My nephew Alexis Braconnier, youngest son of my sister Beatrice(whose recipes I profiled in the previous post)is only 20, but has already gone a long way in his cooking career. Trained at chef school in Toulouse, he's worked at celebrity hotel the Byblos in Saint Tropez and this year featured in the Top Chef TV cooking show and competition which is only open to professional chefs. By far the youngest of the Top Chef line-up, Alexis rapidly became a great favourite with TV audiences, for his imaginative flair in cooking, good looks and natural, unpretentious manner, and when he was eliminated from the show, still had the votes of a great many members of the public! His public profile has shown no sign of abating since then, and he's appeared a good deal in the French media. There's plans now of him being offered his own TV cooking show, and writing a cookbook.
For this post, Alexis has passed on one of his dessert recipes, which isn't only delicious, but easy to make as well: his re-imagining of the traditional French dessert, 'ile flottante' or 'floating island' where a snowy caramelised meringue floats on a custard sea. This one uses passionfruit and the lovely French caramels, 'carambars' to great effect. (Carambars are traditional, individually wrapped caramel sweets whose wrappers include silly, often lame jokes that have passed into the vernacular: a 'blague carambar' or 'carambar joke' means a particularly lame one that's so lame it's sort of cool! If you can't get 'caramabars' substitute another types of caramel sweets, perhaps even caramel fudge.)Ingredients:
100 g castor sugar
150 g icing sugar
2 vanilla beans(could substitute vanilla essence if you don't have these, but the beans have a more delicate flavour)
750 ml milk.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together till thick and pale. Add vanilla beans to milk and bring to boiling point. Take off stove, add egg yolk and sugar mixture and stir through then return to heat for 3 minutes. Scoop the flesh from the passionfruit, stir in. Beat the egg whites till stiff, add icing sugar and beat till glossy. Place egg white mix in dish in microwave, cook for 10 seconds on high heat, take out and slide onto custard which you have placed into a serving bowl. Melt the caramels in the oven on baking paper(this should be done before you do the egg whites)and dribble the liquid caramel on the meringue so it sets in a crackly sort of way. If you prefer, you can do the traditional caramel: sugar and a little water melted over gentle heat till it goes golden, then dribbled over meringue. Serve.