Recipes | Cyrus Todiwala's Saffron and Cardamom Crème Brûlée


Cyrus Todiwala's Saffron and Cardamom Crème Brûlée

This is an amazing recipe I tasted earlier this year at the London Wine Fair and persuaded chef Cyrus Todiwala of Café Spice Namasté to share. He says it's not yet in any of his books so you're not to nick it and pass it off as yours!

The Café Spice Namaste Saffron & Cardamom Crème Brulee

Serves 4

Equipment and preparation: You'll need a shallow ovenproof dish (to make one large crème brûlée) or four brûlée dishes or large ramekins (for individual brulées). You'll also need a mini-blowtorch to caramelise the top, a saucepan and a heat resistant scraper, whisk and wooden spatula and definitely a good small blender or liquidizer and a strainer


450ml/16fl oz double cream

250ml/ 8fl oz whole milk. Best is Jersey Gold Top

1 large or 2 smaller vanilla pods, split, seeds scraped out (or a few drops of vanilla extract) Use your judgment - some vanilla is stronger than others

5-6 free-range or organic egg yolks (save the egg whites for another dish or freeze them for future use)

100g/3½ oz caster sugar, plus 40g/1½ oz more, for the topping

40g fresh ginger, washed & chopped coarsely with the skin

4-5 green cardamom pods, smashed in a mortar - not powdered

a good pinch of saffron powder. (We use only the best from Tarbund in Iran. If you can't find a good saffron powder then use saffron threads which you need to toast gently in a small bowl inside a warm oven, crumble slightly when crisp and then let infuse in a little of the cooked, strained milk )


. Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan along with the ginger and cardamom pods and bring slowly to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently scraping the sides of the pan clean regularly with the spatula. Cook until the milk is reduced to about 100ml.

. Cool slightly then pour the mixture into the blender scraping the pan clean and blend. Pass through a strainer squeezing out as much of the milk as you can and only then discard the ginger and cardamom pulp. (We actually use it to make tea afterwards as it is not that useless!)

. Pour the strained milk back into the pan along with the cream and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.

. Split the vanilla pods down the middle with a sharp knife. Scrape out the seeds with the knife and add the seeds and the pods (or the vanilla extract) to the cream and milk mixture. Stir well to combine and slowly bring back up to simmering point.

. Pour the caster sugar into a bowl with the yolks and whisk together until well combined and frothy.

. Pour the hot cream and milk mixture (along with the vanilla pods, if using) over the egg yolks and sugar. Stir thoroughly for a minute or two to dissolve the sugar. (At this stage you can chill the mixture in the fridge and make the brulées the following day, or carry on with the recipe.)

. Add the saffron as desired. (We like it to look nice and deep coloured)

. Discard the vanilla pod or pods and pour or ladle the brûlée mixture into the serving dish (or dishes).

. Place the crème brûlée dish or dishes into a deep baking tray and pour hot water into the tray, until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the dishes (this is called a bain-marie).

. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas 2 Place the bain-marie into the preheated oven and cook the crème brûlées for about 30-35 minutes or until set firm but still with a slight wobble. Allow to cool. You can place the brûlées in the fridge at this stage if you're not serving them immediately but as soon as they are completely cool cover them with cling wrap so the top does not dry out and they don't pick up odours from the fridge.

. For the topping, sprinkle half of the remaining caster sugar on top of the brûlées. Heat the surface with a mini-blowtorch until it forms a thin layer of caramel.

Sprinkle over the rest of the sugar and caramelise with the mini-blowtorch once again, to form a thick crunchy layer. The crème brûlées are ready to serve immediately or in 2-3 hours.

What to drink: Cyrus matched this crème brulée made into tartlets with a glorious fortified sweet wine called Carthagène which I made my match of the week a couple of months ago. A late harvest viognier or vendange tardive gewurztramine would also be delicious.

Recipe © Cyrus Todiwala OBE. Photo is of the tartlet version.

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