From the Argentines I’ve canvassed (to this day I’ve never met an Argentine vegan or vegetarian – I’m not sure if they exist), I’ve found they primarily subsist on three different types of food: beef, pasta and dulce de leche. I can’t say in which order, and am not brave enough to decide. During one of my trips to Buenos Aires I was invited to an asado, a kind of Argentine barbecue meat orgy, at a friend’s house. After eating my body weight in beef they rolled out the most delicious medley of dulce de leche delicacies, sending me face first into the happiest food coma. Dulce de leche flan was probably the most pleasant of all and became an instant favourite on our menu.
120g free-range egg yolks, at room
60g free-range egg whites, at room
500ml whole milk
500g dulce de leche, plus extra for
For the Coconut Crumble
50g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
50g plain white flour
50g desiccated coconut
For the Italian meringue
100g free-range egg whites, at room
For the caramel
The coconut crumble can be made up to three days in advance and stored in an
airtight container until required. Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 and line
a baking tray with baking parchment. Combine the ingredients in a small food
processor until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Sprinkle the crumb mixture
over the baking parchment and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Watch
closely so the mixture does not overbrown.
Tip the crumbs out of the baking tray and leave to cool completely. Crumble with
your fingers until fine crumbs form, then set aside until required.
The Italian meringue can be made up to two days in advance and stored in a
covered container in the fridge until required. Combine the sugar and water in
a saucepan with a thermometer attached over a medium heat, stirring until the
sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, without stirring, and as soon as it reaches the
boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes, without stirring, or
until the syrup reaches 125°C.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they are stiff enough
to hold a ribbon on the surface when the beaters are lifted. Slowly pour the hot
syrup into the egg whites, beating constantly, until a stiff meringue forms. Leave
to cool completely.
Next make the caramel for the base of the moulds. Combine the sugar with the
water in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring
to the boil without stirring, then continue to boil, swirling the pan occasionally,
until the caramel turns a rich golden brown. Watch very closely so it doesn’t burn.
Immediately divide the caramel among the bases of eight 125ml disposable foil
moulds, shaped like deep ramekins, then set aside.
When you are ready to bake the flans, preheat the oven to 130°C/Gas Mark ½
and arrange the moulds in a deep ovenproof container, such as a baking tray or
dish. Beat the egg yolks and whites together in a heatproof bowl and set aside.
Bring a kettle of water to the boil.
Combine the milk and dulce de leche in a heavy-based saucepan over a
medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid the dulce de leche catching on the
bottom of the pan and burning. Slowly pour the hot dulce de leche mixture over
the beaten eggs, whisking constantly. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into
a measuring jug to make it easier to fill the moulds.
Equally divide the dulce de leche mixture among the moulds. Pour enough
boiling water into the ovenproof container to come half way up the sides of the
moulds, then cover the top of the large container with kitchen foil. Bake for 30
minutes, or until the flans are set but still slightly wobbly in the centres. Remove
the flans from the water bath and set aside to cool completely.
To serve, smear the Italian meringue on the serving plates, then caramelise
using a blowtorch. Invert a flan on to each plate, then very gently press the
tip of a knife into the top of each foil mould, taking care not to press the knife
down into the flans or you will leave a cut mark that will give you a less-thanprofessional
presentation. Very gently lift off the foil moulds. Dot the extra dulce
de leche around the plates and sprinkle each flan with the coconut crumble.