holidays and recipes: an ancient holiday menu with hazel walnut honey custard
The final recipe for the ancient holiday dinner menu is a dessert that stands the test of time. Presenting in a very lovely manner, the hazel-walnut honey custard is the perfect dessert that represents the ancient world and satisfies modern sensibilities. Nutty, sweetened with honey, visually pleasing and, of course, easy to prepare, make this dessert a part of whatever holiday menu you might choose.
You’ll notice, of course, that this dessert is sweetened with honey. For the ancient Greeks honey was considered the food of the Gods. Praised by Homer in the Iliad and Odyssey and philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle, honey found its way into many ancient texts, myths and legends. The Romans continued the practice of apiculture, using honey for both dietary and health requirements.
According to The Philosopher’s Kitchen, where we found the recipe for this Hazel-Walnut Honey Custard walnuts were a child’s plaything. They were also found in this recipe, which comes from an ancient Roman cookbook.
An Ancient Holiday Dinner
Hazel-Walnut Honey Custard
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup blanched hazelnuts
2 cups whole milk
¼ ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of freshly milled five-color peppercorns
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
3 tablespoons nut liqueur (frangelico or amaretto)
1. Finely grind the walnuts and hazelnuts in a food processor. Toast the nut mixture in a small dry nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until golden. Reserve 2 tablespoons.
2. Place the remaining toasted nuts and the milk, nutmeg, allspice, and pepper in a saucepan and bring to a low boil over medium-low heat. Gently simmer the mixture for 10 to 12 minutes to reduce the milk and infuse the flavors. Remove from the heat and stir in ¼ cup honey and the salt. Allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease six ½ cup ramekins and place them in a deep baking pan.
4. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and egg white, and then whisk them into the milk custard until well incorporated. Pour the custard into the ramekins. Fill the baking pan with hot water until it reaches three-quarters of the way up the ramekins. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.
5. Bake in the center of the oven until set and firm, about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the ramekins in the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
6. While the custard is cooling in the oven, make the sauce. Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey with the liqueur in a small bowl.
7. Serve the custards in the ramekins, or if you prefer, invert each onto a plate and then invert again onto a serving dish so that it rests golden side up. Drizzle with the honey liqueur mixture and top with the reserved toasted nuts.