Vanilla

Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia)

Vanilla has a delightful, aromatic fragrance and is one of the most recognised flavours of any spice. This spice is a fruit that, once harvested, is dried or cured to preserve and lock in the flavours of this pod. The most common commercial pods comes from Mexico but it is also cultivated in a few other countries.

This spice is the second most expensive spice on the market globally. This spice is probably one of the most recognised flavours and aromas and is loved all over the world. It also has the capacity to blend its flavour with others to make some awesome tasting treats.

Medicinal & Nutritional Benefits

Vanilla essential oil has been used to cure many diseases and ailments as it's properties have effective antioxidant, antidepressant and anti-carcinogenic compounds, providing health benefiting abilities.

Reduces cholesterol. Research has shown the active property vanillin can reduce cholesterol levels in the body. This is effective in preventing heart attacks and strokes.

Rich in antioxidants which gives it healing abilities, stimulating the bodies ability of natural regrowth which can prevent cells and tissue breaking down.

Vitamins contained are A, C, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine and riboflavin.

Minerals contained are calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, copper and zinc.

Vanilla Cooking Tips

So, there are various ways vanilla can be used in cooking. One of my favourites is vanilla ice cream, which always reminds me of sunny days on the beach. Not only is this spice an absolute winner with desserts but can also be cooked with meats and fish. You can even make delicious sauces with vanilla that really make for something different and tasty.

The amount of desserts, cakes, cookies and other sweeter dishes this spice can be used for is almost endless. Its smooth, creamy and vanilla flavour blends with any of these. Milk shakes are another favourite that are easy to make.

Using this spice is easy to do. Firstly, you need to slice the pod length ways with a sharpe knife. Then simply scrape the black seeds out and add to your cooking or what ever it is you are making. Remember, when using a fresh vanilla pod that it is roughly the same as using one tablespoon of vanilla extract.

I really enjoy making, and of course, the fun bit, of eating creme brûlées. They are much simpler to make than most people think. They are a delicious, creamy, sweet and the vanilla flavour makes them just adorable!

Creme Brûlée with Vanilla seeds

Recipe

Serves 6 people

Ingredients 

5 large egg yolks

680 grams of whipping cream

220 grams of granulated sugar

1 whole fresh vanilla pod

1 kettle of boiling water

Method

First you need to preheat your oven to 160 degrees centigrade or 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the oven rack in the lower middle position in the oven.

Take a medium sized saucepan, add the cream and 680 grams (2 cups) of the sugar and mix it together thoroughly.

Take a small,sharp knife and cut the vanilla pod length ways. Scrape out all the black seeds and add to the saucepan. On a medium heat stir the mixture until all the sugar has dissolved. Once it comes to a simmer turn the heat down to its minimum setting and cover. Leave this to gently simmer for 10 minutes.

Now remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes uncovered.

Take a mixing bowl and add the egg yolks. Whisk these up until totally blended. Then very gently and slowly add the cream mixture, whisking it in as you pour. Once it is combined and mixed together, stop!

Using 6 ramekins pour the custard mixture equally into each of them up to 3/4 full.

Take a 9 x 13 inches pyrex baking dish. Place the ramekins in it and then pour the boiling water no higher than half way up the ramekin.

Place into the oven and leave to bake for around 35 minutes. You can tell when they are done as the custard should be all but set in the centre when you give it a gentle shake.

Remove the ramekins and leave to cool at room temperature. Now chill in the refrigerator for minimum of 3 hours.

Now comes the fun bit! Take your brûlées out  of the fridge and evenly sprinkle the rest of the sugar over them. Take a blow torch and quickly move the flame over each brûlée one at a time until the sugar has melted and takes on a golden caramelised colour.

Serve straight away, seriously yummy!