Vanilla crème brûlée by Tom Kerridge

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Vanilla crème brûlée is one of those classic desserts that everyone knows about and loves. And it’s been on the menu at The Hand & Flowers right from the very start. As far as I’m concerned, the key to a properly perfect brûlée is to have three distinct flavours that you taste – vanilla, eggs and caramel – so that it’s not just a sweet, creamy dessert. And I’ve got Alex Bentley to thank for teaching me that. This is 100% the brûlée recipe I was cooking as a young chef at Monsieur Max, where he was head chef. I think Alex was given or inherited the recipe from Max Renzland, the restaurant’s chef-patron. Apparently, it was an old Elizabeth David recipe; she must have learnt it during her travels in France, so goodness knows how old it really is.

Until Alex taught this recipe to me, most crème brûlée recipes I’d come across were sweet and made only with egg yolks. This one uses whole eggs and just a small amount of sugar. It was a game changer for me. I suddenly knew how to make a magical crème brûlée. The technique that really brings the dessert to life is its caramelisation on top. Instead of just melting the sugar, Alex taught me to caramelise it really heavily. At Monsieur Max, customers sometimes complained that the sugar was burnt, but that’s the whole point. It’s supposed to be; the caramelisation makes it taste toasty and nutty. You end up with a smooth, vanilla dessert that’s creamy with a bittersweet crunchy topping.

We match it at The Hand & Flowers with an Innis & Gunn craft beer rather than a dessert wine. The beer’s aged in old whiskey barrels so it has this really rich toffee, creamy flavour, which harmonises beautifully with the
crème brûlée.

serves 6

750ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
4 medium free-range eggs
30g caster sugar

Put the cream and vanilla pod into a heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until smoothly blended. Bring the vanilla-infused cream back to the boil, then slowly pour onto the beaten egg mixture, whisking as you do so to combine.

Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, over a medium-low heat until the custard thickens and reaches 88°C (check the temperature with a digital probe). Immediately remove from the heat and pass through a fine chinois into a clean bowl.

Press a layer of cling film onto the surface to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool for 20 minutes or until the custard is at room temperature. Pour the custard into a high-powered jug blender (Vitamix) and blitz for 30 seconds; this will lighten it slightly.

Now pour the custard into crème brûlée dishes or ramekins, dividing it equally (about 125ml per dish). Cover each dish with cling film, leaving a small gap on one side, to allow any moisture to evaporate. Stand the dishes on a tray and place in the fridge to set; this will take about 3 hours.

Caramel glaze
200g demerara sugar

When ready to serve, sprinkle a generous, even layer of demerara sugar over the surface of each set custard. Wipe the edge of the dish with a clean cloth.
Using a cook’s blowtorch, caramelise the sugar, starting from the edges and working towards the centre. Take the caramel to a dark brown – this dish is all about  balancing the rich creamy egg custard with the slightly bitter caramel flavour.
Leave to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Cook more from this book
Smoked haddock omelette
Slow cooked duck

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The Hand & Flowers Cookbook
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Slow cooked duck by Tom Kerridge

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We already had a great little business, but Great British Menu became one of the most pivotal moments in the pub’s history. The programme is very special: it shines the spotlight on quality British produce and showcases food and restaurants around the UK, which is brilliant because that underlines that our world isn’t just about London and the Southeast.

To get to the final, you compete in ‘heats’, and in 2010, my cook-off location was Waddesdon Manor, which is near Aylesbury. So, to me, the obvious thing to cook was something with Aylesbury duck. These ducks taste amazing and they’re from a small-scale producer – everything Great British Menu is about. Since an important part of our Hand & Flowers menu includes chips on the side (we’re a pub, after all), I decided to make the ultimate chips, cooked in duck fat.

I needed peas, too. So, I went down the route of petits pois à la française, except, instead of using bacon, which you’d normally do, I used crisp-fried duck leg confit. And then I finished the dish with a gravy that uses honey from the Waddesdon estate.

It all added up to a winner. I remember one Saturday night after the banquet was televised, we did 84 covers and served 78 portions of duck in one sitting. The success of this dish has been extraordinary.

serves 4

To prepare the duck
2 large Aylesbury ducks, about 2kg each
3 tsp ground mace

Remove the legs and wings from the ducks and take out the wishbone (reserve for the faggots, gravy etc., see right and overleaf). Remove the excess fat and skin, placing it all in a frying pan. Now carefully cut away the backbone; you should be left with the crown.

Place the pan of fat and skin over a low heat to render the fat out. Set aside for later use. Score the skin on the duck crowns and rub in the mace. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium high heat. Add the duck crowns and sear on all sides for 5–10 minutes to render the fat and give the skin a good golden colour. Remove the
duck crowns from the pan and allow to cool.

