Friday, September 24, 2010

Eliza Acton’s “Saunders”, Mashed Potato and Sausage Comfort Food

One of the reasons I have enjoyed meeting food lovers from other countries is that they have expanded my cooking universe exponentially. I have learned about so many new writers and cookbooks that had before only been vaguely recognized names or were completely unknown to me.

1845 Version of Modern Cookery

One of these new figures is Eliza Acton. A food historian I met is writing a biography about her and told me she was a remarkable figure. When I read Acton’s cookbook, I realized what all the fuss was about. About her personally, little is known outside a few facts. As far as I can tell, there are no photographs of Acton, at least none I could find. Aside from Wikipedia, the Tonbridge Historical Society has the most information available on Acton who was one of its famous citizens (I can’t wait for that biography!).

Eliza Acton was the first modern British cookbook writer and she sold 60,000 copies through 40 editions of her 1845 Modern Cookery in All Its Branches: Reduced to a System of Easy Practice, for the Use of Private Families : In a Series of Receipts, Which Have Been Strictly ... : To Which Are Added Directions for Carving, long before the better-known Mrs. Beeton’s 1861 Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management (Oxford World's Classics) (Mrs. Beeton’s book sold a million copies!). This didn’t stop Mrs. Beeton from purloining 150 of Eliza’s recipes for her book without giving Acton credit. Eliza wrote of this in a later edition of Modern Cookery for Private Families, “At the risk of appearing extremely egotistic, I have appended “Author’s Receipt” and “Author’s Original Receipt” to many of the contents of the following pages: but I have done it solely in self-defense, in consequence of the unscrupulous manner in which large portions of my volume have been appropriated by contemporary authors, without the slightest acknowledgement of the source from which they have been derived…. I am suffering at present too severe a penalty for the over-exertion entailed on me by the plan which I adopted for the work, longer to see with perfect composure strangers coolly taking the credit and the profits of my toil.”

The facts, such as they are, are these: Eliza Acton was born in 1799 in Battle, England. She didn’t come from a wealthy family, being the daughter of a brewer and Eliza left Battle to grow up in Ipswich where she ran a school for girls for 4 years to pay her way in the world. After an illness she spent time in France (where there was perhaps an unhappy love affair) before moving to Tonbridge, Kent where she lived with her siblings and her mother who took in borders to make ends meet. There she stayed (although by 1841 she was alone in the house) until after her cookbook was published at which point she moved to London where she remained until her death in 1859.

Eliza began her career in writing with poetry. She is a romantic poet and old fashioned to modern ears. Her book of poetry entitled simply, Poems, was published in 1826. I will share one of them with you… like many in her book, it speaks of lost love, pain and thwarted dreams which sadly may have been Acton’s life:

"Je vis,--mais dans les larmes!"
Such is the heart whose treasur'd store

Of sweet, and early hope is gone:

It withers to revive no more,

Or lives, like thee, in tears alone!

Although well received, it was not a big seller, and her publisher advised her to do a cookery book to increase her income. She realized that there was a dearth of books for novice, middle-class cooks without a covey of servants to take care of them and decided to fill that niche with clearly written recipes and instructions on how to do pretty much anything in the kitchen. Hers was the first kitchen basics book and the first cookery book to list ingredients. Best selling British cook book writer, Delia Smith, said that Acton was “the best writer of recipes in the English language.”

Some of the recipes are named for familiar things in Tonbridge, like a cake named for the street Acton lived on (Bordyke Veal Cake) and some referenced people she admired like Baron Liebig who wrote that bad cooking wasted food (Bavarian Brown Bread). She often gives generous credit for recipes that were given to her by others.

Acton wrote her final book in London in 1857 The English Bread-book that was a history of “panification” (bread-making) as well as many fine recipes. But it also “contained Acton’s strong opinions about adulterated and processed food.” The titles of the first and second chapters tell it all:


Bread—Its Value—Its Wholesomeness—Its faulty Fabrication here – The Waste of it—The Necessity for a more general Knowledge of the Mode of Preparing it—


Government Investigation of Commercial Frauds—Beautiful adaptation of Pure Bread to the Wants of Man—Grievous Social Wrong of Adulteration…Chemical and Medical Testimony to the injurious effects of Alum --

Well, you get the idea! She was really a pioneer in the movement against over-processing and urged homemakers to make good healthy loaves (she made them in crocks not tins) for their family. It’s a fascinating read. Like many authors of the day, Acton also wrote for periodicals, in her case for The Ladies Companion and Charles Dicken’s Household Words (she named a recipe for one of his characters from Martin Chuzzelwit – “Ruth Pinch’s Beefsteak Puddings, a la Dickens” and wrote to tell him so in 1845). Today she is known for her recipes, as well she should be.

