I was actually going to present before you a compote with an ice cream. I had cooked some cream with vanilla bean wanting a well made ice cream with natural flavours. When I had everything ready, my ice cream maker gave way and I had to think of other ways to put my prepared cream to best use.
Not being able to make an ice cream as planned proved to be a dissappointment for a very short duration. I thought of a vanilla custard or pudding which had milk, cream and eggs. I stirred in some cornflour which is an excellent egg substitute in baked puddings and desserts into my prepared cream and baked them in little bowls and ramekins. Cream, milk, sugar, vanilla and cornflour, just a few ingredients had gotten together and created magic in the little pots giving spoonfuls of delight to everyone who tasted it. I’m so happy that my icecream maker gave way, if not I wouldnt have made this delicious discovery. This pudding is plain yet fragrant with vanilla and it can play the lead being served alone or be a supporting character to something else, in this case the compote and always emerge a winner. The tiny vanilla seeds look absolutely stunning against the creamy white background adding relish to every bit. It can be eaten as it is or with numerous toppings and I can already think of a number of ways to serve this pudding.
I love vanilla so much, not just in my food but in my perfumes too and will almost always choose a fragrance with strong hints of vanilla in it. When I bake or cook with vanilla and use the pod instead of the extract, I can’t stop myself from smelling my hands again and again taking in the delicate aroma of one of my favourite spices. I also love the cinnamon and was overwhelmed to receive a huge packet of organic Srilankan cinnamon from a family friend a few days ago. Cinnamon is often confused with cassia. Cassia is native to India while the cinnamon is grown in Srilanka. Cassia is the bark of a tree which is much thicker, darker and coarser in comparison to cinnamon. The inner filling of cinnamon is like a cigar while the cassia is hollow inside when rolled. The cassia with its strong flavours is more suited for savoury dishes and the delicately sweet cinnamon is best for sweet desserts and puddings. I was in total awe of the cinnamon, when I discovered that the humble cassia works best in a savoury dish like a biriyani. Each spice has a story to tell!
A compote is an old English dessert made by cooking fruits and spices like vanilla, citrus peels, cloves, candied ginger and cinnamon in sugar syrup. In this compote I have used only cinnamon and vanilla with black raisins and plums. The syrup cooked to a beautiful ruby red colour and the fruits were imbued with the wonderful and exotic flavours of cinnamon and vanilla. It was so delicious that it could be eaten as it is.
Both the vanilla pudding and the compote have strong individual flavours but together they create a delightful harmony, pleasing the eye, the nose and the palate.
Black Raisin and Plum Compote with baked Vanilla bean pudding recipe
You can substitute the vanilla bean with extract. I love the specks of black imparted by the vanilla seeds and prefer not to strain it
For the Vanilla bean pudding:
800 ml (3 1/4 cups) low fat cream
60 ml (1/4 cup) milk
220 gm (1 cup) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
3 tbsp cornflour or cornstarch
In a sauce pan mix the cream, milk and sugar. Slit the vanila bean, cut it into half and scrape the insides with the tip of a knife and put it along with the bean into the cream. Cook on low heat, stirring all the while until the sugar dissolves completely and the cream comes to a simmer. Allow to cool and refrigerate overnight for the vanilla flavours to seep into the cream. If in a hurry, refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350F. Remove the bean and stir in the cornflour and with a whisk, mix till smooth and creamy with no lumps. Pour this into ramekins or any other oven proof bowls and bake for 25 minutes.
Allow to cool and refrigerate for 1 hour or more before serving.
Black Raisin and Plum Compote:
75 gm (1/2 cup) black raisins
300 gm (1 1/2 cups ) plums, cut into halves, deseeded and sliced into halves or quarters depending on their size
150 gm (3/4 cup) granulated brown sugar
180 ml (3/4 cup) water
1 vanilla bean
In a sauce pan, put in the sugar and water with the cinnamon and vanilla and cook until the sugar dissolves. Put in the raisins and plums and continue to cook for 10 minutes or more until you get a thick syrup infused with the flavours of the fruits and spices.
Spoon a few spoons of the syrup along with the fruits over the chilled vanilla pudding.
Makes 15 small portions