Refrigeration time: 6 hours or overnight, plus 2 hours on day of serving
For the custard
butter, for greasing
4 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), yolks only
40g (1½ oz) caster sugar/white sugar (3 tbsp)
½ tsp vanilla extract
300ml (10 fl oz) single/half and half cream (1¼ cups)
300ml (10 fl oz) double/whipping or heavy cream (1¼ cups)
For the topping
4–6 tbsp golden caster/white sugar, if using a chef’s blowtorch
100g (3½ oz) caster sugar/white sugar (½ cup), if not using a chef’s blowtorch
You will also need 6 x 150ml (5 fl oz) (⅔ cup) heatproof ramekins
For the custard
Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F) gas 3.
Lightly grease ramekins with butter and put to one side.
Boil a kettle of water. Meanwhile, line a deep-sided ovenproof dish or small roasting tin/pan with a layer of kitchen paper and sit the six ramekins on the paper (the paper prevents the ramekins from slipping).
Next pour both creams into a pan and heat until scalding. Remove from the heat and cool a little.
While the cream is cooling, put the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract into a large bowl and whisk to combine.
Then gradually pour the cream into the bowl, while whisking at the same time, until the cream is blended into the egg mixture. Strain the custard into a jug and then divide between the six ramekins.
Carefully pour enough of the boiling water into the ovenproof dish or roasting tin/pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes as the custard still needs to have a slight wobble to it. Remove the dish from the oven and leave the ramekins in the water until the water has cooled.
Now take the ramekin dishes out of the water, cover them and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
For the topping, using a chef’s blowtorch
Sprinkle 2–3 teaspoons of sugar evenly over the custard in each ramekin. The sugar needs to cover the custard completely.
Caramelize the sugar under a direct flame.
Leave to cool and then refrigerate for two hours before serving.
For the topping, without using a chef’s blowtorch
First, have a piece of parchment paper ready on the counter top. Next, put the sugar in a stainless steel pan and add just enough water to dampen the sugar. Place over a low heat and stir the sugar until completely dissolved. Then increase the heat to medium–high. Without stirring, leave the sugar to bubble fiercely. When the bubbling lessens and the sugar has turned a pale straw colour, it will be ready. Carefully, pour the caramel onto the paper (it will be extremely hot) and leave it to become cold.
Now turn on the grill/broiler to high and leave for 5 minutes to become really hot.
The caramel will have hardened on cooling. Break it into small pieces and blitz in a food processor or blender until there are really fine granules (finer than caster sugar). Sprinkle evenly over the custard in each ramekin, right to the edge, so that the custard is completely covered.
Put the ramekins on a baking tray and place under the heat source as close as possible. Cook for less than a minute, not letting the sugar burn. The heat just needs to melt the sugar.
Leave to cool and then refrigerate for two hours before serving.
For that time when you need something quick and simple to prepare, this British favourite fits the bill. A gammon steak, topped with a soft poached egg, and roasted baby potatoes instead of fries, makes for a very enjoyable meal.
Wash the potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic cloves, and seasoning. Toss together to coat the potatoes.
Tip into a small roasting tin/pan and roast for 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender, turning a couple of times to make sure they brown evenly.
Preheat the grill/broiler.
Remove any rind from the gammon steaks, then brush with the remaining olive oil. Grill/broil for 3 minutes on each side until they are starting to brown and are crisping at the edges.
While cooking the gammon, also cook the eggs. Pour some boiling water into a non-stick frying pan/skillet to a depth of 2.5–3.75cm (1–1½ inches). Gently heat the water so that it produces just a trace of tiny bubbles over the base of the pan. Next stir the white wine vinegar into the water, which will prevent the whites from spreading as they cook.
Now, holding the cracked eggs as near as possible above the water, slip them gently into the water and cook for exactly 1 minute to let the eggs settle.
Cook for a further 3 minutes, occasionally basting the top of the eggs with the water.
Once the eggs are cooked, lift them out of the water with a flat slotted spoon, resting the spoon on a sheet of kitchen paper to absorb any water before slipping the egg off the spoon onto the top of a gammon steak.
