mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

The Perfect Flan: In the Kitchen with Manisha

In Desserts, Eggs, Tea Party, Travel on August 29, 2015 at 7:38 pm

At the Garden of the Gods

[Continued from the previous post]
The next morning Andrea graciously offered to drive us through the Garden of the Gods before dropping us off at Jim’s office downtown. Kristin was driving up from Denver to pick us up. She, her husband Paul, Jim, and I, had been classmates at KSU and later Paul and I ended up working together in Denver. Today they own a successful design firm that is doing impressive work in and around Denver. It was so good to note that not only were all of us make a living out of what we had trained to do but also that we loved doing it!

In Denver, Paul and Kristin took us down memory lane, literally. Together we drove to some of the once-familiar places including the little garage-unit at Corona and 11th (it had it’s own fractional address: 1125 1/2!) that had been my home, and the office at Cherokee and 11th. By the time we were through it was too late for a Japanese country-style lunch at Domo’s, which had been a favourite with the office bunch. So we went to Benny’s for Mexican instead – chimichangas and margaritas it was. Later we hung out at the City Center Cultural Complex with quick visits to the Denver Public Library, the Capitol Plaza, and the Denver Art Museum before catching the bus to Louisville from the all-new Union Station.

During the week we made a day trip to Boulder to pay our respects to IM Pei at his magnificent National Center for Atmospheric Sciences, a building that sits so well in its surroundings and looks as modern today as it did in the early 60s when it was built. Storm clouds were looming as we drove away to check out a different view of the Flatirons from the Chautauqua Open Space.

Napolitana and Broccolini

Almost every meal had been planned in advance; there was no time to waste and a lot of ground to cover. One day we went for pho – every bit the satisfying food-bowl it is made out to be. Another afternoon we were at the Farmers Market where we stopped for tea at Dushanbe. Vijay was not so happy with eating out, not just because he’s vegetarian but also because he doesn’t even eat eggs, drink tea or coffee. Eating out turned out pretty bleak for him.

For her birthday brunch Medha picked Lucky Pie Pizza in downtown Louisville. At last restaurant food V could enjoy!🙂 The same evening Ani was scheduled to arrive. While we were away to the airport to pick him, Manisha, Medha, and Medha’s friend prepped for the Big BBQ to inaugurate the giant grill that had been acquired recently. It rained and it poured, but you couldn’t stop Manisha from grilling that night. We had the most awesome barbecued fare with the coals smoldering and the fire going under umbrellas, and the cook and her minions draped in rain-jackets! The burgers were juicy, and there was enough vegetarian fare to please everyone. The grand finale was the flan Medha had requested. It was inverted amidst watchful eyes and cameras. It was as tasty as it looks; the egg-hating, caramel custard-disliking-husband loved every spoonful.

The next day we were back at Paul and Kristin’s for dinner. They were in the middle of moving house so we couldn’t enjoy Paul’s fabulous cooking but the BBQ ribs, brisket, and much else, they had ordered was the perfect all-American dinner. I had taken along some mutsch and naan hoping it wouldn’t be too spicy for them. The last meatball was devoured and the bowl wiped clean with a piece of naan. I was glad I had taken out a few pieces of mutsch for Manisha beforehand! To make up for not having cooked dinner Paul brewed a fantastic cup of chai for all of us. Milk was steeped in generous quantities of spices (cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, peppercorns and ginger) for half an hour to make a cup to remember!

It was so good to catch up with friends who had been family during my four-year stay in the US a long time ago. I hope this reunion charged them up and that they visit me in Delhi soon.

For the flan, Manisha follows Florence Tyler’s recipe which is quite easy. You don’t need a fancy mold, just use a shallow steel dabba like Manisha does. I’ve made caramel many times but the full portent of her constant refrains about how cooking at higher altitudes is a different ball game became clear as I watched her determinedly swirl the caramelising sugar that I was sure was going to soon crystallise.

the flan (20)

Tyler Florence’s Flan

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 cups heavy cream
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
Pinch salt

Melt one cup of sugar with two tablespoons of water in a heavy-bottomed pan at medium-high heat. Let it simmer, tilting the pan to swirl the bubbling contents till the caramel is a rich gold-brown. Resist the temptation to stir with a spoon. Remove from heat, add lemon juice, swirl to combine, and pour into the flan mold. Tilt the mold so that the caramel coats the bottom and a little up the sides as well.

Preheat oven to 325 F with a rack in the middle. Put water to boil in a kettle.

In a heavy-bottomed pan gently simmer the heavy cream with cinnamon and vanilla for a few minutes without allowing it to boil. In another bowl cream together the eggs, yolks, and the remaining half cup of sugar. Add a pinch of salt and whisk till pale and thick. Temper the egg mixture with a little of the hot cream and whisk. Gradually mix in the rest of the cream in a slow steady stream, whisking all the time. [My slow was too fast and I was cautioned to do this s-l-o-w-l-y.]  If you rushed it and didn’t do a good job, strain the mix through a sieve to remove any curdled bits. You will note that Manisha was perfection itself and poured the mixture straight into the caramel-coated mold.

Position the mold inside a deep pan, and carefully pour hot water into the outer pan such that it comes half way up the mold. Place both in the rack in the oven. Bake for 30-45 minutes till the custard is slightly set and still jiggly. Let it cool in the water bath. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Before serving, run a knife around the edge to loosen the flan, place a plate over the mold, say a little prayer, and invert it over. There you have it – your beautiful flan with caramel sauce. Garnish with a sprig of mint if you like.

Happy Raksha Bandhan to all of you, dear Readers!

