Two weeks ago, we returned from a trip to England where we drove 1000 miles across the length and breadth of the country visiting friends and family. The ultimate reason for our journey was to attend my sister in-law's wedding in Devon, our last and southern most destination.
England's weather initially answered our worst fears as we donned coats and scarves and reminded ourselves it was August. Happily, the sun shone on Helen and Anthony's special day. We sipped champagne in the stone courtyard of Loyton Lodge, toasting their love and lack of umbrellas.
There were several food and drink highlights along the winding English roads, many from our hospitable hosts:
- parmesan egg custards served with soldiers at The Three Horseshoes in Madingley
- grilled lamb with rosemary and garlic made by Rachel and Toby in Cambridge
- roast chicken made by Liz in Harrogate
- pint of Riggwelter Ale and "behind the scenes tour" with Jo at Black Sheep Brewery
- lasagna and chicken casserole made by Sue at The Old Vicarage in Masham
- pot roast made by Sara in Bishop's Stortford
- sausage roll from Greggs
- ploughman's lunch at The George Inn in Mere
- green bean salad with sun dried tomatoes at Loyton Lodge
- beetroot and goats cheese-balls served at Helen and Anthony's wedding
- home-made papadums with chutneys and lamb curry at Brilliant Restaurant in Southall
I chose to share the recipe for the parmesan egg custards for several reasons. We had it for a starter over lunch with our friends, Toby and Rachel, and we ended up making it again that night with fresh eggs from their neighbor's chickens.
Twice in one day. That's how good it was. You can see that eggs laid in a nest that morning are a spectacular golden yellow. They tasted so rich and creamy and gave the custard a glorious color.
I also include it because we gleaned the recipe from the chef, Richard Stokes, who quickly handed it over in scratched writing with no trepidation. I am quite sure that I would have guarded this simple recipe selfishly. When we tasted it, I was sure I sensed some truffle oil, but the chef's recipe did not mention it. Maybe he was more clever than I thought.
We tried the recipe without the truffle oil, but it sadly fell flat. We added a little powdered English mustard which gave it a kick, but truffle oil wins hands down. You can serve it with soldiers (sliced toast) or asparagus for an elegant starter. Remember that the custard will require regular tasting towards the end to make sure you have enough seasoning and truffle oil. As always, I like a recipe with a chef's sweet treat, and this one is definitely at the top of my list.
Parmesan Egg Custards
Adapted from Richard Stokes at The Three Horseshoes
1 pint of fresh cream
100 g parmesan cheese, grated
4 egg yolks
salt and freshly ground pepper to season
small funnel (if you're serving them in the empty egg shells)
In a pan, heat the cream on a medium-low flame until hot but not boiling. Remove it from the heat and let it sit for a minute or two.
Meanwhile crack four eggs with a metal spoon so that just the top comes off. You don't have to serve this in the empty egg shells, but I like the effect. If you're going to go for it, just practice on a few eggs before you get started, but they don't have to be perfect.
After you've cracked the top off of the eggs, pour the egg into your hand over the sink and let the whites slip through your fingers, leaving just the yolks. Be careful not to crack the yolk in your hands and drop them into a mixing bowl.
Reserve your egg shells, and rinse with hot water. Carefully leave them to dry upside down on a paper towel.
Mix the yolks together with the parmesan cheese and season lightly with salt and pepper. Using your whisk, pour the cream into the egg mixture, just stirring with your whisk to combine. Add the entire mixture back into the pan over a medium-low heat.
At this point, you'll need to continually stir the mix until it starts thickening, becoming like a normal custard and covering the back of a wooden spoon. Add several drops of truffle oil and taste. I added about 8-10 drops of truffle oil, just enough for it to be a back ground taste, but enough so that I knew you'd be able to taste it. Season with salt and pepper to your taste and remove from heat when it's thick and creamy.
Use a small funnel to serve in the reserved egg shells. Grate some extra parmesan over the top. Dip sliced toast or blanched asparagus and enjoy!