I can’t believe that I got to cook for and meet one of my foodie heros last week, who’s latest cookbook has been sitting on my coffee table since Christmas. I may have the coolest job ever. Last week my boss was the resident chef at a pop up restaurant in Marylebone. The Vietnamese menu was fantastic, I nibbled on leftovers as much as I could. I hadn’t realised how much I missed the humour and camaraderie of working in a team of people. The constant joking and teasing (‘don’t mess up that ice cream cake it’s for Yotam Ottoleghi’ was whispered over my shoulder more than once – even on the days he wasn’t attending) and the support from experienced staff as I found my feet on the steep learning curve. It’s a week I won’t forget in a hurry, but at the same time the whole experience is blurred together in a haze. Dinner service sped by in a flash, every night I was shocked when after the last plate of dessert went out that the time has fast forwarded in a blur from 7.30pm to gone 11.
I wanted to share with you one of the dishes from the five course menu, but having helped make it all five days in a row for several hundred people I couldn’t quite bring myself to make it again in my own time. So instead, here is a play on the dessert, using some of the same flavours to create a decadent sugary breakfast instead (one of my favourite weekend indulgences)with a Vietnamese twist. Frances occupation of Vietnam in the 19th and 20th centuries introduced a lot of french cooking into the local cuisine. Bahn mi, a baguette filled with Vietnamese herbs and meats being an obvious example.
One of my favourite French breakfasts is Madeleines (and croissants… and pain au chocolat… and brioche…). I’ve flavoured them here with pandan, you can buy the extract in some asian supermarkets, or it’s really easy to make yourself from the leaves (you can buy them in the Vietnamese shops on Mare Street, Hackney). Pandan has quite a difficult to describe flavour, it’s floral and citrusy with a hint that’s almost grassy whilst being quite delicate which makes it work wonderfully with the light sponge of madeleines. To add a tart aspect, as on their own I find these little cakes a little too sweet, I’ve made a simple lime curd. By replacing the usual butter with coconut oil it creates a tropical flavour without being overpowering, or changing the texture or consistency. If you don’t have any coconut oil (but you should, it’s the best ingredient/makeup remover/moisturiser/hairmask!) you can swap it like for like with unsalted butter.
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madeleine recipe adapted from Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding makes 12 curd recipe by Jenny Brown makes 250ml
80g pandan leaves
25g clear honey
80g butter plus extra for greasing
75g caster sugar
10g demerara sugar
80g plain flour plus extra for dusting
5g baking powder
icing sugar for decoration
zest and juice of 2 limes
110g golden caster sugar
3 egg yolks
50g coconut oil
- Chop the pandan leaves into 1-2 inch chunks and place in a blender with 150ml water. Blend until smooth and then pass through a sieve. Pour into a bottle and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
- Over a low heat melt together the butter and honey, remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
- Beat together the eggs and sugars in a stand mixer for 5 minutes until light and foamy and tripled in sized.
- Using a spatula fold through the butter and honey, making sure to scrape to the bottom of the bowl as this is where most of the butter sinks to. Next sift in the flour and baking powder and fold through. Finally pour 75ml of the pandan extract into the bowl and stir through, the mixture should turn a light green.
- Cover in clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight to rest - or for at least 4 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 180C (Fan), grease and dust your madeleine tray (I use this one ). Spoon about 1tbsp of mixture into each shell, so they are almost completely full. Bake for 10-11 minutes until golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- Serve hot straight from the oven, with a light dusting of icing sugar.
- Place your jar and lid in a pot of boiling water to sterilize.
- Reserving the zest, tip the rest of the ingredients into a heavy bottom pan and place over a medium heat.
- Whisk constantly until the curd begins to thicken and it starts to boil (about 5 minutes). As soon as you see the first bubble remove from the heat. Stir through the lime zest.
- Carefully remove the jar from the water, making sure to drain it the best you can. Pour the hot curd into the jar (I like this small one ), and screw the lid on. Tip the jar upside down, so the hot curd covers the inside of the lid, this helps to sterilise it further. Leave to cool to room temperature, then keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.