Like a signature fragrance, I believe in having a signature dessert. Something you can rely on to impress a crowd, delight your family or wow a date with. This isn’t an archaeic idea, because both men and women should be able to whip up something. Being a brilliant cook ( or at least, perceived as one) isn’t about learning dozens of recipes, knowing just a handful but doing them well is the best start. Knowing how to nourish yourself and others is empowering and I ignore “you’ll make a good housewife” comments because knowing how to cook empowers you to eat well at the drop of a hat, without an inflated restaurant bill.
Cooking is a very important and rewarding life skill. I cringe when people proudly say that they can’t cook. Everyone can cook. I’m unsure why you’d be proud that you don’t know how to feed yourself. If you don’t like cooking, or think you can’t cook, start with this. I guarantee that you’ll fall in love with the result.
My signature dessert is tocino de cielo, a creamy, Spanish dish that is the cousin of creme brûlée and creme catalan. The recipe is from Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain, which is one of my favourite cookbooks. Divided by Spain’s regions, it is full of delicious recipes and the foodie history of each region.
My favourite part? It’s just sugar, eggs and water. I love that it has just three ingredients.
Tocino de Cielo
- 500 g sugar
- 500 mL water
- 10 large egg yolks – The perfect excuse to make meringues with all the egg whites!
- 4 large whole eggs
For the caramel
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
1. Make the caramel first. Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it starts to bubble & caramelise, swirl it around and make sure it doesn’t turn too dark. Once it is a nice amber colour, pour it into a 1L (or more) dish – pyrex, metal or porcelain is fine. This bit is always a bit tricky the first time, you really have to be quick to roll the dish around to make sure the caramel coats the base and the sides.
2. For the flan, put the water and sugar in a saucepan and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Let it cool until it is just a little bit warm. Beat the eggs & yolks together and then beat the egg mixture into the syrup.
3. Pour into the caramel coated dish.
4. Place the dish in a large, shallow pan. Fill the pan with boiling water until the water comes halfway up the dish. This is called a bain marie
5. Bake in a pre-heated 160 degree oven for 1.25 -1.5 hours. Let it cool and then chill in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.
6. Before serving, run a knife all around the edge of the dish, place a serving dish face down on top and flip it onto the dish. There will be caramel sauce dripping down off the tocino de cielo, so make sure the serving dish is large enough to catch it!
Next time you go to dinner at a friend’s, you can offer to bring dessert!