Flim Flum Flan

Cardamom-studded Flan

One wouldn’t necessarily think of flan as an Indian dessert but this fusion recipe comes from someone with a fascinating provenance. Mumtaz Rahemtulla is of Indian origin (from the Western-most state of Gujarat) and a fourth generation Kenyan. Both she and her husband were born British nationals in Kenya. But when Kenya gained independence, they opted for Kenyan citizenship. In the 1970’s, she and her husband migrated to Canada where her children were born, before moving again to the U.S. Mumtaz usually steams her flan on the stove (over medium heat for about 30 minutes) but I have altered the recipe to bake in a water bath in the oven. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with a rich, creamy, melt-in-your mouth treat harboring a surprise in every bite–a heady shot of cardamom.

Time: 1 hour 15 minutes (20 minutes active)
Makes: 8 servings
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 cups 2-percent fresh milk
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup sweetened condensed milk (about half of a 14-ounce can)
5 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
Seeds from 6 green cardamom pods, ground with a mortar and pestle (about 1/4 teaspoon), plus more for garnish
Pinch saffron

In a small, heavy saucepan (cast iron or aluminum are ideal), melt sugar over medium heat undisturbed. The sugar will start to melt around the edges of the pan at the 5 to 7 minute mark. When a syrup starts to form, swirl the pan occasionally or stir with a wooden spoon to encourage the rest of the sugar to melt. The light golden color will shift from lighter to darker shades of amber. After about 15 minutes in total, the sugar will have completely melted into a thick, deep amber syrup. Don’t step away from the stove during this process, even for a minute. If at any time you need to stop the caramelizing process abruptly, pull the pan off the stove and carefully immerse the bottom of the pan into your sink filled with cool water.

Quickly pour caramel into a 10-inch pie plate and swirl to coat the bottom. If the caramel hardens before you’re done, microwave plate for 30 to 45 seconds until the caramel is runny again. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine fresh, evaporated, and condensed milks, eggs, vanilla, nutmeg, cardamom, and saffron. Whisk until smooth. Pour custard into the caramel-coated plate.

Place the pie plate in a baking pan. Fill the pan with water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the pie plate to create a water bath.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the flan crinkles at the edges and is speckled with light brown spots. A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean.

Cool to room temperature and chill in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to serve, run a thin-bladed knife along the edge of the plate. Place a serving platter on top of the pie plate and turn over. The flan should release easily from the pie plate onto the platter. Cut into 8 slices and garnish with hand-crushed cardamom seeds.

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