What is it? Hors-d’oeuvre
The inspiration for this came from a crab custard dish that Rick Stein cooked for the Japanese ambassador about six years ago. I wanted to create a wobbly custard in a porcelain pot, rather like a similar dish I once made at my last restaurant, Kensington Place.
The custard is made using fresh eggs yolks, cream, milk, and 18-month matured Parmesan cheese, baked until set and sprinkled with an extra topping of cheese. A mixture of Sicilian anchovies and butter is spread between two pieces of thinly-sliced bread, which is then toasted and cut into fingers to make miniature anchovy butter sandwiches. These are served with the custard to create a double whammy of salt and savoury flavours – the reason for the dish’s success.
It’s so popular that we’ve never considered taking it off the menu – it’s something of a signature dish, and is available all year round.
300ml single cream
100g finely grated Parmesan
4 egg yolks
Salt, pepper, cayenne
12 anchovy fillets
50g unsalted butter
8 very thin slices of pain de Champagne
Mix the cream, milk and all but a tablespoon of the cheese in a bowl and warm gently over a pan of boiling water until the cheese has melted. Allow to cool completely before whisking in the egg yolks, salt, finely milled white pepper and a little cayenne.
Lightly butter 8 x 80ml china moulds and pour in the mixture. Put the moulds in a pan of boiling water, cover with buttered paper and bake in the oven at 150e_SDgrC for 15 minutes or until the mixture has just set.
Mash the anchovies and butter to a smooth paste and spread over four of the slices of bread. Cover with the remaining bread and toast in a sandwich maker or panini machine. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the warm custard and brown gently under a hot grill. Cut the toasted anchovy sandwiches into little fingers and serve alongside the custard.
Rowley Leigh, chef-patron, Le Café Anglais, London
With this dish I would go for a very classic wine, something that with age begins to take on flavours that can be similar to mature cheese, which has a lactic creamy character. So I would choose a Chablis that was at least five years old – a 2006 or a 2007. This would still have enough crisp acidity to match the salty anchovy flavour as well.
Ronan Sayburn, director of wine and spirits, Hotel du Vin