Put the potatoes in a large pan of cold salted water, bring to the boil, and cook for 20 minutes, until tender.
Add the eggs during the last 10 minutes (saves on another pan!). Once the eggs are ready, remove from the pan and run them under cold water. (This will prevent a dark rim forming round the yolk while they are cooling.)
Drain and mash the potatoes with 28g (1 oz) (⅛ cup, or ¼ stick) of the butter and a little milk, until creamy. Set aside.
Next, melt the rest of the butter in a pan and, once foaming, tip the pan and quickly add the flour. Stir to form a smooth paste and cook over a low heat for 2 minutes. Warm the milk (a microwave makes this quick) and gradually stir into the roux until smooth. Stir in the wine. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and gently cook for 5–10 minutes until the sauce is very thick, stirring constantly. (The sauce needs to be very thick because once the fish is added and cooks in the sauce, its juices will thin it.) Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and a good grating of nutmeg.
Now cut the fish into bite-sized chunks and mix into the sauce with the spinach. Spoon into the ovenproof dish.
Peel the eggs, carefully cut into quarters and scatter them evenly over the top of the fish.
Cover with the mashed potato and sprinkle with the cheese.
Cover the dish with foil and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil then cook for a further 10–15 minutes until the top is golden and the sauce is bubbling around the edges.
Looking for a quick and easy supper from cupboard staples? Then here’s a tasty Tuna and Egg Pasta dish. Penne and a couple of cans of tuna are folded into a cheese sauce and topped with egg and crunchy buttered breadcrumbs.
1.14 litre (2 pint) (6 cup capacity) ovenproof dish
Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F) (gas 6)
Cook penne and onion together in a pan of boiling salted water for as long as directed on the packet of pasta. Drain and set aside.
Melt 55g (2 oz) (¼ cup, or ½ stick) of the butter in a pan, stir in the flour until smooth and cook over a low heat for 1 minute.
While leaving the roux to cook, warm the milk. (The easiest way is to microwave on high power for one minute.) Then gradually blend into the roux, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth. Bring to the boil, stirring, until thickened.
Next add the cheese and seasoning, and stir until the cheese has melted.
Stir through the penne and onion, then gently mix in the tuna, breaking up any large clumps. Spoon into the ovenproof dish.
Next, shell the eggs and cut into quarters. Arrange over the top of the pasta and gently press down.
Finally, melt the remaining butter in a pan and fry the breadcrumbs until crisp. Scatter over the pasta.
Bake in the oven for 20–30 minutes until bubbling around the edges and browning on the top.
200ml/7½ fl oz semi-skimmed milk mixed with 75 ml/2½ fl oz water
50g/2 oz butter
Caster sugar/fine white sugar
1 lemon, halved
A 25.5cm/10 inch heavy gauge aluminium frying pan
Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Using an electric whisk or a balloon whisk, whisk the eggs into the flour gradually adding the milk and incorporating the flour from around the edge of the bowl. Scrape any remaining flour down from around the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and whisk again until all the mixture is smooth. It should be the consistency of thin cream. Set aside for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 and place five plates in the oven to warm.
Melt the butter in the pan. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the butter into the batter and whisk it in. Pour the remainder into a small bowl and reserve it to smear the pan between cooking each crêpe using a wodge of kitchen paper.
Get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to a medium setting.
Use about 3 tablespoons of batter for each pancake. It is easier to measure this into a ladle or measuring cup first and use this to tip the batter into the pan in one go. Using the ladle or cup, pour the batter quickly into the centre of the pan at the same time tipping it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated. If there are any holes, just fill them in with the batter using a teaspoon. It should take less than a minute to for the underside to turn golden. Check by lifting the edge with a palette knife.
Flip the pancake over with the palette knife and cook the other side until golden. This side will need less time to cook. Then slide it out of the pan onto a warmed plate.
Continue until all the batter is used. Overlap the pancakes on the warmed plate as you go, keeping them warm in the oven covered loosely with foil.
Serve with some juice of the lemon squeezed over the pancake and a generous sprinkling of sugar. They can then be rolled or folded into quarters.