My lifelong relationship with turmeric began as a decidedly savory one; in dal and kitchari, or my mom’s daffodil-toned potato and chickpea curry. It was only in recent years as I returned to a habit of tea that I explored the dulcet potential of the rhizome via fluorescent masala chai. As my fascination persists, and its presence reaches ubiquity, I’ll invariably order a turmeric latte when found on a menu.
Beyond its distinctive hue – one that might stain your counter and fingertips, be warned – and renowned health benefits as detailed in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, and the foundation of its popularity among the wellness-minded, turmeric has a natural astringency; which is why, in large quantities, it might make your teeth feel squeaky clean.
Its musky sharpness enables turmeric to stand up to fat and spice, and explains its effectiveness in curries. It also makes the root unexpectedly suited to desserts.
To that end, today I offer pots de crème, egg-rich baked custards. Turmeric lends a daffodil glow and a brightness of flavour to perk up the affair. Ginger brings a subtle buzz, to which cardamom and vanilla are the mellow counterpoints. With its inherent sweetness, almond is a natural addition. I’ve a fondness for almond chocolate (ground nuts blended with cocoa butter and sugar), which is rather like white chocolate’s more worldly cousin. If you cannot find it, reach for white or blonde instead. And using chocolate instead of extract contributes a velvety weight and keeps the texture uncommonly lush.
Fresh turmeric is increasingly available in stores; it should feel plump, with taut and unblemished skin. Wash and peel both the turmeric and ginger before using. For the decorations, many pastry supply stores carry premade décor; or, scout the aisles of the bulk food store, as the candy section is often a treasure trove of enrobed morsels in a rainbow spectrum. One note on eggs: the more vibrant their yolks, the more vibrant the ensuing custard.
Golden Pots de Crème
For pots de crème
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
6 green cardamom pods, bruised with the side of a knife
Half a vanilla bean
1 tablespoon fresh turmeric, grated (or 1 teaspoon ground)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 ounces (56 grams) almond chocolate, such as Valrhona, or best-quality white chocolate plus 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
To finish and serve
Whipped cream, or sweetened crème fraîche
Freeze dried raspberries, crushed
Chocolate coated cookies, cereal or shavings (see headnote)
Preheat an oven to 300°F (150°C), with rack set in the middle. Put up a kettle of water to boil and set six 6-ounce ramekins or oven safe dishes in a roasting tin.
Pour the heavy cream and milk into a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Drop in the cardamom pods. Split the vanilla bean down its length, then scrape out its seeds with the back of the knife. Push the seeds into the liquids, followed by the empty pod. Stir in the turmeric and ginger. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately pull from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes.
While the cream mixture infuses, chop the chocolate and place in a 4-cup liquid measure or similar jug. Place a fine-meshed sieve over top.
Bring the liquid back to a simmer over low heat. Once hot, pour through the sieve onto the chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir to combine.
In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt until lightened in colour and well blended. Still whisking, incorporate the hot cream in a slow, steady stream. Let stand for 10 minutes to let any foam dissipate, or skim with a spoon.
Divide the mixture equally between the ramekins. With care, pour hot water from that recently boiled kettle into the roasting tin, until about halfway up the sides of the cups. Gently transfer the tin to the hot oven and bake until the custards are set on the edges but maintain a centre wobble, 25 minutes or so.
Immediately remove the ramekins from their bath and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Chill uncovered in the fridge until completely cold, about 2 hours. Wrap with clingfilm and store up to 24 hours. Or, garnish with cream and whatever strikes your fancy, and eat right then and there.