Baked raspberry custard with strawberry, mint & orange blossom salad

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Preparation info

  • For

    8

    • Difficulty

      Easy

Appears in

Fusion: A Culinary Journey

Fusion

By Peter Gordon

Published 2010

  • About

In 1990, not long after I first arrived in London, I was cooking at a restaurant called First Floor on Portobello Road in Notting Hill. It was a very cool restaurant filled with A-list celebrities and their hangers-on, and it was a lot of fun. This was also the time that every restaurant in London seemed to be serving prune and Armagnac tart, or lemon tart. In fact, it was said that you could tell how good a chef was by the quality of their lemon tart. That seemed absurd to me, as lemon tart was something only Western chefs were cooking. I’d have thought flavour balance would have been a better test, but there you go. Anyway, I had a go at the lemon tart, too, and I think I did pretty well. However, one day we received a wrong order, way too many berries, and so I tried to use them up before they went off. They were just on the point of being overripe, so I puréed them to make sorbets, jellies and then I tried using them instead of lemon juice in a tart. Then, years later, I adjusted the tart filling I’d created to make this recipe - much like a baked custard. The key to its success is that the berries have to be perfectly ripe - or else the custards taste a bit too creamy and bland. You can also bake them in soufflé-type dishes, instead of ramekins, in which case increase the berries by 50 g for extra flavour. There are many grades of orange blossom water-my current favourite comes from the Sidon region in Southern Lebanon, made from a specific bitter orange species.

Ingredients

  • 150 g raspberries
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) lime or lemon juice
  • 70 g caster sugar
  • 260 ml whole eggs (5 medium eggs)
  • 280 ml cream
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla bean, split and scraped)
  • 15-20 strawberries
  • 6 mint leaves
  • 1 Tbsp icing sugar
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) orange blossom water

Method

Preheat oven to 160°C. Position the oven rack just below the centre of the oven. Lay a kitchen cloth or thin tea towel on the bottom of a deep-sided roasting dish, ideally with handles to help move it, and sit 8 x 150 ml metal ramekins on top. This is your bain marie.

Purée the raspberries with the lime juice and half the caster sugar in a blender, then add the eggs and whizz for 10 seconds.

Bring the cream, vanilla and remaining sugar to a simmer then gently whisk it into the berry mixture. Pass through a fine sieve to remove the seeds then pour into the ramekins.

Place the bain marie in the oven and pour in enough boiling water to come two-thirds of the way up the outside of the ramekins. Place an inverted oven tray on top of the ramekins (this keeps the fierce heat off the top) and shut the door. They’ll take 45-60 minutes to cook. To test, poke a thin skewer or toothpick into the centre of one. It should come out clean although the mixture will be a little moist, so some mixture will stick to it. Carefully take the bain marie from the oven and leave it to cool for 10 minutes then remove the ramekins and leave them to cool completely. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to firm up, at least 6 hours.

To unmould the custards run a thin, narrow knife around the inside of the ramekin, then holding one in your hand, firmly shake it out into your other hand. Slide off your hand onto a plate, then unmould the rest.

To Serve

Hull the strawberries and slice thinly, or julienne them as I did. Shred the mint and toss with the strawberries, icing sugar and the orange blossom water then sprinkle this over the custards.