A strong and exhilarating scent filling your kitchen and tickling your nostrils, that of vanilla pods slowly caramelizing in the oven and spluttering as an invitation to taste the islands’ flavors.
Yes, even at the beginning of February, you are given the opportunity to let the cold and monotony of winter aside and to escape with a mouthful. Just like islets gently scattered over the ocean, our tiny vanilla custards will make you travel. In order to celebrate this brand new year, we offer you spoonfuls of Polynesia…
Could you dream of a better aroma than that of vanilla to evoke this paradise from the antipodes? Admit it, you would be better off this sweetener if only you had a nice and fresh pod… Known as the “Tahitian vanilla”, this small brown husk which you can easily find on the supermarket stalls or in delicatessens might in fact come from the island of Taha’a, in the Society archipelago. Its quality and delicate fragrance make it the best vanilla of the world according to several specialists.
The foresaid island provides 80% of the Polynesian production of vanilla. But its name may not be familiar to you.
People come to Taha’a to discover new flavors, meet colorful species, isolate from the rest of the world, surround oneself with passionate craftsmen and to be soaked in the islands’ way of life.
The vanilla is a tiny yellow orchid which grows leaning against trees, in lush and shady valleys and is partly responsible for Taha’a’s nickname and reputation. Particularly sweet-smelling, the vanilla tahitensis is known worldwide for its refined aroma. It requires a great know-how and a experience to grow.
Plants need to be taken care of, cosseted for months so as to help Mother Nature. Flowers are cross-pollinated manually at dawn, from July to October. Once they bloom, flowers remain open for a few hours only, which is why one must manipulate it dexterously. Once ripe, vanilla pods are picked and put outside to dry under the sun a few times, to be transformed or directly consumed.
The various vanilla plantations of the island offer to explain the whole process in details and sell pods as souvenirs. On your way to Haamene, as you cross the village of Poutoru, you can for instance stop by the House of Vanilla, a real institution which ensure every step of the production chain.
You are willing to get away from mist and hail but you have no time nor money to lay down under the sun? Here you go, we have the perfect substitute. There’s great agitation among your taste buds and you are green with envy as we speak of a potential dessert for tonight? It is now time to reveal our own recipe of Tahitian vanilla-flavored custard…
To create this masterpiece, you first need to feel the atmosphere and the island vibes, why don’t you listen to Bobby ? Take a sip of coconut water and relax. Put your pareo on, shake your hips and roll your sleeves up !
What you need :
First of all, you need to preheat your oven to 360°F, break the eggs in a bowl and add the sugar.
When you are done, heat the milk up, almost to the boiling point, cut the pod and scratch the inside with a fork. (Some māmā would even let it brew in cold milk the night before).
Gently pour the milk in the bowl and mix it all. Once the mixture is smooth, put it in six ramekins which you then place in a deep dish. Add water until you reach mid height according the double boiler method and put it in the oven for 40 to 45min.
Cover with clingfilm, let it cool and put it in the fridge.
If you do want to impress your guests, add brown sugar on top and caramelize it, just like a crème brûlée.
Hope your winter will be more bearable with this sweet and shiny touch and that you will soon come to our beautiful islands.