Monday, June 18, 2012

Orange Pumpkin Creme Caramel

The weather has been unbearably hot and humid especially in the past one week. It got worse in the last 3 days due to the haze problem that resulted from forest fires said to be coming from the Riau Islands of Indonesia. Although I love the hot sunny weather so much more than the numbing cold of below zero temperature which I sufferingly endured in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal years ago or even something milder as the beginning of European winter two years ago, I still could not stand the extreme humidity of our weather lately. Fortunately, we woke up this morning to clearer skies with much of the haze gone with the wind. It rained a little 2 nights ago so that must've helped in easing off the haze too. In a weather like this, cold drinks and desserts are always a welcome respite. Thus, last week I decided to make for the first time, creme caramel. I have a recipe book with a pumpkin creme caramel recipe but this one posted here is based on my sister's book - Good Housekeeping - which I borrowed from her a few weeks ago. The recipe in my book uses milk but my sister's book calls for evaporated milk and since I have a can of it in my pantry and before it expires, I decided to go with this recipe. There was also a container of pureed pumpkin that has been sitting in my freezer for months, so this recipe is just perfect given the weather and ingredients on hand. Creme caramel is also sometimes called creme renversee because it is inverted onto a plate prior to serving. It's an easy yet simply delicious and pretty impressive dessert to wow your dinner guests!

Since this was my first time making this wonderful dessert, it was not without mistake. I learned that cooking the caramel was a bit tricky and the first batch was over-burnt and bitter. I had to make a second batch, with careful attention to not over cooking it.

Ingredients (some light adjustments have been made here):

1 tbsp chopped orange rind
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
14 ounces evaporated milk
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 cup unspiced pumpkin puree
6 large eggs
1/4 cup orange-flavored liquour (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of salt

1. In a small heavy saucepan, heat 3/4 cup of the sugar and water to boiling at medium heat. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, then stir for a further few minutes until the syrup turns amber in color. Here is where every second of undivided attention is needed! (Do not gossip on your handphone or think about that delicious salted egg crab you're gonna have for dinner tomorrow.) Keep stirring and do not let the syrup turns too brown. It caramelizes very quickly and it continues to do so even when after the pot is removed from the heat source. Thus, remove it from the heat once it becomes amber. If it over caramelizes and turns too brown in color, the syrup will taste bitter and unpalatable. This was where I went wrong the first time and had to re cook another batch of caramel. Also, make sure the ramekins or tray is readily nearby so that the caramel can be quickly poured into it. If you're using a few ramekins, try to work quickly when pouring the caramel into the different ramekins as it hardens quite quickly. Once poured in, quickly swirl the ramekins/pan to coat all bottom surface and a little bit on the sides. Make sure you wear cooking mittens, handle it with care when pouring the caramel into ramekins/pan and DO NOT attempt to touch or taste the caramel. It is really really hot and will burn your finger and tongue. Leave the ramekins/pan aside to cool and the caramel will harden.

2. In another heavy saucepan, heat evaporated milk, cream and remaining sugar until just boiling and sugar has dissolved.

3. In a large heat proof bowl, use a hand whisk to mix the pumpkin, eggs, orange rind, liquour, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Slowly whisk in the hot milk mixture into this pumpkin mixture and mix well. Pour the mixture in the prepared ramekins/pan.

4.  Place the ramekins/pan in a large roasting pan. Pour hot water in the roasting pan until the water level comes up about 1 inch on the outside of the ramekins/pan. Bake for 50 minutes at 160 deg C or until an inserted skewer comes out clean and has no custard sticking to it. Remove from the roasting pan and cool on wire rack. Once cooled, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight for best result. 

5. Before serving, take out the custard from the refrigerator and place the ramekin/pan in another pan of hot water to a level of about 2 cm up the sides for 5 minutes. Then run small metal spatula or knife around sides of the ramekins/pan to loosen the custard. Place the serving plate on top and invert the custard. The caramel syrup will drip all over the custard and plate.

This pumpkin version is quite rich and the orange rind gives it a nice zesty flavor. Serve as it is or with some fresh berries if you prefer. Delicious!!
It's normal that some hardened caramel will remain in the ramekin/pan. To remove, just leave the ramekins/pan in the sink to soak in water. 


petite nyonya

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Homegrown Veggies Easy Stir-Fry

It is such a wonderful feeling growing and cooking your own vegetables. Not to mention saving a few dollars every now and then too. However, due to a lack of garden space and fertile ground soil, I have no choice but to resort to growing my vegetables in containers, using mostly polystyrene boxes. I use shallow containers that are around 3/4 feet in depth for growing quick yield veggies like mustard green, chives, spring onions and pak choy, and deeper 1 3/4 feet containers for growing plants like ladies' finger (okra) and brinjal (eggplant). Here's my recent harvest - several ladies' fingers, my first brinjal and a few stalks of celery. The celery was used for chicken stew and the brinjal and ladies' fingers, for a yummy stir-fry with onions and tomatoes. The brinjal, oh my goodness!, tasted so succulent, smooth and sweet. One of the ladies' fingers was slightly woody as I had left it on the plant a bit longer than it should but luckily I had picked the rest while they were still young and tender. 

Fresh veggies, I love the beautiful purple color of the brinjal!

Yummy! I love a stir-fry like this to go with rice, alongside other meat or fish dish

Peel 3 cloves of garlic and chop them. Or, you could use a garlic presser if you have one. It's my latest cool gadget and I absolutely love using it! Oh, here it is (recipe will continue below...:)

Peel 1 large onion, halve it and cut into thin slices. 1 tomato, quartered. 1 medium-sized brinjal, cut into 1.5 inch chunks and then quarter each chunk. Top and tail off several ladies' fingers and slice diagonally. 1 fresh red chilli, slice thinly. Soak 1 tsp dried prawns (udang kering) and 1 tbsp dried anchovies (ikan bilis) for 5 minutes, drain off the water. In a small bowl, mix 1/2 tbsp worstershire sauce, 1 tbsp light soya sauce, 1 tbsp oyster sauce, 1 tbsp Chinese cooking/Shiaoxing wine with 1/4 cup water.

Heat 3 tbsps cooking oil in a wok/frying pan. Under medium to high heat, saute the garlic, dried prawn and dried anchovies together in the hot oil until they turn half brown and fragrant. Mix in all the vegetables, including the onions all at once. Stir fry for a few minutes, then add in the 1/4 cup water that has been mixed with seasonings. Let it come to a simmer and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until the vegetables have softened to your liking. Add a light dash of salt if preferred. Dish up and serve with rice.

Have a superb day!

petite nyonya