Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pains de navet au cacao

This savoury turnip flan, enlivened with green peppercorns, brightened with diced carrot, held together with a rich custard, and dusted with unsweetened cocoa (an unexpectedly fantastic addition) is one of the many gorgeous entries found in Mousses et Terrines de Legumes, a scrumptious vegetarian cookbook that I bought shortly after our arriving in France. Book details can be found here.

Though each and every vegetable-based recipe is truly vegetarian, being a French cookbook, suggestions sometimes are made for these creative and delicious concoctions to accompany a meat dish, specifically with game in this recette. Well, I decided to have this as a side with itself, that is, a double helping, because these mounds of goodness bust the wow meter.

makes four 4-inch diameter, 2-inch high individual flans

Turnips, 400 gms, (about four medium turnips)
Carrot, 1 medium
Butter, sweet, 40 gms/just under 3 T (extra for buttering the ramekins)
Peppercorns, green, 1 tsp
Eggs, 3 (recipe did not specify size, I used 3 medium ones)
Cream, heavy, 25 cl/8.3 fluid ounces
Cocoa, unsweetened, 1 T
Salt and sugar if needed

Wash, trim, and peel the turnips and carrot. Cut the carrot lengthwise into several slices. Cut each strip into thinner strips and dice these. Cut the turnips if large into half and slice thinly.

Simmer together the butter, turnips, carrots, and peppercorns till turnips are tender and beautifully translucent, about twenty minutes. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C/302 degrees F.

Let the turnip mixture cool down enough so you can handle the turnip slices. If the turnips are a bit bitter, you can add a little sugar. It was not necessary with mine. Salt to taste.

First butter well the insides of the molds, especially paying attention to their bottoms. Then line them with turnip slices. I used molds 10 cm (4 inches) in diameter by 6.5 cm (2.6 inches) tall. Leave about 2.5 cm (an inch) from the top free. A spiral pattern on the bottom which will become the top of the flan is a nice decorative touch but just make sure that the inside surface is mostly covered.

Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk till blended. Then beat in the cream.

Add the turnip mixture into the cream and eggs. Put the kettle on the boil.

With a small ladle or serving spoon, fill the ramekins about three-quarters to the top rim which will allow the flans to expand in the oven. First spoon an equivalent amount of solid bits and then evenly distribute the liquid. Lightly tap them on the work surface to eliminate air bubbles. Place in a shallow oven dish and pour an inch of boiling water around the molds.

Either cover with a lid or with foil.

After twenty minutes, remove the covering (contrary to the book's direction because I wanted the top edges to brown a bit) and bake for another twenty, testing by noting that an inserted knife comes out dry.

To serve warm, let them stand for about five to eight minutes. Loosen the flan with a knife or a thin spatula all around its sides. Tip them carefully onto paper towels; if the bottom sticks, remove those turnip slices and replace on the top of the unmolded flan. Let sit for a few minutes for excess moisture to be absorbed.

Though the author presents these in the chaud (hot) sector, I am convinced that not only they taste and look best (the cocoa 'bleeds' unattractively on a hot surface) when served tepid or cold, they are easier to unmold and lend to much more convenient serving as they can be made in advance and brought to room temperature as needed. In any case, dust with the cocoa just before serving. To get a really fine veil of cocoa, put a tiny amount (I used about a 1/2 tsp at a time) in a very fine sieve to prevent exuberant clumping.

Along with a pleasing piquant accent, the flan boasts of an incomparable richness in both flavour and texture.

Elmo the cat has kept away for a couple of weeks because of incessant rain, but I suspect it is because his maitresse wants to keep his pristine, white, long-haired belly and huge paws mud-free. Though he allows me to pet him outside, he will only let me take photos at a certain distance!

This is as close as he lets me get when taking photos of him outdoors before prancing away

Indoors is a different story. If he gets a little spooked by the proximity of the camera, I speak French softly and caress him with one hand until he relaxes so I can begin clicking away.

His small yellow eyes, long snout, and extreme floof has garnered him the nick of Wolfie.

His tail when he is cavorting about in the garden resembles a waving black flag. Despite his substantial bulk, his meow is a mere squeak. He gives out a series of these 'meows' when he needs assistance in climbing the wire fence separating our garden from Monsieur and Madame Ms. My job is to tap the safe spot which lacks spikes while calling to him. After a few minutes he makes a clean jump and whooshes into our sous sol.

If I am lucky enough, when he plays with me, he repeatedly bats my hands with his over-sized, padded paws inadvertently giving me a luxurious massage. He's a lovely fellow indeed!

À la prochaine!