Thursday, September 8, 2011

retro recipe revamp: quesillo de piña con la menta

Sorry for the lack of posts round these parts, but the last fortnight has been crazy busy. I hope this Venezuelan pineapple and mint flan makes up for it.

Hey, even if you don't like pineapple, or mint, or (god forbid) flan, how could you not love the vintage cookbook this week's recipe came from? Allow me to introduce you to the authorised British edition of Latin American Cooking, released in 1970 as part of the 'Foods of the World' Time Life Books series, a cookbook filled with wonderful full-page colour photographs and historical and geographical information about the foods of Latin America. And the people that eat them. Check this out. 

Cool kids partying in Peru, 1968

Kitty cats round the buffet in Rio, late 60s.

A fancy Columbian family about to tuck into a lunch of fried plantains and a disturbingly-decorated piggy.

I don't think I need to tell you that I love this book.  So again, it was hard to decide what to make. Despite its retro aesthetic, it's actually full of all kind of interesting recipes for food that's something close to "authentic" Latin American cuisine; there's step-by-step pictures to help you make tamales and tortillas and an in-depth section on cooking parrillero, or Argentine BBQ. There's also this handy guide, in case you didn't know how:

But seeing as I've been under the weather this week, I made the decision not to drink tequila and instead to make a pineapple flan with bitter caramel atop a firm but delicate custard of eggs, condensed milk and pineapple juice - and I decided to infuse the milk with fresh mint, just for a bit of a lift.  I poured the caramel and custard into individual darioles and reduced the cooking time by about half. 

While the end result is not quite as silky as a custard made entirely from milk or cream, the punchy bright flavours of the pineapple and mint more than make up for it and inject a little summertime spritz into a classic dessert. I'm thinking this dish would provide the ideal finish to a Latin American summer BBQ; hot weather, cold, strong cocktails, people dancing to bossa nova on the stereo and a pineapple mint flan. I think I just planned my birthday party. 


Quesillo de piña con la menta (pineapple flan with mint)
Adapted from Latin American Cooking (1970)
Makes 1 large flan serving 6 - 8, or 7 small dariole-sized flans

For the caramel:
200g caster sugar
6 tbs water

For the custard:
1 tin condensed milk (395g)
1 sprig of mint
3 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups pineapple juice (I used the retro-friendly tall Golden Circle tin)
3 tbs sugar

mint sprigs, to serve

1. To infuse with mint, pour condensed milk into a small saucepan and add 1 sprig of fresh mint. Heat the milk over very low heat, being careful not to burn, until the mint wilts and the mixture has taken on its flavour and fragrance, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. 

2. To make caramel, combine caster sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and swirl gently until sugar begins to dissolve. Heat the mixture over medium heat, swirling (not stirring) so that the sugar dissolves evenly. Let the mixture bubble away until it becomes a gorgeous dark golden colour (like tea) and takes on a heavenly caramel smell. Remove from heat quickly. Be careful as the mixture gets very, very hot and can burn instantly once the colour starts to develop. 

3. Being very careful not spill the mixture (and burn your hands off), pour the caramel into the bottom of your mould/s. (If you want to, using a folded tea towel or oven mitts, you can pick up the mould and swirl the mixture round and up the sides - I didn't bother with my mini-flans.) Set aside to cool slightly. 

4. Heat the oven to 325F/170C and put your kettle on to boil. To make your custard, beat the eggs and extra yolks until well combined and creamy. Remove the mint sprig from the cooled condensed milk and slowly add it to the eggs along with the pineapple juice and sugar, beating gently all the while (the mixmaster was great for this). When well combined, strain the mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps and pour into mould/s. 

5. Place the mould/s into a baking pan with high sides and gently slide this into the preheated oven. Pour enough boiling water into the pan to come half-way up the sides of the mould/s. Bake for around 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. When cooked, remove flans from water and set aside to cool, before refrigerating for at least 3 hours. 

6. To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge and sides of the flan/s and dip the bottom of the mould briefly in hot water. Place your serving plate upside down over the mould and invert flan. If it doesn't budge, give it a little tap on the bench and it should slip out. Garnish with mint sprigs.


  1. Aw, I thought that was Amy Winehouse on the right of the first photo for a minute. Alas, no. Perhaps if she'd had more flan, less crack, things would have worked out better. :(

  2. such a delicious flan recipe!! <3

  3. wow, that is a treasure. my eyes are glued to the dresses from the first photo, especially that stripey one. i love it. plus, a little tequila education is never a bad idea.


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