It’s 20 years since Gü™ launched their range of desserts in glass ramekins. They were joined a decade later by Pots & Co., who used ceramic dishes. There are other brands in re-usable pots too, notably Bonne Maman’s crème brûlée. In Italy, I’ve found desserts served in small glass coffee cups. All delicious in themselves, and – bonus – they do not induce the guilt that comes from buying treats in plastic pots. Which is all very well, but what can you do with lots of glass and/or ceramic ramekins after you’ve delighted in their original contents?
I quickly spotted the potential for my offerings at BBQs and parties. I had already established myself as the bearer of desserts, but it was so much neater having individual offerings than a big bowl whose contents slumped when the first helping was taken. With gooseberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and apples in our garden, I would make crumbles. It’s best to use a water bath to stop the fruit over-cooking: put the ramekins in a big dish and pour water to about halfway up, then cook on a slow heat.
Trifles of course – see for example the jubilee trifle recipe we published for the late Queen’s Platinum jubilee. Or, for children, jelly with fruit topped with custard or ice cream.
Making use of home grown produce
This has been a bumper year for rhubarb. When a neighbour presented me with some plants and lots of stems, I decided to widen the pot repertoire. My first call, as always, was to Felicity Cloake, and I decided to adapt her rhubarb and custard tart for individual pots. I found the recipe was good for a dozen or so containers, but the proportion of base to egg custard filling was a bit wrong – it needed less base and a little more filling. I do like her method of preparing rhubarb, although I only had the (literally) common-or-garden rhubarb.
I do take issue with recipes that use cornflour as well as egg. Cornflour was introduced as a cheap thickener to replace egg, no need for both. So I left it out, as Felicity does herself in her egg custard recipe.
Next, I increased the amount of egg custard but instead of the pastry base I used that old standby for cheesecake bases – crushed digestive biscuits. The version using butter to bind the crumb was marginally better than just crushed biscuits, but being concerned about the palm oil that’s used in most brands of digestive biscuit, for the next attempt I used oat biscuits. And that worked a treat. As with the crumbles above, it does help to use a water bath.
Fruit and custard tart would work with custard powder, too, which would make it very simple and quick: crushed biscuits, custard, fruit of your choice, chill in the fridge.
So, my basics are crumbles, trifles, and now tarts. What do others do? Asking around I found that acquaintances were using them for individual servings of ice-cream; as pots to hold olives, chopped tomatoes and dipping sauces alongside crusty bread; for cheesecakes and mousses; as trinket holders; and I’m told the lids from Pringles™ tubes fit Gü™ ramekins.
Then my colleague Celina from the East Anglia Bylines took it up a notch. Her husband, a former acting head chef at the Norfolk club, makes a double-baked cheese soufflé recipe. Hat tip and thanks to Nigel Slater: his recipe on BBC food online is the closest. First steam for 12 minutes and 30 secs, cool, and then place in the oven for four minutes at 200°C for the second bake. Don’t stress about the Gruyère, use Cheddar or Norfolk Dapple.
I have accumulated so many ramekins I have been able to give many away. If you like the ceramic ones, please be aware Pots & Co. have switched to glass, too. But whatever the material do keep a stock if you can. You’ll save money and – most importantly – you can recreate dishes of wonder in these little glory pots.