Friday, August 14, 2009
I always think the custard apple looks a little bit dangerous – like a hand grenade maybe (not that I’ve seen a hand grenade up close before). But looks can be deceiving because it’s a big softie at heart.
What am I going on about? Custard apples (or Nona as they are known in Malaysia) are one of those fruits that you can eat only when it’s gone all soft and squishy. When it's ready, the pale green outer skin starts turning black and there is a slight give to the fruit when pressed. I used to have a little Nona tree when I was growing up, and we’d know the fruit was ripe when it split a little near the stem end.
The flavour is quite mild and sweet, with an underlying earthiness. Texture-wise, it’s creamy yet occasionally fibrous in parts (especially around the seeds), with some graininess similar to a pear thanks to sclereids (stone cells). There, I knew my biology degree would come in handy one day - if only to show off on a blog!
Usually we just eat it “straight”, but after consulting my Cook’s Companion (Stephanie Alexander) and getting some flavour inspiration, I decided to try using the custard apple to make a panna cotta.
And because my first attempt at tuile making had gone so well, I decided to try some lacy tuiles to sit atop the finished panna cotta.
Custard Apple Panna Cotta
(A TWS original)
(Makes 4 small pots)
300ml thin cream
200 ml milk
¼ cup sugar (or less depending on taste)
Flesh from 1 medium custard apple, seeds removed
Finely grated rind of 1 lime
1 tsp lime juice
2 titanium strength gelatin leaves (you can also use gelatin powder – read instructions on packet to work out how much to use – the gelatin leaves I used had a ratio of 1 leaf per 250g liquid).
Soak gelatin leaves in cold water.
Whizz custard apple flesh and 1 teaspoon lime juice in food processor till fine. Push the resulting mixture through sieve to remove the fibrous bits.
Put cream, milk and sugar into saucepan, stir to dissolve sugar then scald (bring to just below boiling point). Remove from heat.
Squeeze gelatin leaves and add to hot cream mixture, stir until gelatin is completely dissolved.
Put a spoonful of the cream mixture into the custard apple flesh and stir to loosen. Put the flesh into the cream mixture and stir well.
Pour into lightly oiled panna cotta moulds (I didn’t have any, I just used 200ml custard pots), stirring between each mould to prevent the custard apple flesh from sinking to the bottom.
Refrigerate for 3-4 hours until set (if shaken, it will have a slight wobble).
Dip briefly in hot water to unmold. Serve with lime slices and coconut tuiles.
I found this dessert best eaten on the day it is made. The longer it is refrigerated, the “tougher” it gets. The flavour of the custard apple is noticeable, and also the graininess of the stone cells can be felt – not in an off-putting way, but it gives a bit of character to the panna cotta.
I also found the dessert a bit sweet, which is why I served it with lime to help cut the richness.
Slice a lime thinly, sprinkle a tiny bit of caster sugar onto the lime slices and set aside until needed.
For the tuiles, I used a recipe from foodchatelaine.com)
The tuiles make great snacks on their own too.