Put each duck crown into a large vacuum-pack bag and vacuum-seal on full pressure. Immerse in a water-bath at 62°C and cook for 1½ hours. Lift out the vacuum-pack bags and remove the ducks. Carefully cut the breasts from the crowns. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Duck gravy
500g duck bones and wings, chopped
A little vegetable oil for cooking
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into 3cm pieces
4 celery sticks, cut into 3cm pieces
1 onion, peeled and diced into 3cm pieces
1 garlic bulb, cut across in half, through the equator
150g runny honey
4 cloves
2 litres chicken stock (see page 400)
50ml soy sauce
About 500g unsalted butter
Lemon juice, to taste (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 205°C/Fan185°C/Gas 6–7. Put the chopped duck bones and wings into a roasting tray and roast in the oven for about 25–30 minutes until golden brown and caramelised.

Heat a little oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the chopped carrots and colour until darkly caramelised. Add the celery, onion and garlic and similarly colour until well browned.

Remove the duck bones and wings from the roasting tray and add them to the saucepan. Drain off the excess fat from the roasting tray, then add the honey and cloves to the tray. Place over a medium heat and take the honey to a dark golden caramel. Add a splash of the chicken stock and the soy sauce to deglaze the tray, stirring to scrape up the sediment.

Add the liquor to the duck bones and vegetables. Pour in the rest of the chicken stock and reduce down by half, to 1 litre. Pass the liquor through a muslin lined sieve into a clean pan and skim off any excess fat from the surface. Add 250g butter to every 500ml duck liquor and reduce down until it has emulsified into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add a little lemon juice if required. Set aside for serving.

Duck faggots
250g minced duck leg (skin on)
50g minced chicken liver
50g breadcrumbs
1 medium free-range egg
5g salt
2g cracked black pepper
100g caul fat, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes

Put all the faggot ingredients into a bowl and mix well until evenly combined. Divide and shape the mixture into 50g balls. Wrap each one in caul fat to enclose. Steam the duck faggots at 100°C for 20 minutes. Remove from the steamer and allow to cool, then chill until needed. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 205°C/Fan 185°C/Gas 6–7.  Place the faggots on a baking tray and bake for 8 minutes. Hold the faggots in the duck gravy until ready to plate up.

Duck legs & peas
2 duck legs
1 star anise
½ cinnamon stick
10 black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp rock salt
2 bay leaves
About 300ml duck fat
500g freshly podded peas
4 tbsp runny honey
A little vegetable oil for cooking
2 large banana shallots, peeled and finely diced
100ml chicken stock
2 Gem lettuces, finely sliced
20 small mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 150°C/Fan 130°C/ Gas 2. Put the duck legs into a large ovenproof pan or flameproof casserole. Tie the spices together in a muslin bag and add them to the pan with the rock salt and bay leaves. Pour on enough duck fat to cover and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 3½ hours or until the duck legs are soft. Leave them to cool in the duck fat. Once cooled, remove from the fat and place in the fridge. Meanwhile, add the peas to a pan of boiling salted water, bring back to the boil and blanch for no longer than 1 minute. Immediately drain and refresh in iced water. Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 205°C/Fan 185°C/Gas 6–7. Place an ovenproof heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the duck legs, skin side down, and place in the oven for 10–12 minutes to crisp up. Remove the duck legs to a plate and add the honey to the pan. Allow to caramelise, then pour over the duck legs and allow to cool. When ready to serve, heat a little oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and sweat for 10–15 minutes until softened. Add the peas and stock and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, flake the duck leg. Stir the duck meat into the peas with the lettuce and mint. Divide between 4 small serving pots.

Duck fat chips
15 large potatoes for chipping
2.5 litres duck fat for deep-frying

Cut a slice from the top and bottom of each potato, then press an apple corer through from top to bottom to make round cylinder chips. Put the cut chips into a colander under cold running water to wash off some of the starches. Now add the chips to a pan of boiling salted water, bring back to a simmer and poach for about 10 minutes until just soft, but still holding their shape. Drain on a perforated tray and leave
to cool.

Heat the duck fat in a deep-fryer to 140°C. Lower the chips into the hot fat in a wire basket and deep-fry for 8–10 minutes until the oil stops bubbling. Remove the chips from the fryer, drain and leave to cool. Set aside until needed. When ready to serve, heat the duck fat to 180°C and deep-fry the chips for about 6–7 minutes until golden
and crispy. Remove, drain on kitchen paper and season with salt.

To serve
2 tbsp runny honey
50g unsalted butter
Pea shoots, to garnish

Just before serving, preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6. Heat a little oil in a heavy-based ovenproof frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the duck breasts, skin side down, and fry for 3–4 minutes to crisp up the skin, then place in the oven for 4–5 minutes to heat through. Pour off any excess fat from the pan, then add the honey and butter and turn the duck around in the pan to coat in the honey glaze.
Remove the duck breasts to a warmed plate and rest in a warm place. Increase the heat under the pan to caramelise the honey glaze then pour it over the duck breasts.
Serve the duck breasts with the duck legs and peas, duck faggots, gravy and chips. Finish with a garnish of pea shoots.