I know better than most that historic recipes are often complex, but many of Acton’s couldn’t be simpler or more deliciously comforting. One such recipe is for a dish called Saunders – why that name I cannot tell you (saunders was sandlewood and a food coloring in the middle ages). It is perfect as a side dish with a roast of meat or fowl and equally good with a salad for a light supper. It can be made with leftovers or from scratch with equally wonderful results. You can also easily change the size of the dish… just divide whatever amount of potatoes you have in half and put the gravied meat in between! It’s a simpler take on shepherd’s pie!

I have made a few small changes but the original is reproduced below so you may follow whichever recipe suits you. Any cooked leftover meat can be used in the meat layer but I used D’Artagnan’s dark and delicious Wild Boar Sausage and it was sensational (and on sale at D'Artagnan's this month!). Acton says you can use uncooked meat for a “superior kind of saunders” but cook the dish for an hour “or something more” to cook the meat.

My ex’s Gran had a cook who was older than dirt (her words). She was born shortly after Acton died (1860’s) and lived into her late 90’s (she might have tipped 100-- I heard she was a little vague about her birth year) but left a legacy of memories of her food. My favorite was her take on mashed potatoes that was still remembered many, many years after she was dead. She added mace to them and that was genius. I was very sorry I never met her to thank her for that tip. I have used mace instead of nutmeg in the recipe because of that and added milk to the mix to cream them up.

Eliza Acton’s ‘Saunders’ Mashed Potato and Sausage Casserole

6 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 T butter
2-3 T cream
1 c milk (use a ½ cup and then add till you reach the desired texture)
1 pound sausage meat, crumbled (I used D”Artagnan’s Wild Boar Sausage!)
2 cups stock reduced to ¾ c or gravy if you have it
1 T cognac (optional)
1 t fresh marjoram (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste
½ t nutmeg or mace

Boil the potatoes until cooked through and then use a ricer for best texture. Add the butter and cream and the milk, a little at a time (all potatoes are a little different some requiring more and others less) until you get a good creamy texture.

Sauté the sausage in a little oil until done. If your sausage is fatty, drain the excess fat. Add the reduced stock or gravy and stir to blend, scraping up the brown bits. Add cognac and marjoram.

Put half the potatoes in a low casserole and top with the sausage mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and nutmeg or mace. Top with the rest of the potatoes. Bake in a 375º oven for 30 minutes.

Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday

PS Stay tuned as I write up the amazing Lambapalooza dinner I went to in L.A. last weekend. It was a dinner for the books. I'll let you know as soon as the 'feature article' is finished about this fairytale weekend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Babette’s Quail in Puff Pastry (made with Duck Fat!)

Cailles en Sarcophage

Not long ago Saveur Magazine had an online article featuring great recipes from famous movies inspired by the opening of Julia Robert’s in Eat, Pray Love. The article had dishes from Big Night, Without Reservations, Like Water for Chocolate, Chocolat, Ratatouille, Vatel, Julie and Julia and others.

Most especially it had my favorite dish, Cailles en Sarcophage, from probably my favorite food movie, the 1988 Babette’s Feast based on an Isak Dinesen story. For those of you that do not know it…you must see it (see a YouTube version of some of the film HERE to whet your appetite -- but you miss the rich photography with the poor quality of YouTube—do try to rent it).

The film is about a legendary French chef (played with crystalline brilliance by Stephane Audran) of Dugléré's fabled Paris restaurant Café Anglais,  who has been marooned by civil war to a small Danish village as a cook for 2 kind but ascetic sisters that eschew the pleasures of the table and of life. Babette has seen her beloved Paris fall into chaos, lost her husband and child to the war and has barely escaped with her own life. Here she toils, unspeaking, as a servant for 14 years, until one day….

a winning lottery ticket sends Babette into a triumph of food preparation as she makes classics of high French cuisine at the deliberate, and at times, nearly worshipful pace of a pavane, full of reverence for the task and the celestial raw materials. With each precise, masterful movement we see her spirit renewed. She makes this meal of the gods for a small, equally ascetic group from the sister’s church and one surprise guest who is the only soul aware of the quality of the food they are privileged to eat, having eaten at Babette’s restaurant in Paris, Café Anglais, as a young man.

