Parmesan custards with Anchovy toasts

Parmesan custards with Anchovy toastsParmesan custard. Not sweet. With toast.

Think silken-cheesey ambrosia enveloping salty crunch and assume that alchemy has taken place. This is creme brûlée’s sexy cousin, luring you into the crash of her toast, and she’s a siren of a starter.

I’ve been perving these luscious treats in Fiona Beckett’s cheese book for months. I was surprised how easy they were to make, especially for something so special. Indeed I am planning a dinner party right now just in their honor.

Parmesancustardmarch2013aDon’t worry how insanely anchovy the butter is, the dish needs its salty robustness. Because this custard is delicate and clings to the toast like a silent movie heroine saved by her dashing pirate prince. It’s the moment Princess Leia collapses into Han Solo’s heaving chest, and the screen lights up with the frisson of desire.

Parmesan custards with Anchovy toasts
Don’t worry if your ramekins don’t match.

I wonder about all new ramekins, but I also like the higgledly piggledy of mismatch – somehow more disheveled, straight from bed not prim.

I found this recipe in Fiona Beckett’s Cheese Course, and she got it from London restaurant Le Café Anglais. We all agree it is divine.

Parmesan custards with Anchovy toasts
A fine grate of fruity, nutty Parmesan.

Parmesan custards with Anchovy toasts

1 ¼cups of light cream
1 ¼ cups of whole milk
1 cup of finely grated Parmesan (you’ll need at least 110g of cheese)
4 egg yolks
Cayenne pepper
12 anchovy fillets
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 very thin slices of rustic loaf
Sea salt and finely ground white pepper

8 ½ cup ramekins or over proof dishes, buttered

Serves 8

Mix the cram, milk and all but 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan in a heatproof bowl, place it over a saucepan of boiling water, and warm it gently until the Parmesan has melted. Remove from the stove and let it cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 300° F/ 150° C

Whisk the egg yolks, a pinch of salt, a pinch of white pepper, and a little cayenne pepper into the cool cream mixture, then pour into the prepared ramekins. It’s about a third of a cup in each ramekin.

Place the ramekins in an over proof dish in the oven, then pour boiling water from the kettle into the dish to reach halfway up the ramekins. Cover the dish with a sheet of buttered baking paper and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the custards have just set. Remove form the oven and turn on the oven grill or broiler.

Mash the anchovies and butter to make a smooth paste and spread over 4 slices of bread. Cover with the remaining bread and toast in a sandwich maker or panini machine. (Note I burnt mine a little in the picture).

Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the warm custards and brown gently under the hot grill. Cut the toasted anchovy sandwiches into fingers, serve alongside the warm custards, and prepare to be delighted.

Fiona recommends Champagne or any similar dry sparking wine with this.

Other posts you might like:

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Cheese canapes for cocktail parties – Blue cheese and gingerbread The best cheese scones – ever! Labneh – easy to make yoghurt cheese

4 thoughts on “Parmesan custards with Anchovy toasts

    1. Ooh sherry – what a great suggestion. Proper sherries are a yet to be explored world for me- how exciting there are still uncharted territories of taste.

  1. Amazing recipe. I’m a late bloomer when it comes to parmesan. I always hated it until someone told me that cheap parmesan was pure nastiness compared too good parmesan. Now that I only have eyes for the good stuff, I can’t get enough. Love the Princess Leia and Han Solo comparison and your higgledly piggledy ramekins. It’s the same at our place. I tend to buy ramekins in pairs, and then buy two new ones when one breaks.

    1. Yeah I quite like mixed-up plates too – not so matchy-matchy – though I do dream of a big set. I think I was worried the custards wouldn’t cook evenly but they did – phew. I know what you mean about Parmesan – that dreadful pre-grated stuff in the cardboard shaker that smells sicky – nothing like real Parmesan freshly grated!

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