abend stated in her book, 'The Sorcerer's Apprentices', Food 'should be a source of nurture and nourishment.'-it is the Universal ambassador that celebrates the bounty of nature, binds culture, brings joy and aspires. In my humble opinion, Australian Masterchef is the only reality cooking program that has given the right focus to food and cooking. (Observation made from the Season 2 screening which is airing here now)
I love it that the program pushes the contestants out of their comfort zone, forcing them to deliver beyond their own imagination. I respect that in the midst of the competitive heat, it takes time off to send its contestants to masterclasses to brush up their skills and I am even more delighted to pick up little tricks and know-hows in the cooking masterclasses conducted by George and Gary. This is possibly the only cooking reality show that I walk away, feeling educated and inspired. Last week, the contestants were whizzed away to Paris and were asked to cook 2 dishes that would be quintessentially French enough for a Parisian bistro.
I found myself slipping into the contestants' shoes as they sprint towards the market for their ingredients.... wondering what I could potentially pull out of my own little hat if I were them. I found myself poring over my limited collection of French Recipes, (most of which are desserts) after the show - of which my favourite at this point, is Justin North's beautiful book, French Lessons.
First up, is the quintessential Creme Brulee which no self respecting French Chef would do without. The humble Creme Brulee can be served in so many ways, infused with so many different beautiful flavours, I am literally spoilt for choice.
Here, I am sharing a plain vanilla Creme Brulee served with a rum glazed caramelised banana. The Creme Brulee can be pre-baked and stored in the fridge. This can then be bruleed and served with freshly prepared caramelised fruit. The contrast between the hot fruit and the cold custard is actually quite delightful. I urge you to try it out for yourself.
Recipe : (Basic Creme Brulee From Justin North's French Lessons)
1/2 vanilla pod
7 egg yolks
70g castor sugar
2 mini bananas or 1 normal sized bananas sliced.
2 tsp demerara sugar
Splash Rum ( enough to deglaze pan)
1. In a pot, heat milk,cream with vanilla pod and vanilla seed (scraped from pod). Once milk starts to boil, remove pot from heat and cool down to room temperature.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and castor sugar together until light and thick. Remove the vanilla pod from the cool milk/cream and pour slowly into egg yolk mixture. Stir gently to combine.
3. I left the mixture in the fridge overnight to 'degas' the air bubbles which has formed during the whisking and stirring from (2).
4. Preheat oven to 110C. Pour cream mixture into creme brulee ramekins and lay them in a bain marie. (Pour in hot water as cold water will take a long time to warm up in the oven)
5. Bake the cream in the oven at 110C for 45 mins until set.
6. Cool down and let the creme brulee rest for 2 hours at room temperature. You can store this overnight in the fridge. If you do, make sure you blot dry the surface condensation with kitchen tower before torching.
In a frying pan, add a little butter and caramelise bananas with sugar until slightly brown. Do not over cook as bananas will turn mushy. Remove bananas from the pan. Add a slug of Rum to deglaze the pan. Pour the deglaze over the bananas.
8. Sprinkle demerara sugar over surface of creme brulee. More sugar will give a thicker glassy and crunchy caramel sheet.
9. Spoon caramelised bananas over the creme brulee and serve immediately.