The meal has remained fixed in his memory and he still can taste every bite and swallow in his mind. No wonder he compares her food to a love affair that “made no distinction between spiritual and other appetites!!” He even remembers that his old General told him that the chef of Café Anglais was the only woman in Paris worth fighting a duel for. He said she was considered the greatest culinary genius.

The reaction of the staid congregation (who had determined at the meal’s start to rise above the heathen pleasures of the table) go from initial disdain to shock to bliss… their faces changing from pale and pinched to flushed with pleasure and delight. It is intensely moving and oddly spiritual and reveals the transformative power of culinary art through the spirit of an artist. The scenes of food preparation and the ceremonies of taste are unbearably, chillingly sensual. Every detail of the film’s design is perfect.

The recipe Saveur chose from Babette’s Feast was for her masterpiece ‘Cailles en Sarcophage’, quails in puff pastry with foie gras, truffles and figs. Eating it seemed a dream that would never cross my lips.

Cailles en Sarcophage

I had wanted to make this show-stopping dish for years but was daunted by the freight of the ingredients and the difficulty of the task. Then, through a miraculous confluence of events, I found myself delightfully if improbably stocked with all the ingredients thanks to a lucky visit to a D’Artagnan video shoot (for a soon-to-appear-online instructional video) that reaped a bag of left-over goodies (including the remnants of a truffle!!) and having tackled quail before, I was sure I could pull this dish off.

Once I decided to storm the lofty walls of this recipe, I was determined to try to make puff pastry using butter and duck fat after reading that lard was sometimes used in the dough portion of the pastry 100 years ago and after seeing a duck fat crust on a winning pie in the Brooklyn Pie Contest. Why not duck fat puff pastry??? The taste would be amazing. My last puff pastry attempt was a disaster (think flat glue slab). I was determined to make it work this time.—boy, did it ever!  The dough is positively velvety and rises like mad.

Quail in Puff Pastry with Truffles and Foie Gras

The recipe for this came from Molly O’Neill from the NY Times in 1997. The puff pastry recipe is based on one I found on White on Rice Couple (with lots of nice how-to pictures) with necessary changes. I must tell you, the bread flour addition flies in the face of everything you read… bread flour has extra gluten… every other recipe (and Julia Child) says pastry flour with low gluten… but it works. When you think about it, rising is what it needs to do!

The recipe is not simple but it is very doable and the result will send your guests into paroxysms of pleasured adulation for your efforts, no fooling. All of the special ingredients can be purchased from D'Artagnan and are linked in the recipe AND quail is on sale till October so no excuses!

Babette's Cailles en Sarcophage
4 servings

1 recipe for or 1 pound puff pastry
4 quails boned (by that I mean remove the backbone and rib cage bones leaving the legs and wings still on—this makes eating the tiny birds much easier)
2 T Cognac
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
5 ounces foie gras, cut into 8 slices
1 1-ounce black truffle, sliced as thinly as possible, 8-12 slices
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon Duck Fat
½ cup white wine
1 cup Madeira (Rare Wine Company, Boston Bual)
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup demi-glace
16 black figs, quartered
1 sprig of marjoram
Marinate the quail in ½ c of Madeira and cognac for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425º. Cut 4 5-inch rounds from the pastry. Make a 3-inch circle in the center of each round, being careful not to cut to the bottom of the dough.
Do not twist and turn the dough. If you do you will lose your loft on the pastry. The cleaner the movement, the higher the pastry will rise. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 10 minutes with a piece of parchment on top of the pastries—this helps them rise straight… don’t ask me how. Remove the top parchment and continue to bake 7- 10 more minutes after turning the heat down to 375º or until puffed and golden. Carefully lift out the 3-inch round from the center (you may need to cut a little) to create a nest with a top. Set aside to cool.

Raise the oven to 450 degrees. Season the inside of the quails with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Lay 1 slice of foie gras in each quail cavity followed by truffle slices and top with the remaining foie gras. Truss the quails. Season the outsides with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Melt the butter in an ovenproof skillet over high heat. Sear the quails, 30 seconds or so per side. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Turn the quails and roast for 5 minutes more. Remove and keep warm in a covered dish.

Place the skillet over high heat on top of the stove. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Simmer for 1 minute. Pour in the stock, ½ c madeira and demi-glace and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in the figs and marjoram and simmer for 1 minute. Continue to simmer, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sauce is reduced to 2/3 cup and has a thickened appearance. If you have extra foie gras you can add it to the sauce, I preferred not to. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, put each quail in a pastry nest. Drizzle with sauce and surround with the figs.
Garnish with truffle slices and marjoram leaves.