  1. Beautiful flan! I’m impressed… but I have two questions for Manisha: 1) How does that candle stay perched upon the edge of the plate? 2) Is that the very-same spriglet of spearmint that, quite recently, I saw gracing a glassful of iced, booze-optional tea? and 3) Nice tea-house pinkie!🙂

    Anita- your mutsch never fails to impress! But I still can’t attain the correct, smooth-sided shape- even after watching the little video-clip… you are The Goddess.

    I think I put the candle there…
    You noted the pinkie! We went to great length to pose and to photograph the propah way to sip tea! You have the eye!

    About the mutsch – I’ve trained under the best! I’ll ought to organise a workshop!😉

    • Noseycano, I see three numbered bullets. Were you going for a ask two, get a free wildcard?

      Well. 1) it was my idea but D performed the magic. If you knew a little bit about physics and chemistry, you could do it, too! Don’t give up! 2) hush now! Don’t be giving away all my secrets! That mint sprig will be pulled out when you visit, too! 3) Why, thank you, kind sir!

      I was in mutsch amazement as I watch The Goddess herself squeeze spiced ground turkey into those — erm, shapes. Vijay was not shy to speak his mind about that geometry. Ani chimed in with his views which ran parallel to his father’s. A chip off the old block.

      But, #3 is not a question!

      I don’t need to fix something that ain’t broke! Whatever people may say about the shape! I’m sure Ani wouldn’t have it any other way!

    • Uh no. The candle was not your doing! It was my idea, you tried, D succeeded! 😹

      You win!🙂

  2. You’ve already lost track of time! I don’t have my list to refer to anymore but even I know that your reunion was the day after Medha’s birthday (also, the night that Ani arrived). You should have joined us out in the rain! It was so much fun, ratty patio umbrella and all!

    My kitchen looks like there was an explosion! Remind me to have my back turned the other way next time, so that these terrible sights are not shared with the world!

    Where to next?! Let’s see if you get it right!😉

    Read carefully, o friend – the reunion is mentioned after M’s birthday! The first visit to Denver, however, was before Ani arrived! Organising the photographs by ‘date taken’ ensures I don’t have to rely on memory alone!

    I helped ferry food and drink between the wet patio and dry kitchen! Not to mention moving drinks and taking pictures to record it all!

    You kitchen is happy and efficient made pretty with the most beautiful pots and pans!

    • I hate to nitpick (ooh! I lie!) but “a few days later” does not mean a few days after your last tryst. It means a few days after the last event you related, which in this case was Ms M’s birthday! Thank god for “date taken” and location on IG and FB posts!

      My turn to say “read carefully!” I said “ask two, get a free wildcard” 😜

      Oh, but we did meet after M’s birthday!😀 On Friday, with Ani, when M and D were away to Winter Park already! Not a few days later, but still the day after!

      PS: Edited to reflect the correct sequence in time. [Picky, picky.]

      • That’s exactly what I was saying. The day after; not “A few days later”. A good editor would have changed that to “The next day” #nowigiveup

        Fixed, m’dam!😀

  3. You write beautifully !! I thoroughly enjoy your camaraderie with Manisha,and have a good laugh reading Manisha’s witty comments on your Instagram posts.

    All that Madness used to be here but with all this fancy social media platforms, has moved to FB and Instagram now! I had to open accounts on those just so that I could continue to provide her opportunities where she wanted them! I’m doing that rather well on IG!😉

  4. Say a little prayer and invert – I do this every time I make something that needs inversion. Mostly every time I cook something!🙂 Enjoyed reading your posts and glad you had the chance to take a good amount of time off.

    😀 You should have done it for that plum buckle!

    Yes, it was a fabulous vacation.

  5. lovely !!! waiting for more
    🙂 More coming your way, Chandrima!

  6. I, like your husband, don’t enjoy eating out in US. I am not vegetarian and basically up for any well made food. But the quality of what’s out there, is the worst of any country I’ve been to. I still enjoy few Ethiopian joints. Besides that, very hard to find anything decent to eat out in the US. I am not complaining about this though, it makes me eat much healthier, tastier food at home and save money too. 🙂

    We were luckier with Mexican and Italian, lots of flavourful vegetarian options in these cuisines! Many restaurants were happy to replace eggs with tofu in some dishes and that helped. But if you love meat, then there is lots to taste and enjoy in the US – I loved the burgers and deli meats!

    • Hmm…. yes, remembering a hole in the wall Mexican place I once enjoyed. But it’s been hard to find a good burger lately (where a frozen beef pattie is not thrown on the grill), here in the US. Maybe I am pickier/different than the rest. US is a big country, so maybe in all my travels I haven’t chanced the right places.

      With all the slow-food movement they still freeze the meat patty?! Bad people. Come to think of it, I ate a burger just once in my six weeks there; at a restaurant, that is. We didn’t need to – Manisha here, made lovely burgers for us on her new monster bbq grill! 😉

  7. […] was flying. Mornings would roll easy in endless cups of tea. We cooked together a little bit: the flan, and some mutsch, and drank more tea in between, including a tisane made with wild roses and […]

  8. This looks divine. And I might try it this weekend. I have a question though–increasingly I am thinking is it better to weigh eggs and use accordingly. As in one large egg (U.S.) seems larger than its Indian counterpart. Any thoughts? does it matter for a flan?

    Enjoy–as I am sure you are doing.

    You’re right, A, eggs do vary in size a lot and ours tend to be quite small. You could weigh (check for measurements online for American A-grade eggs) and use if you have a kitchen scale or add one more to the recipe. I would think it would impact the texture a little. Let me know the result so that I’m informed before I attempt the recipe!

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