According to Jose Pizarro, owner of my favourite Spanish restaurant in London, “traditionally, crema catalana was made only on St Joseph’s Day (the Spanish equivalent of Father’s Day), on 19 March, by grannies and maiden aunts”. Luckily that’s no longer the case, and it makes a lovely alternative to crème brûlée, flavoured with lemon and cinnamon rather than vanilla. This is my kind of dessert: simple, rich and easy to make in advance.
The recipe below comes courtesy of Cook & Taste, who I took a class with in Barcelona. They come highly recommended for a fun, lighthearted and reasonably boozy introduction to Catalan cookery.
peel of half a lemon
half a cinnamon stick
3 egg yolks
4 tbs sugar (demerara works well)
1. Bring the milk to the boil with the lemon peel and cinnamon to infuse the flavours
2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until fluffy and white
3. Dissolve the cornflour in a splash of water.
4. Pour the milk into the egg mixture, add the cornflour and return to the heat
5. Stir constantly until thickened, then remove from the heat
6. Strain into terracotta dishes
7. Whack the dishes on the counter (not too hard!) to level the mixture
8. Chill for at least three hours; you can leave them overnight
9. Sprinkle each one with demerera sugar and caramelize with a blowtorch or under the grill
10. Quarter the fresh figs and place on top