Puff Paste with Duck Fat

Butter layer

1 lb + 3 ½ T (510g) cold unsalted butter (I love Irish butter for this)
2 t (10 ml Lemon juice
1 c (130g) bread flour
pinch of salt


3 c (400 g) bread flour (freeze it)
3 ½ T (55g) duck fat, frozen)
2 t Salt
1 c cold water (start with 3/4 and add as needed, you may not need a whole cup)

Mix the butter and the flour and lemon and salt into a paste, make a 6” square and chill on wax paper till firm

Make the dough as you would pasta, knead very sparingly and refrigerate.

Make the dough into a rectangle and put the butter in the center in a diamond... fold the dough around it like an envelope, bringing the 4 outer points to the center of the butter.   If it’s hot, chill. Otherwise roll it to a rectangle and fold it like a brochure and chill ½ an hour. Roll it out to a rectangle again and do it again 5 times, resting for 45 minutes to an hour in the fridge each time.

I left mine overnight after the last turn and rolled it out the next day. After cutting my rounds, I put it back in the fridge for an hour

Then you are ready to go!!!

Go over to Slate for a great article (HERE)..  The author used my recipe to make this dish!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Frozen Flowers of Orange Ice Cream

From the three thousand year-old collection of poems called the Shih Ching (), or Book of Songs, we know the Chinese had icehouses and numerous sources told me the Chinese method of sloshing milk and rice mixture (200 BC) in a metal container set inside another one filled with ice and salt went from China to India, to Persia (400 BC saw faloodeh - فالوده, a frozen/chilled custard still made today of rose water, vermicelli, saffron and pistachios) and the Arab world. Many cultures with access to snow made dishes with ice, honey and fruit (Hippocrates thought ice was good for your health) and it was sold in 5th Century BC Athen’s markets -- although the rest of the story is difficult to pin down since many of the most quoted ‘facts’ about ice cream are fabrications! This was absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever had to research since there were so many wrong turns (thanks to Bookrags, Wikipedia and Enotes among others).

Marco Polo (1254-1324)
For instance, Marco Polo was not the first to bring a recipe for ‘ice cream” to Italy in the 13th century (it may have been a frozen iced dessert), Arab sharbat makers had already brought a kind of sherbet to Sicily before the end of the first millennium.

Catherine de Medici 1519-1589
According to the late Elizabeth David (well-known British food writer) one of the great ice cream myths that said Catharine de Medici brought ice cream to France was apocryphal … she was 14 at the time, not rich, did not bring a cadre of Italian chefs to upset the French Court’s apple cart and delighted in sorbets, which in 16th century France were chilled sweet syrups and fruit juices -- not frozen desserts.

Ices did become the rage in the Renaissance and at the beginning they were flavored with fruit or flowers… rose, jasmine and violet were particular favorites but they were probably more like flavored/scented ice than ice cream.

Café Procope

In 1686, a shop opened that still exists today as the oldest café in Paris. Café Procope served ‘water ices”(not ice cream as many sources report) as well as coffee that was served by waiters in Turkish garb appropriate to the exotic origins of their fare. It was opened by Sicilian, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli (a waiter from the first coffee business in Paris, Maison de Caoué) and once the Comédie Française moved in across the street, it became the watering hole for artists and writers like Voltaire (whose desk is there) to Franklin and Jefferson, Napoleon to George Sand

According toThe Oxford Companion to Food , the first mention of the word “ice cream” in English was recorded by antiquarian Elias Ashmole (as in Ashmolean Museum at Oxford) in 1672. In recalling the Festival of St. George at Windsor in 1671, he remembered “one plate of ice cream” as one of the dishes there.

The first book about ice cream was written in 1700 in French and called L’Art de Faire des Glacés followed by Mrs Eales Receipts in 1718 and Hannah Glasses’s The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy in 1747.
Early ices were very experimental and could be made with rye bread, parmesan cheese, artichokes and other rather unusual ingredients. It wasn’t until years later that we settled in to the varieties that we are familiar with. The French differentiated between sorbets (glacés rares) and ice cream (fromages glacés) according to Selma Schwartz who, with Ivan Day replicated an 18th century dessert table with the unparalleled porcelain service of Lord Rothchild's Waddesdon Manor.

Our own Thomas Jefferson was mad for ice cream and brought back the technique to revolutionary America. It was served at the inaugural ball by Dolly Madison and was on the streets in NYC by the 1820s and loved by the masses. By the late 19th century, a patent was established for the wooden ice cream maker, and with it, everyone could make the delicious treat.

