A cunning plan

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Of all the places in the world, I never imagined I’d be writing a post from a cricket Test match at the Basin Reserve.

For those who don’t know what cricket is, I am tempted to say “lucky you”. In short, it’s a sport that lasts in its quickest form around three hours and in its longest, up to five days. By its nature it lends itself to stats, so is the ultimate in activities for train spotters. For example, people (everyday punters) travel the world taking ball by ball scores in massive books that must go close to taking up ones entire inflight weight allowance. But, I digress.

If you are going to watch cricket, the Basin is the place to do it. A compact ground, which doubles as a roundabout (even featuring on a great roundabouts of the world calendar (August)), it offers a relaxed atmosphere close to the action. Test weekend days are full of families, boys on a blokes weekend away and boffins existing side by side good-naturedly. Kids and no-so young invade the ground to play on the hallowed turf at the lunch break. On a fine day, the Basin is the place to be. On a notorious Wellington windy day, the Basin is not the place to be!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate cricket. It’s just that it is a long game as a spectator, especially if concentration is not a strong point. Plus, with Master Three having taken an unnatural interest in the sport, I have a feeling that I have many years on the boundary ahead. Already, he sleeps with his bat and has an unusually long attention span for playing the game (all day if allowed).

Don’t worry, I do have a cunning plan for self-preservation. I will not learn to score the game. Once you do this, I’m reliably assured that it becomes years of having to watch every ball. No chatting, no magazine reading, no nipping off for a coffee – it’s focus, focus, focus. Not my strong suit.

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So, here I am sitting on the embankment at The Basin. Watching kids get autographs from boundary fielders and explaining to my son why he can’t go back on the field while knowing he is eyeing the picket fence with a view to leaping over it. I can see it now on national news, first pitch invasion by a three-year-old.

New Zealand are fielding and falling behind the visiting Indians. What better time to get a blog written I say.

In keeping with the theme of the week, cricketing friends were around for a meal a few nights ago. I did the tapas thing, which is as fun to prepare as it is to eat. Dessert one was a recipe I’ve had some problems with in the past. Creme brulee. You’d think it’d be hard to go wrong with a few eggs, a bit of sugar and cream. Well, it’s not. I’ve had many a disaster, with split or runny outcomes. However, I think I may have finally nailed it.

Every recipe’s ingredients are almost the same, it’s the method, oven temperature and time that can vary. This one works for me. It is based, with modifications, on the lovely Rachel Khoo’s recipe from Little Paris Kitchen (my book of the month).

Most brulee recipes call for vanilla bean. While there’s nothing more intense than vanilla bean, it can get expensive and I find a good paste works well.

What you need (to make 6 mini brulees, in 6cm diameter ramekins – easy to double or triple for larger quanities)

200ml cream

50ml milk (I use blue top – non-trim)

1 tsp vanilla paste

3 egg yolks (at room temperature)

50g caster sugar

Additional caster sugar

To make it

Heat oven to 150C.

Place six small ramekins in a small baking dish that fits the ramekins so that they don’t touch each other (I use a rectangular slice tin).

Combine the cream, milk and vanilla in a small saucepan and put on stove top over low heat.

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When the cream is about to come to the boil, take off the heat and leave for about five minutes.

While waiting, lightly beat the egg yolks and caster sugar together – I use a whisk.

Pour a little of the hot cream into the egg and mix. Then, slowly, pour all of the cream into the eggs, stirring. You want to do this carefully so you don’t scramble the egg. Don’t beat as you do not want loads of bubbles.

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I then strain the mixture into a measuring jug as this catches any bits of egg that may have cooked.

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Pour the custard into the ramekins. Fill the baking dish with cold water until the water comes half way up the sides of the ramekins.

Carefully put the dish into the centre of the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes. The custard is ready when it has set around the outside and is slightly wobbly in the centre.

20140214_131804Remove the dish from the oven and lift the ramekins from it, setting them aside to cool. When completely cold, cover and store in the fridge. I usually put them in a Tupperware container. Refrigerate for at least four hours.

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To serve, remove from the fridge. Lightly sprinkle about 3/4 tsp of caster sugar over the top and use a brulee torch to caramalise the top – this is the burning or ‘brulee’ part of the recipe. For an extra crunchy top, repeat the sugar/torching process. If you don’t have a brulee torch, you can do this quickly under the grill.

20140216_100730Serve immediately.

This is not a dish to include in the cricket picnic basket. It doesn’t travel well (and your torch may get confiscated at the entry gate). A bit like me really – I’m unlikely to travel anywhere for the next 15 summers if the young all-rounder in the house continues on his quest!

Back to the brulee, it does last a few days in the fridge (pre the burning bit). In our house though, the spares never last too long. You can vary flavours. I quite like infusing orange rind in the cream and then sitting the combined mixture in the fridge for a few hours  before straining the rind out.

As for the cricket. It’s Day Three today and Master Three will be spending some quality time there with his Dad at lunch time, while mama cooks. Win-win I say.

2 thoughts on “A cunning plan

  1. Great move by cricket officals to allow children to eat creme brulee for lunch on the Basin Reserve. Also, can confirm that this particular creme brulee was in fact ‘nailed’ (along with the rest of the tapas thing). Go Master Three! (although probably best to stay on the spectators’ side of the picket fence when the game is on!).

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