Coconut pandan custard with blue pea-flower rice cakes
This dessert with a difference is an impressive way to end any dinner party with a South-east Asian theme.
Equipment and preparation: For this recipe, you will need a tiered steamer and, ideally, an electric juicer.
For the blue-pea-flower rice cakes
- 25g/1oz dried blue-pea flowers (also known as bunga telang - available from South-East Asian delicatessens or online specialists)
- 500g/1lb 2oz glutinous rice
- 350ml/12½fl oz coconut milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 pandan leaves (available from South-East Asian delicatessens)
- 3-4 banana leaves (optional)
For the coconut pandan custard
For the blue-pea-flower rice cakes, the day before you wish to serve the dish, bring 250ml/9fl oz water to the boil in a saucepan. Gently rinse the blue-pea flowers under cold running water, add them to the boiling water, then reduce the heat to its lowest setting and steep for 5 minutes before removing the pan from the heat.
Drain the water from the pan, then press as much liquid from the flowers as possible using the back of a wooden spoon, reserving it all in the pan. Discard the flowers and set the blue liquid aside to cool.
Divide the glutinous rice equally between two bowls. Cover one bowl of rice with cold water and the other bowl of rice with the blue liquid (if there is not enough blue liquid to just cover the rice, top up the bowl with cold water). Cover the bowls and set aside to soak in a cool place for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Meanwhile, for the coconut pandan custard, juice the pandan leaves in an electric juicer, discarding the pulp. Alternatively, cut the pandan leaves into 2.5cm/1in squares and use a mortar and pestle to crush them until all of the juice is released. Add a splash of water, then strain the mixture through a fine sieve, reserving the liquid. (You could also use a blender to extract the juice by blending the pandan leaves with a 400ml/14floz can of coconut milk, then straining the liquid and reserving.)
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale, fluffy and well combined. Add the salt and the strained pandan and coconut mixture, then transfer to a small saucepan and heat over a low heat, stirring continuously until the custard mixture begins to thicken - this should take about 20 minutes. (You might want to stir with a small whisk if you see lumps forming, or else cook the custard in a double boiler.)
The finished custard will be slightly grainy in texture due to the coconut milk. Do not worry about this; it will not affect the taste. Decant the custard into an airtight jar and, when cool, chill until needed - it will keep for up to three days in the fridge.
When the glutinous rice has soaked, drain the water from both bowls - one portion of rice will now be blue and one white.
Pour 125ml/4½fl oz of coconut milk over each bowl of soaked rice. Add the salt to the remaining coconut milk and set aside.
Line two small pans from a tiered steamer with heatproof cling film. Place the white rice into one of the steamer pans and insert one pandan leaf into the centre of the rice. Repeat the process with the blue rice and the other steamer pan, then stack the pans and steam over boiling water for 18-20 minutes, or until just tender.
Carefully lift the pans from the steamer and fluff both portions of rice with a fork. Pour half of the remaining salted coconut milk into each pan of rice, stirring to distribute evenly, then return the pans to the steamer and continue cooking for a further 8-10 minutes, or until the rice is completely soft.
Line a 20cm/8in cake tin with the banana leaves, if desired, or heatproof cling film. Drop alternate spoonfuls of the blue and white rices into the tin to create a multi-coloured effect, then use the back of a spoon to smooth the top of each spoonful and press the rice-cake mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Set aside to cool completely.
To serve, spoon the coconut pandan custard into bowls and serve slices of the blue-pea-flower rice cakes alongside.
You will need to start this recipe the day before you want to serve the dish.