Forgive me for the silence these few weeks. Setting this up has consumed all my time, even with the help of those web wizards over at liveBooks, without whom I’d still be knee-deep in the wonderful world of CSS, HTML and figuring out my FTP server. Looking at the final product now sends shivers down my spine.
This is a project I’ve wanted to embark on for the longest time, an aspiration that came with picking up my first camera while writing my thesis on place and identity in Singapore. Over time, that aspiration stayed just that: a dream, a project to be filed away somewhere between the “One fine day” and “If only” categories of things to do. I had an infinite number of practical justifications to keep it there – a lack of time, contacts and money – all of which easily rationalized my passion for photography as a mere hobby, the occasional indulgence for weekends and vacations.
Nine years on, each of these previously “compelling” obstacles have slowly vanished, leaving me with the headily exciting option of silencing my doubts and turning this aspiration into a reality.
Am I happy? Oh yes. Nervous? You can’t begin to imagine. But what’s life without a little bit of daredevil risk-taking in the pursuit of our passions, yes? I’ll let you know my answer to that in a year.
In the spirit of new adventures, I picked up a bag of golden Calamansi limes when they appeared at our Farmers’ Market a few weeks ago. I had a vague idea about compotes, marmalades or even a curd, but in my excitement to see these round orbs, my modus operandi was to “Buy First, Think Later”.
With a bunch of lemongrass sitting in the fridge, I decided to pair the two ingredients in a tropical-influenced dessert, largely thanks to the mouth-watering recipes in Gourmet Traveller‘s latest Annual Cookbook. (Aside: Have you seen this thing? It’s food photography on steroids, overflowing with imaginative recipes and drop-dead gorgeous photos. And don’t get me started on the props…)
The lemongrass went into a flan while I candied the limes, inspired by what Helen did with kumquats, and finished it off with a sprinkling of crushed pistachios for a contrast of textures: the soft flan with sticky Calamansi and bites of pistachio.
Overall, the flavors went well together – I especially loved pairing the flan and pistachios, which combined to produce earthy notes of Truffle (?!) on the palate. The candied limes had a mellow spice that cut through the richness of the custard perfectly, although it had a bitter aftertaste, probably coming from the pith of the fruit. While candying the whole fruit is the easier route, I’d take the extra step to remove and discard its pith the next time I make this, leaving behind only the fruit and its skin. Give this a go and let me know what you think!
For the Flan:
2 cups/ 500 ml milk
1 cup/ 250 ml heavy whipping cream
1 lemongrass, roughly chopped and smashed into a pulp, wrapped in a cheesecloth or tea bag
2 egg yolks
¼ cup/ 55 grams granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 325F/ 170C.
Pour the milk and cream in a saucepan, add the lemongrass and stir over low heat until bubbles start to form at the edges. Take the pan off heat and leave to steep for 10 minutes.
Whisk the eggs and yolks in a large bowl, then add the sugar and whisk to dissolve. Pour the milk/cream mixture over the eggs and sugar, whisking to combine.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and divide into four 250ml/ 8 fl oz-capacity ovenproof dishes.
Set a kettle of water to boil. When the water is about to be ready, place the custard-filled dishes in a large roasting pan and fill the pan with boiling water until it comes halfway up the side of the dishes.
Place the pan in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 30 minutes, until the custard is just set but still wobbly in the center. Remove dishes from the pan and leave to cool completely before serving.
For the Calamansi:
¾ lbs/ 375 grams fresh calamansi, washed, quartered and pips removed
1 cup/ 250 ml water, room temperature
2 cups/ 200 grams granulated sugar (I used cane sugar)
Bring the water and sugar to boil in a small saucepan, then add the quartered limes and turn the heat to low. Leave the mixture to simmer for about 45 minutes, until the skins turn translucent and the liquid thickens. Remove from heat and cool until ready to use.
2 ounces/ 60 grams crushed pistachios
Drizzle two teaspoonfuls of candied Calamansi over each flan, sprinkle the pistachios and serve immediately.