When I was a little girl, my grandmother had a lot of natural remedies for different ailments. I was hardly ever given any cough syrup or pills. Herbal teas were mostly used and amongst those, I really remember chamomile. I strongly disliked it at the time and someone always had to hold my nose shut while I drank the tea but today, I really appreciate it. I enjoy the apple-like aroma and mild taste. As a matter of fact, I drink it almost everyday.
In the Basque Country, herbs are abundant. Surprisingly though, they are traditionally not used much in cooking. They have had a medicinal role and now they are being re-introduced in the culinary world by all the new young chefs. One of the greatest Basque chefs at the moment is Andoni Luis Aduriz, who is chef owner of Mugaritz. He has published several outstanding books that I highly recommend. Some of them have been translated into different languages as well. My favorite one is definitely Clorofilia, in which he lists all the available herbs in our area with amazing recipes and beautiful short stories. There is a very mystical aura to him.
I was reading through his book a few nights ago and memories of my grandmother and chamomile came over me. I closed the book, shut my eyes, leaned back and tried to think about her. Then, I got online and ordered some lemon verbena and chamomile plants and knew exactly what I was going to be making with them.
These days, a few of my friends and some family seem to be going through a rough patch. Even I have found myself very introspective lately. Thinking about life, the world, where we are headed. So this is dedicated to all who seem to be going through hard times. Hang in there, things come and go, and usually, if we face our fears face to face, the outcome will only be bright. So have some chamomile tea and I will be here to listen.
Lemon Verbena and Chamomile Creme Brulee
500 ml organic heavy cream
5 organic egg yolks
100 grams sugar
3 grams (about 3 sprigs) lemon verbena leaves
1 grams chamomille leaves (my plant does not have any flowers yet but the leaves are also fragrant)
In a small saucepan, place the cream and the herbs and bring to a boil. Turn the heat off and let the herbs steep in the cream for a few minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Temper the warm cream into the yolks and whisk. Strain the custard through a fine sieve.
Place ramekins on a sheetpan. Pour custard into ramekins and bring the pan into a 300 degree oven. Once the sheetpan is on the oven rack, pour some boiling water on the pan to create a water bath. Bake the creme brulee in the 300 degree oven in a water bath for about 20 minutes (it depends on the size of the ramekin or how much custard is in each one). When lightly shaken, the center should jiggle slightly but not appear liquid.
Refrigerate the baked custards for at least 4 hours. Sprinkle some demerara sugar on top and burn with a torch or under a hot broiler.
110 grams butter
80 grams sugar
1 organic egg
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 Tbs chamomile leaves
175 grams flour
pinch of salt
Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the egg and mix. Scrape the bowl. Add the flour, salt, lemon zest and chamomile leaves. Mix until combined.
Place dough on parchment paper and roll into a log that is about 1 inch thick. Wrap it in the parchment paper and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
Slice the log, place the cookies on a sheetpan lined with parchment or silicon mat and bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes or until slightly golden.