Savory cheese flan, with walnuts and pomegranate sauce
Dec 17, 2014
Have you ever wondered what ancient Greek cooking would taste like? If ancient Greeks could have known that people in the future would be interested in their cuisine, they would most certainly have written down everything about their art of cooking.
During what we now call the ‘classical period’ ancient Greek civilization reached its peak. Tragic plays and Aristophanes’ comedies describe daily life including scenes around a table. Deipnosophists (from deipnon- dinner and sofos- wise) writing about the philosophic discussions taking place in rich people’s houses during gastronomic feasts described the menus in great detail. These sources inform us that Athenians had three daily meals out of which ‘’deipnon’’, late in the evening, was the last and most rich meal of the day. Dinner in modern Greece is still called ‘’deipno’’.
Their diet consisted of a great variety of fish, meat from both game and stock farming, grains such as barley and wheat and, of course vegetables, legumes and wild greens. Olive oil played the most important role in every aspect of their daily life, religious, pharmaceutical, cultural, or alimentary. Wine, a genuine Greek product, was consumed daily. Honey, initially collected from tree cavities before beekeeping methods were developed, was their sweetener. Ancient Greeks preferred a rather sweet cuisine similar to Chinese and Far East cooking today.
Of course many of the ingredients mentioned above were seasonal and accessed according to the economic and social status of citizens. I have read a few books about the ancient Greek diet and I thought that this Christmas, my inspiration should come from the flavors of our ancient cuisine.
This savory cheese flan would be an ideal first course for the Christmas season, combining flavors and textures with festive symbolism. It has a mousse-like texture that nicely compliments the crunchiness of the walnuts and the sweet and sour taste of the pomegranate sauce. Pomegranates symbolize fertility and prosperity and have always been connected with New Year’s festivities in Greece. At the moment the New Year arrives, we break open a pomegranate onto the door step for good luck throughout the year.
I wish a Merry Christmas to all of you.
Savory cheese flan, with walnuts and pomegranate sauce.
For the flan:
200gr ricotta or soft goat cheese
200gr whipping cream 35% fat
2 medium eggs
¼ of a garlic clove (optional)
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
2Tbsps of chopped walnuts,( plus some more for decoration)
Salt and pepper to taste
For the pomegranate sauce:
160gr pomegranate juice (1 big pomegranate is enough)
2tsps white wine vinegar( or other light color vinegar)
Preheat the oven to 170 C. Lightly grease four 150ml ramekins and place them in a deep roasting pan.
In a blender bowl, put the cheese, cream, eggs, garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and blend for a few seconds until you have a smooth creamy batter.
Transfer the cream batter to a bowl and mix with a spoon the chopped walnuts into the batter, to incorporate.
Pour the cream batter into the ramekins, then carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake for 50min or until the flans have just set on the surface.
Leave the flans to cool in the pan for 10min and then remove them from the pan and let them cool on a rack for further 10min. Meanwhile prepare the sauce.
Cut the pomegranate in half, save some seeds for decorating the plate and squeeze the pomegranate through a fine sieve into a sauce pan (Be careful not to split the juice on your clothes; the stain will be permanent). Add vinegar and honey and bring to a boil. Simmer until the sauce reduces to half of the original amount. Remove from heat and let cool.
Note: The pomegranates I used were sweet. If your pomegranates are sour, use more honey and less vinegar, to get both a sweet and sour sauce.
Run a blunt knife around the inside of each ramekin and turn the flans onto four plates. Drizzle with pomegranate sauce and serve with dressed leafy salad with pomegranate seeds and chopped walnuts.