In January I think we need soothing dishes! Oeufs au Lait, otherwise known as little custard pots, is not a showy dessert but comforting and delicious. During the wine harvest, all over France these individual baked custards are made in great quantities. I remember seeing trays of them in the kitchen at La Fleur Petrus, ready for the pickers. They are frequently served as an accompaniment to a compôte,(as below) or on their own with biscuits; the changes are rung by flavouring them with vanilla, grated lemon peel, chocolate or coffee.
FOR 6 PEOPLE
6 ramekins (capacity about 125 ml/4fl oz)
2 medium eggs 300 ml (1⁄2 pint) milk 15 g (1⁄2 oz) caster sugar
4 drops vanilla essence
nutmeg butter for greasing
Optional nutmeg, for grating on top
Preheat the oven to gas mark 2, 300°F, 150°C.
Break the eggs into a bowl. Lightly beat them with a fork. Add the milk, sugar and vanilla and stir to mix well.
Butter the ramekins. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a jug. Fill the ramekins with the mixture. Arrange them in a roasting tin; pour in cold water to reach half-way up the ramekins.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes. If they cook too long or too fast they will form a tough skin on top and/or curdle. Check after 20 minutes - give a ramekin a little nudge to see if it has set. Grate a little nutmeg on top.
That's it! So simple!
If, like me, you have been storing apples after an Autumn glut, you might like to make a:
Simple Apple Compote
Take good eating apples, peel, core and slice them into an enamelled cast-iron casserole, squeezing lemon juice over the slices. Sprinkle them with vanilla-flavoured sugar, cover and simmer over a low heat or in a low temperature oven. If you are worried that they will catch or burn on the bottom of the pan, add 1 tablespoon of water, but this is really unnecessary if they cook slowly enough. They should be ready in about half an hour, depending on the variety used and how much you want the fruit to retain the shape of its slices. The apples are at their best served warm or hot.