By 1885 there was even an entire cookbook based on iced treats called Ices Plain and Fancy, and all the great restaurants had spectacular ice cream dishes in fantastic molds to delight their well-heeled patrons.

My early 20th century pewter ice cream molds are the poor stepchildren of the molds that graced the tables of the upper classes in the 19th century. Often a giant ice cream piéce montée would have center stage and a constellation of smaller flowers and fruit would be strewn around it (although how you keep the petals from melting… I know not) on an extravagantly laid table. For some bizarre reason, cucumbers and asparagus were popular ice cream forms.

I can’t stop at molds, I must tell you about the porcelain ice cream cooler (seau á glace) -- an inspired way to keep ice cream cold at table. All of the specimens that I have seen from the turn of the 19th century are amazing objets. I can just imagine lifting the lid and finding a bouquet of ice cream flowers… how spectacular would that be with such a vessel?

There would be ice inside on the bottom, a fitted dish above that to hold your ice cream and ice filling the bowl-ish lid.

As for the molds*, they are easy to use and you can pop out the ice cream, wrap it in plastic and make more whether you use old pewter molds or silicone. My biggest warning would be… the warmer the weather, the simpler the design! You can then arrange them on a platter or give them out one at a time to your guests. What follows is an orange ice cream recipe that I had made years ago and then found again in the NYT’s archives a while back. I’ve made a few changes over the years with more egg yolks, orange flower water and fresh orange suprémes and juice.

The recipe could be altered to use other fruit juices if desired. Taste of Beirut’s pomegranate and rose drink got me thinking it would be a spectacular ice cream… now, where to get a rose and a pomegranate mold!!!
Orange Ice Cream Flowers

Orange Ice Cream with Orange Flower Water
4 to 5 navel oranges (enough for 1 cup of juice) plus peel of 1 orange
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup orange flower water
3 oranges, 2 sectioned into suprémes and the other squeezed for juice
Remove the peel from one orange. Cut the peel into quarter-inch lengths and then into quarter-inch squares. Place the peel in a saucepan with water to cover and boil for 10 minutes. Rinse under cold running water, drain and repeat. When thoroughly drained, mix the peel with one-third cup of sugar in a small bowl and some of the water from boiling them and reserve.

Juice the oranges then add the lemon juice and 2 T of the orange flower water and chill.

In a heavy saucepan, scald the milk, cream and remaining sugar over medium-low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they coat the whisk. Slowly whisk the scalded milk mixture into the beaten yolks, strain, and allow it to cool -- stirring from time to time. When the mixture is cool, add the vanilla and chill thoroughly.

Stir the juice into the base mixture and churn in the ice-cream maker for about five minutes.

Drain the sweetened orange peel with a slotted spoon, fold into the mixture and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions or reserve and serve with the ice cream.
The molds will work easier without the bits of peel in the ice cream, just toss them on top when serving.

Pack into an airtight container and freeze.

If you are using molds, fill them when the ice cream is still fairly loose and keep it in the mold until frozen solid. I may recommend that you portion out the ice cream in appropriate amounts for the molds so you don’t have to keep thawing as you make more of them if your freezer is cold. The ice cream mist be thick enough to be shaped but is best very cold and hard when un-molded.
Marinate the suprémes of orange with the remaining 2 T of orange flower water and juice from the 3rd orange and serve with the ice cream.

*Pewter molds are available on Ebay and go from $10 to hundreds depending on rarity so they often cost less than new silicone molds and are a lot more interesting!

** Marx Food has beautifully made ice cream fruits and flowers
for sale if you don't want to make them yourself. Check them out

What's Cooking in America said that during WWII, there was an entire barge commissioned at a princely cost of $1 million to act as a floating ice cream parlor that could pump out 10 gallons every seven seconds for servicemen in the Western Pacific… it was one of the top morale builders. But WWII airmen had that beat when the stuffed an ice cream base in the tail gunner’s cockpit of a B-29 and let the icy air and vibrations do the rest.

Thanks to Gollum for Hosting Foodie Friday

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cambridge Burnt Cream: A Guest Post From Lazaro!