Cook more from this book
Smoked haddock omelette
Vanilla crème brûlée

Buy this book
The Hand & Flowers Cookbook
£40, Bloomsbury Absolute

Read the review
Coming soon

Smoked haddock omelette by Tom Kerridge

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A delicate, beautiful omelette is one of those pure dishes that makes you realise great food does not have to be about hundreds of ingredients on a plate. It’s about allowing a simple product to sing. I learnt that lesson back in the day when I worked for Gary Rhodes and we used to do a lobster omelette which showcased the chef ’s technique rather than putting a load of fancy things on the plate.

This smoked haddock omelette, which has been on The Hand & Flowers menu pretty much since we opened, started off as a lobster one. But I took a sharp, commercial learning curve early on. Starting out, of course, we had no accolades and were relatively unknown, so there was no reason for customers to spend what, at the time, was the equivalent of £30 or £35 on an omelette, even if it had lobster in it!

I still loved the idea of an omelette, so we tried an omelette Arnold Bennett (a fluffy open omelette created at The Savoy in the 1920s for the novelist, playwright and critic). Most people didn’t know who Arnold Bennett was, so we just called it ‘smoked haddock omelette with Parmesan’ and after a first couple of bumpy weeks it became one of our most popular dishes.

There is no reason why this dish should ever change. I can’t improve it. The flavour profile of the humble omelette is heightened with gently poached smoked haddock, a brilliant glaze made from hollandaise sauce and a béchamel sauce flavoured with the fish poaching liquor. So, even the glaze has got that lovely smoked taste, which really drives the flavour.

Actually, this omelette is probably my favourite dish on the menu. I am very pleased to say the lobster version has reappeared at Kerridge’s Bar & Grill in London some 14 or 15 years down the line, and has gone on to become one of our most Instagrammed dishes. Thank you Gary Rhodes…

serves 4

Poached smoked haddock
1 side of smoked haddock, 600g,
skin and pin bones removed
600ml whole milk

Check the smoked haddock for any tiny pin bones. Bring the milk to the boil in a wide-based saucepan. Carefully lay the smoked haddock in the pan, ensuring it is covered by the milk. Place a lid on the pan, turn off the heat and leave the fish to poach in the residual heat for about 10 minutes. Once the haddock is cooked, remove it from the milk and gently flake the fish into a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cover the tray with cling film and place in the fridge until ready to serve.
Pass the milk through a fine chinois into a clean saucepan and keep to one side.

Smoked fish béchamel
250ml smoked haddock poaching
liquor (see left)
15g unsalted butter
15g plain flour
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring the smoked haddock poaching liquor to a gentle simmer. In a separate pan over a medium-low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the flour to make a roux and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually ladle in the warm poaching liquor, stirring as you do so to keep the sauce smooth. Cook gently over a very low heat for 20 minutes. Pass the sauce through a fine chinois and cover the surface with a piece of baking parchment or cling film to prevent a skin forming. Set aside until needed. (You won’t need all of the fish béchamel but you can freeze the rest.)

Omelette glaze
4 tbsp warm smoked haddock
béchamel (see left)
4 tbsp hollandaise sauce
(see page 403)
4 medium free-range egg yolks
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Gently warm the béchamel in a saucepan then pour into a bowl and whisk in the hollandaise and egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pass through a chinois into a warm jug or bowl. Keep warm to stop the glaze from splitting.

To assemble & cook the omelette
12 medium free-range eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter
100g aged Parmesan, finely grated
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Crack the eggs into a jug blender and blend briefly to combine. Pass through a chinois into a measuring jug. Place 4 individual omelette pans (we use Staub) over a low heat. Take the smoked haddock from the fridge, remove the cling film and lay on a grill tray. Warm under the salamander or grill. To each omelette pan, add 1 tbsp butter and heat until melted and foaming. Pour the blended egg into the pans, dividing it equally. Using a spatula, gently move the egg around in the pans until they start to firm up. Remove from the heat; you want the eggs to be slightly loose, as they will continue to cook off the heat.

Season the omelettes with salt and pepper and sprinkle the grated Parmesan over their surfaces. Divide the flaked smoked haddock between the omelettes, then spoon on the glaze to cover the fish and extend to the edge of the pans. If the glaze spills over the side of the pan, wipe it away, as this will burn on the side when  blowtorching. To finish, wave a cook’s blowtorch over the surface of the omelettes to caramelise the glaze. Allow the glaze to become quite dark, as the bitterness will balance out the richness of all the other ingredients.

Cook more from this book
Slow cooked duck
Vanilla crème brûlée

Buy this book
The Hand & Flowers Cookbook
£40, Bloomsbury Absolute

Read the review
Coming soon