My flatmate and I love playing the grown up and hosting mock-sophisticated dinner parties. On the rare occasion that we both have a weekend at home we’ll invite a few friends round (not too many, owing to our tiny dining table) and the deal is, Jess takes charge of savoury and sweet is my territory. This bank holiday was just such an occasion.
Jess whipped up her party piece of slow roasted lamb with (as Nigella always says) jewel-like pomegranate seeds and fresh mint, taken from the marvellous book, Kitchen by Nigella Lawson.
Here she is, beating the crap out of a pomegranate, before dropping it on the floor and showering the kitchen in pips. This flat is no stranger to pomegranate mishaps. Last time we made this dish I somehow managed to get pomegranate juice roughly 7 feet up the kitchen wall. Skills.
With the lamb, we feasted on a simple, yet effective quinoa and broad bean salad from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and some chargrilled baby courgettes with feta. Absolutely perfect for an unusually sunny summer bank holiday.
So then it was my turn. This time I opted to try my hand at a honey creme brûlée and some rosemary shortbread.
The inspiration for the rosemary shortbread came from my friend Emily of Lady Cycle, who recently thrashed me in a bake off with just such a buttery treat. I would claim that I was robbed, but her shortbread was utterly gorgeous!
Using a food processor to whip up these biscuits results in a ridiculously crumbly texture, which, most likely, can be credited to the butter staying nice and cool. This shortbread is the very definition of ‘short’.
The rosemary is pretty subtle, more of a fragrance really and it will make your kitchen smell so good!
This wasn’t my first foray into the world of the blow torch, but I’m pretty sure mine has been gathering dust in a cupboard for the best part of 10 years. (Man, I feel old!) But after watching a recent episode of Celebrity Masterchef, which featured a scrambled egg like disaster of a creme brûlée, I was a little worried about overcooking mine.
I needn’t have worried, it turns out that it’s incredibly easy! I don’t know if it’s the fact that the custard was made using honey instead of sugar, but the resulting dish was soooooo smooth! I was super proud of it, I don’t think I’ve ever made a dish this nice before! Please, please, please give it a go next time you want to pretend to be a grown up!
Honey Creme Brûlée with Rosemary Shortbread
Serves 6 with a few biscuits to spare
Adapted slightly from Chrissy Carter
Apologies for the mixture of old school and American measurements, I just can’t get my head around tablespoons of butter!
4 oz cold, unsalted butter
1/4 cup caster sugar, plus a little extra for topping
1/2 tsp of finely chopped fresh rosemary
pinch of salt
1 cup of plain flour
In a food processor blitz together the butter, sugar, rosemary and salt until nicely combined. Add the flour a little at a time, turning on the processor between each addition, until you have a sticky dough.
Turn the dough out onto a piece of cling film, roll it into a fairly smooth log and pop it into the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up.
Preheat the oven to 190 C / 170 C Fan / 375 F and line an oven tray with baking paper.
Unwrap the dough and slice it into 1/4 inch rounds. Put the rounds onto the baking tray and sprinkle each one with a little sugar.
Pop the tray into the oven for 20 minutes, until the shortbread is lightly browned.
The creme brûlée
Adapted slightly from Romancing the Bee
2 1/4 cups double cream
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/4 cup of good quality set honey (none of that cheap squeezy bottle stuff that tastes of nothing!)
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup of sugar
Put the cream and vanilla paste into a saucepan over a medium heat and bring them to the boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, pop a lid on and leave it to cool for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 150 C / 130 C Fan / 300 F.
In a medium sized bowl whisk together the honey and egg yolks until they start to lighten in colour. Add the cream a little at a time, whisking the whole time.
Pour the mixture into 6 ramekins (I had a little left over for a tiny additional one as my ramekins were pretty small). Put the ramekins into a high sided roasting or cake tin and pour enough boiling water into the tin, around the ramekins, to come halfway up their sides.
Bake until the custard is just set and still a little wobbly in the middle. For me this took just under 40 minutes, but it could take as much as 50 minutes, depending on the size of your ramekins.
Remove the ramekins from the tin, leave to cool to room temperature and then pop them in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days, covered in a little cling film.
Now for the brûléeing! Remove the custards from the fridge at least 30 minutes before you want to brûlée them. Divide the sugar between the ramekins, sprinkling it nice and evenly over the top. You may not need all of the sugar, I only felt I needed a large teaspoon full per ramekin. Use a kitchen blow torch to melt the sugar and create a crispy top. You can do this under the grill if you don’t have a blow torch, just keep an eye on them!
Leave the creme brûlée to sit for 5 minutes before scoffing with the shortbread biscuits!
Best served with good company.