The Gate Vegetarian Cookbook | Adrian and Michael Daniel
(Mitchell Beazley, 2004)
Lavender and Pistachio Brûlées
I’ve been intending to make these for literally years. My flatmate and some friends bought me the cookbook from The Gate vegetarian restaurant in Hammersmith. They got it signed by the chefs because of some long-forgotten guilty feelings about not inviting me to something, or something. The Gate is amazing. I was vegetarian for a year, years ago, and then lapsed back into eating meat. I’m not a ‘meat at every meal’ kind of person, but have got used to eating it again and do enjoy it. Point is, though, that if I could eat every meal at the Gate, or just cook vegetarian food as exciting as theirs, then I’d not miss meat even a little bit.
I put off cooking these for years. Mostly because I couldn’t find lavender flowers easily, but then Waitrose started selling lavender sugar, so I lost that excuse. Of course, now I have a whole big tub of lavender sugar and not much to use it in, unless I just start making loads and loads of brûlées. Also, it means I had a reason to use my pestle and mortar, which is always fun. I’ve got a lovely granite one my sister bought me, and I don’t use it enough.
Pestle and mortar! Crushing nuts into a paste is, like, loads of effort though. I think that I probably could have gone a bit further with it and really mulched them down, but I made an executive decision that I’d had enough. Life’s too short to pastify nuts.
The recipe takes a lot of cooling and waiting. Mix the cream, nuts, lavender and sugar to a simmer. Cool and wait for two hours. Heat with the eggs. Cool. Bake in a bain marie. Cool. Toast the tops. Cool. They’re not exactly a last minute knock it together kind of dessert, that’s for certain.
I poured them out a little bit unevenly, so the sizes were off, but I think I got it sorted out in the end. Given that Flatmate and I are the only ones eating them, it hardly matters. It’s not like there’s anyone to send them back and complain.
The sugar crust took two attempts; partly my fault, partly theirs. I used the wrong sugar to start with, but they also said too use WAY too much of it, so it didn’t melt properly. I was using the grill as I’ve got no blowtorch. I kind of want one, but it’s a bit of an indulgence. I doubt I’ll be making eouto justify it, considering how labour-intensive it was to make them.
They look like this:
I thought they’d be too rich, because, you know, cream and sugar and egg yolks. But the slight bitterness of the pistachio nuts cuts through some of the richness. And Flatmate was digging at it so hard he broke the bottom of the ramekin out, so I guess that’s a vote of confidence. They’re really, really good, but they’re an awful lot of work. Special occasions only.