May 12, 2006

Kitchen Improv: Banana Custard Tart

I was supposed to make a melktert (a South African custard tart) for a potluck on Sunday. The melkert had other plans, however, so thirty minutes before we were supposed to leave, I had a beautiful, crisp, empty tart shell, patiently waiting on the counter, and a resolutely runny custard on the stove which just wouldn’t thicken. When life gives you runny custard… pretend it’s crème patissière, otherwise known as: vanilla custard that’s meant to go in the bottom of a fruit tart. So I schloomped some into the tart crust, and topped it with three bananas which I’d sliced, tossed in brown sugar and lime juice, and sautéed in butter with a splash of rum. I sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on top, and since I was left with fifteen minutes to spare, I drizzled it generously with melted chocolate. It is a rare dessert which isn’t improved by the addition of melted chocolate.

But I cannot take all the praise for this delicious concoction. It was inspired by:

1) Watching McFix-It attempting to flambée bananas a couple weeks ago. She won herself the dubious title of Only Person to Ever Struggle to Set Fire to Rum-Soaked Bananas on a Gas Stove. It must be years of instinctive Bunsen Burner safety measures kicking in.

2) My mother, who chatted me through the melktert crisis, while she worked in her kitchen nine thousand miles away in Cape Town. There’s something very calming, envisioning my mother, phone sandwiched between her shoulder and ear, pottering around the kitchen at home, while I pottered slightly more frenetically around my kitchen in New England, in identical phone-sandwich pose.

3) Bananas on the Rum, my New Favourite Flavour at Ben and Jerry’s. Hey, their Ice Cream Bill of Rights clearly states that I have the right to change my favourite flavour without warning, at any time. Banana ice cream, caramel swirls, slight tang of rum. Mmm…

4) The Banana Cream Tart at Pastiche, my most favourite foodery in all of Providence. Words fail to describe the nirvana that is their Banana Cream Tart (proper noun, if you please).

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London: Alperton Indian Food

London is rightly famous for its Indian food; the standing joke is that the British national dish is curry. If you want to get off the beaten track, see how an immigrant population lives, and have good food too, I’d recommend you ditch the guidebook and hop on a tube for Alperton.

Alperton is a multi-cultural suburb in London with a large South Asian population. Saturday is a good day to visit and walk along Ealing Road, as all the market shops are out in full force. This is a good place to pick up some spices, saris, gold jewelry, bright bangles and bollywood movies and films. And, of course, good food. I get off at the Wembley Central tube stop, turn left and then left again at the first traffic lights, onto Ealing Road. A block or two further down the street, and you’ll pass Jashan Vegetarian Restaurant. Now, I’m sure you can get good, reasonably priced food all over, but I’ve gone several times to Jashan, and enjoyed the breadth and depth of the food on offer. I have a particular weakness for their hara bara kebabs, multi-coloured nuggets of lentil and vegetable goodness. Last time I was there with my boyfriend Big Spoon, we went a bit crazy and ordered £23 of food for the two of us, but as I said, we were greedy and left stuffed. If I recall correctly (and when it comes to food, I invariably do), our lunch included tandoori roti, mixed appetizers plate, tomato onion appam/rice pancake, paneer, mango lassi… what pleasurable memories. We waddled down to the markets to browse, stopping at a small Indian supermarket to get me an almond - or was it pistachio? – kulfi (Indian ice cream) popsicle/ice lolly. Good times.

Wembley Central Tube Stop
If you go far enough down Ealing, you’ll actually hit Alperton tube stop, but you can always turn around and return to Wembley if you’re feeling less adventurous.

Jashan Vegetarian Restaurant
1-2 Coronet Parade
Ealing Road, Wembley HA0 4AY
Tel 020 8900 9800

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