A Pudding-less Nairobi Reunion
Nairobi is where we learned to love safari parks and dislike zoos. We would take trips to the Nairobi National Park on most weekends, bobbing up and down on the inner roads in a Land Rover. As we peered out to look at the statuesque white- and caramel-jigsawed giraffe, we would eat sliced, plush, cinnamon loaf bread and cucumber sandwiches, prepared by our beloved cook, Simon Mackenzie, wrapped in tin foil. We would stop for a bit and drink dense and milky Kenyan tea out of flasks, hoping to spot a cheetah.
Two of my closest friends, W and A, from Hillcrest Secondary in Karen, the eponymous town of Karen Blixen, came over for supper on Friday night. The three of us had not been together in over 15 years. W had recently moved to the same city as A and I, thereby necessitating a reunion dinner.
This was one of those evenings when one wants to be slumped on the sofa, leaning forward, laughing as the other person shares embarrassing vignettes.
About the vertiginous hairstyle one of us sported (oh, it was the late 80s, please be kind). Or the forbidden crushes we had on our English or Physics IGCSE teachers. Now in our 30s, none of this kind of talk was verboten.
Even the discovery of a package in someone’s locker containing black shoe polish with a shoe brush. Message: This is Kenya. Sun is good. Get a tan. (Have I mentioned my skin is pale?) The offenders were forgiven and dearly befriended.
The menu for the dinner had to be something which was not last-minute fiddly, and could be prepared beforehand. I wanted girl time with my friends; no time for the kitchen.
Chelo Shibit- Afghan dill rice. (Recipe here, in a separate post.)
Bonjon Keema- Afghani aubergine with savoury mince. (Recipe here, in a separate post.)
The grassiness of the dill-spiced rice paired well with the sweetness and tartness of the aubergine dish.
Poached Pears in Crème Anglaise with Scatterings of Arabic Spices Rococo Chocolate. (See recipe below.)
The pudding was a total and utter disaster. The pud’ from the original menu could not be served.
I had rushed back from work to prepare a crème anglaise. I tried twice, but it misbehaved; deciding to curdle and weep. There was to be no homemade pudding for my friends. My profuse apologies to W, A and particularly to my husband Zain, (bless), who left for the bakery, mid-meal to bring us a chocolate mousse cake. I had forgotten to mention to him that we were pudding-less. I blame it on the ’03 Ornellaia, coupled with the company. Regardless, we enjoyed the dark, muddy chocolate mousse cake, rounding off our evening in a fantastic manner.
As for the pud’, I decided to give it another go over the weekend with the double boiler method. No more weeping.
I like mine without chocolate. Pure, creamy custard with the flesh of a soft, grainy pear. All squidgy and ready to be eaten.
Photo of Nairobi National Park: http://www.barcoding.si.edu/Nairobi_Pictures.htm
Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
for Step 1
*3 egg yolks
*3 tsp sugar
*1 1/2 cup milk
for Step 2
*3-5 cups water
*1 cinnamon stick
*4 forelle pears (or any other small, petite pear)
*Heat milk over a double boiler (water in boiler should be at a simmer) on medium heat;
*Beat egg yolks with sugar for 3-5 minutes till they are thick, light yellow and a slowly dissolving ribbon forms when the beater is lifted;
*Temper the eggs yolk mixture with a few spoonfulls at a time of hot milk;
*Add the egg yolk and milk mixture into the double boiler and stir constantly;
*Cook till desired thickness (approximately 8 minutes). I prefer a thick custard;
*Chill in the fridge.
If you don’t like a skin to form on top of the custard, cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap.
*With a peeler, remove the skin from the forelle pears, taking care to preserve the stem;
*Place the pears upright in a medium-sized sauce pan and fill the pan with water (matching the height of the pears);
*Add 2 cloves and a cinnamon stick;
*Let the pears simmer on medium heat;
*Don’t worry if the pears bounce around in the water;
*Test for doneness after 15 minutes, a knife should glide easily through the flesh;
*Discard the water.
*Pour custard in a bowl, nestle the pear inside and add shavings of dark chocolate. My preferred chocolate is Arabic Spices by Rococo.