An expat’s life in Singapore is a pretty comfortable one. Everyone speaks English, the city is easy to get around, administrative tasks like getting a phone line, your utilities, cable and broadband subscriptions are a breeze, and there’s a ready pool of expats to tap into for social activities. Plus, gorgeous beaches are just a hop, skip and a jump away.
I discovered how small the expat community really was after I started dating M, not expecting that meeting a French guy would introduce me to a host of Brits, Australians, Turks, Iranians, and of course, other French, all in my own country. Apart from introducing me to a whole new segment of Singapore’s society, I also discovered, and developed a taste for, the Sunday brunch buffet. Make that the Sunday Champagne brunch buffet.
I’m not quite sure how or when this trend started in Singapore, but walk in to one of the five-star hotels in the city on any given Sunday and chances are that you’ll find a packed restaurant, with expats, locals and babies alike, gathered for a five-hour meal. It’s the perfect way for a Sunday to whizz by, to recover after an intense Bachelor(ette) party or to celebrate anniversaries, baby showers, or just life in general. With an unlimited flow of Moët, a dizzying array of fresh seafood, juicy meats and tasty carbs, would you want to be anywhere else?
It was around the same time (coincidence?) that I started my love affair with Champagne, occasionally garnished with a ruby red strawberry in our home-made versions for dinner parties. Apart from providing a visual contrast, the fruit took its time to absorb the bubbly, providing a final burst of champagne-laced nectar after a glass.
Today’s dessert harks back to those halcyon days of Champagne brunches and is an ode to the bubbly. I came across a recipe for a French parfait, which, unlike its American counterpart, is a cross between an ice-cream and a mousse. It struck me as a simple enough concoction to experiment with Champagne, instead of water as called for in the original recipe. Topped with cubes of macerated strawberries, this experiment actually turned out pretty nicely and is an ideal twist for my favorite beverage.
Champagne Parfait (adapted from the Tartine cookbook)
Makes 6 to 8 servings
8 large egg yolks
1½ ounces/ 45 grams granulated sugar
5½ ounces/ 150 ml champagne
2½ cups/ 625 ml heavy whipping cream, cold
¼ teaspoon salt
Prepare a cold water bath in a bowl large enough to contain the mixer bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg yolks on high speed until light colored.
Meanwhile, combine the salt, sugar and champagne in a saucepan and bring to boil, stirring gently to prevent any sugar grains from sticking to the bottom. When the mixture starts to bubble on the surface, take it off the heat and immediately add it in a thin stream to the yolks, pouring between the whisk and the side of the bowl. The heat from the liquid will cook the yolks and increase their volume. Continue to beat for a few more minutes on high after adding the syrup, until the yolk/syrup mixture increases in volume and is thick and pale yellow in appearance. Place the mixer bowl in the cold water bath until cool.
In a separate bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold in the cream into the yolks in 3 or 4 additions until the cream is fully incorporated.
Pour the mixture into serving glasses or into a large container. Cover tightly and freeze, about an hour for the glasses, 2 to 3 hours for a larger container.
1 lb/ 455 grams fresh strawberries, rinsed
1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
At least half an hour before you plan to serve the parfaits, hull and chop the strawberries into ¼-inch cubes and toss them in the sugar. Leave to rest.
Top each parfait with a scoop (or two) of the strawberries and serve.