I am very pleased to welcome Lazaro, of Lazaro Cooks to do my first guest post! Lazaro has single-handedly wrangled food bloggers, a proverbial 'herd of cats', all together through his wonderful blog. Now everyone is sharing their favorites through his generosity. I can't tell you how many new blogs I have found through him. He is also tireless in supporting other blogs and cheering us all on. For that I am so grateful as well as for the fact he is really passionate about sustainable, organic and seasonable food and has written about it. Living in Florida with his beloved "lady lawyer", his food tends to have that warm Florida feel with a Latin touch so he has really stretched to do his post for me... who has really been hitting England with a vengeance lately. I am so grateful he found this amazing dish and especially those Marco Pierre White clips... I know what I will be watching this weekend! So, after that introduction, HERE"S LAZARO!!!

Hello readers of Deana's awesome blog. She wows us weekly with her amazing love of history and her keen eye for photography. The first time I set eyes on her blog I instantly fell in love. I too share her passion for history, although I really do not blog about it, I mostly blog about my kitchen escapades. On June 30, 2010, Deana graced LC with her wonderful post, Tagliarini with Almond-Arugula Pesto & Meatballs.

It truly is an honor to be guest posting here. I have a very limited blogroll and Lostpastremembered is on it, that tells you how I feel about the work that Deana does here. In addition, she gracefully accepted my recommendation that she join us over at Blogcritics and has been enlightening us with her articles.

Today, I will be chatting about a well loved dessert that most call Creme Brulee. On LC, another talented cook Tanantha from I Just Love My Apron created a truly original tapioca-pearls-rose-water-vanilla-bean Pearls, Rosewater, Vanilla Infused, Creme Brulee at LC. I can only tell you that it is worth clicking over for.

The origins of the dessert known as Crème Brulee are shrouded in mystery. It is widely accepted that it is a French dish created by the French. Although, the Spanish insist that their version, Crema Catalana, is the original. With the origins theory in question, I am throwing the British into the mix as the creators of the sweet egg custard dessert.

In the early 1600’s, at Trinity College in Cambridge, chefs made a baked egg custard and burnt it. This story reinforces one of my most cherished kitchen axioms "that there are no kitchen mistakes, only future success if you are paying attention.” When the chefs tried the burned custard they instantly fell in love with this “mistake.” Thus, Cambridge Burnt Cream was born.

On the record, the story that the dessert was invented at the college has no basis in fact. Dig a little deeper and you will find that the folks over at Trinity are quite certain that they created it. In fact, in the early days the chefs at Cambridge made a brand with the school’s crest that they burned onto every Cambridge Burnt Cream made.

The greatest and most influential British chef of all time, Marco Pierre White, went to Trinity to get the truth behind the rumors. It was done for television as part of Marco’s Great British Feast. And if I may recommend you watch the entire show, it can be seen on YouTUBE, it is an interesting look into a great cook’s journey to highlight the wonderful food of his homeland. Additionally, if you are into organic, sustainable food like me, Marco makes it a point to source the best local, natural ingredients indigenous to Britain that you can see on Marco Pierre White's Trip to Trinity College

Cambridge Burnt Cream

20 oz Heavy cream
5 tbs Caster sugar
5 Organic Free-Range Egg Yolks
2 Vanilla Beans - split in half
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
Cane Sugar
Preheat the oven to 250 F.
In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream and vanilla beans to just below the boil. DO NOT ALLOW THE CREAM TO BOIL.

In a glass bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar until completely mixed. Add the ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Strain the cream through a fine mesh strainer. Slowly pour into the egg mixture, WHILE WHISKING, until all the cream is mixed in.

Cut a piece of cotton cloth to fit the bottom of a large deep sided baking tray. Place 4 small ramekins into the tray. Ladle the cream mixture into the ramekins. Pour boiling water into the tray until it is half way up the ramekins, creating a water bath.

Eggs are delicate and in my kitchen they are treated as such. So I like to cook them low and slow. Place the tray in the oven and cook for 50 minutes. Only allow the custard to JUST SET. DO NOT OVERCOOK!

Remove the ramekins and allow to cool at room temperature. Place the ramekins in the fridge for 4 hours.

When ready to glaze remove from fridge 30 minutes before torching. If you don't have a Cook's Torch, do not bother to try and make this dish. Here is a very good one.

Spoon a light coating of cane sugar and glaze. Repeat with a second coating of cane sugar and glaze again. Let sit for 5 mintues before eating.

Then all that is left is to take your spoon and cut in...

That's it for now...till we exchange a few words again...Peace!

In the spirit of musical blogging chairs, I have posted this week at MARX FOOD's blog! You can visit me there as I talk about Bartolomeo Scappi. His nearly 500 year-old cookbook made The Guardian list of best 50 cookbooks and his Filet with cherries, prunes, fennel pollen and spices will blow you away!