Like a large number of foods popular in Japan today, Purin owes its name and heritage to visiting Portuguese traders who, in the sixteenth century, brought over their jiggly, set custard dessert, pudim. Much like the French crème caramel or the Latin American flan, caramelised sugar is topped with a sweetened egg and milk mixture then steamed in a bain-marie before being inverted onto a plate and served with the caramel on top- the slightly bitter caramel sauce creating an elegant contrast of colours and offsetting the sweetness of the custard.
Although it is a staple snack or dessert all year round, purin to me marks the start of Summer; a chilled, lightly set, creamy custard has a wonderful soothing effect and refreshes your spirits after a hard day at work in sweltering temperatures. We like to infuse the milk and cream with the toasty, almost caramel-like flavour of hōjicha, roasted green tea. Eating just a spoonful of this dessert brings back comforting childhood memories of lifting the rim of a cereal bowl to your lips and drinking the milk after you’d finished the bowl of crunchy flakes. You could easily swap out the hōjicha in this recipe for vanilla to create a classic European version or matcha powder to make an intensely coloured, green tea flavoured variation. However you choose to flavour it, serve your purin with a handful of fresh seasonal berries to really highlight the time of year.
- 200ml whole milk
- 125ml double cream
- 2 large eggs
- 150g caster sugar
- 5g hōjicha (roasted green tea)
- butter for greasing your ramekins
- Thoroughly grease the inside of four ramekins, dariole moulds or small coffee cups with your butter and put to one side for later. Pour 75g of the sugar into a small saucepan along with 30ml cold water and place on a medium heat. Gently cook the sugar without stirring until it starts to turn a delicate golden colour, then carefully swirl the pan to distribute the sugars and ensure that it all caramelises evenly. When the sugar has turned to a medium amber, remove it from the heat and cautiously pour in two tablespoons of boiling water to halt the cooking. Swirl the pan again to incorporate the water, then carefully divide the caramel between your ramekins- making sure you don’t get any dribbles down the sides- then set aside to cool.
- Break the eggs into a large bowl and lightly beat them with a fork. Pour the milk and cream into a small saucepan, then add the hōjicha tea and place the pan over a medium heat. When the milk has reached a simmer, strain through a tea strainer or small sieve to remove the hōjicha then pour the milk back into the saucepan over a medium heat; add the remaining 75g sugar, stirring well to dissolve, then bring back up to a simmer. Slowly pour the hot infused milk into the bowl of beaten egg, whisking the mixture constantly until it is all combined, then strain into a jug through a fine meshed sieve to make sure it is free from any lumps. Pour the custard into the prepared ramekins until just below the rim, then cover each with a square of kitchen foil and pinch round the edges to form a close-fitting lid.
- Take a large saucepan that is deep enough to fit your ramekins into, and place a folded clean tea towel or dishcloth into the bottom. Arrange the purin on top of the towel, then pour hot (not boiling!) water into the pan until it comes to halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Put the lid on the saucepan, then place the pan over a low heat and steam the purin for fifteen to twenty minutes, making sure that the water does not come to a boil, as this could cause your purin to overcook.
- When the custards have set- but still retain a slight wobble- remove the ramekins from the pan and allow them to cool to room temperature. When completely cool, refrigerate them for at least four hours or ideally, overnight (the longer you leave them, the more caramel will liquefy and turn into sauce).
- To turn out your purin, carefully run the tip of a sharp knife around the inside of the ramekin and then cover it with your serving plate. Upturn the ramekin and shake gently until you feel the purin loosen and settle on the plate, then lift off the ramekin and allow any residual sauce to drip out before serving.
Serves 4 people.