When it comes to cooking, you tend to stick with flavour combinations you’re familiar with. But, just once and a while, you feel like stepping outside your comfort zone. And that’s what I did with this dish.
When I read this recipe for Salty Vanilla Custard with Palm Sugar Syrup & Pineapple Salad from New Zealand’s Ray McVinnie in Cuisine magazine (September 2014, Issue 166) I was sceptical to say the least. Salted custard? Peppered pineapple? Not exactly something I’d want to hoe into! Still, I thought, this renowned chef must know what he’s talking about so I gave it a go anyway.
I started off with a wee taste of the custard. Not pleasant – I just couldn’t get my mind around the saltiness of it. But then I threw caution to the wind and loaded up my dessert fork with a bit of everything and… bam! Yum! Double yum! Lick-the-plate-of-every-last-vestige kind of yum! It’s a veritable party in your mouth – the salt in the custard plays off against the sweet caramel of the palm sugar, which contrasts strongly with the sharp tang of pineapple. Then you bite into some mint which provides a fresh dose of coolness, just before you notice a warm kick of pepper at the back of your throat. You’re like… ‘wow, that was interesting!’ which doesn’t happen too often with food, does it. And that’s what I loved about this innovative dish – it was genuinely surprising.
I experimented a bit and tried it with both fresh pineapple (as per the original recipe) and with grilled pineapple. I really liked the look of the grilled pineapple which is what I ended up photographing. However, I do think that the fresh pineapple just edges out the grilled pineapple, supplying that extra hit of juice when you bite into it.
I reckon this would be a super dish to try out at the end of a hot summer’s evening after a barbeque. It’s light, super refreshing and, better still, it will have everyone talking!!
SALTY VANILLA CUSTARD WITH PALM SUGAR SYRUP & PINEAPPLE SALAD
Salty Vanilla Custard
- 500 ml cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Large pinch of salt or to taste
- 7 large egg yolks
Palm Sugar Syrup
- 200 g grated dark palm sugar
- 150 ml water
- 1/3 pineapple
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the Salty Vanilla Custard:
- Put the cream into a saucepan and add the vanilla and salt. Bring slowly to scalding point (just before boil). Take off the heat.
- Put the yolks into a heatproof bowl and mix well with a whisk.
- Pour the cream mixture slowly over the yolks (a little to start with to temper the eggs), stirring continuously.
- Place the mixture over a saucepan of barely simmering water and stir until thick (don’t let it get too hot though or it will curdle). Taste and add more salt if necessary. It should just have a slight saltiness to it.
- Remove from the heat, cool and chill completely. Note: you can make the custard the day before serving and leave it in the fridge to chill and firm up.
For the Palm Sugar Syrup:
- Put the sugar and water into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat, strain, cool and chill.
For the Pineapple Salad:
- Cut the pineapple into reasonably thin rings. Cut off the exterior edges then chop the pineapple into small pieces, removing the hard woody core.
- You can grill the pineapple pieces if you like; otherwise keep them fresh.
- Season the pieces of pineapple with ground black pepper.
- Place the pieces of pineapple on flat serving plates. Place mint leaves over the pineapple. Dollop a large spoonful of the custard alongside the pineapple.
- Drizzle over the palm sugar syrup immediately before serving.