After seeing the notice for Lasang Pinoy 14, I was disappointed since I wasn’t well-versed when it comes to Spanish-inspired cuisine. I considered experimenting on Paella, or some other blatantly Spanish dish, but I kept hitting a dead end. Then it finally dawned on me that I’ve been thinking too hard and needed only to look back at my own experiences. Or rather, my memories of my Grandma.
Like most Kapampangans, my Lola was a kitchen queen. She cooked with her senses. She had no use for recipes. Her cookbook was her head; her hands her measuring cups. Every family gathering was of fiesta proportions and her dishes were sheer comfort to her children and us, her grandchildren.
Her cooking prowess wasn’t limited to feeding our family though. Even friends and strangers acknowledged her skill. Her atsara (a papaya-based pickle mix) was a best-seller. Her ube halaya, legendary. Her leche flan was hoarded deep in the recesses of our refrigerator, where we’d try to make it last. Not that it was effective.
Despite watching her make leche flan quite often when I was growing up, I never learned the recipe. I was always fascinated by what seemed like her playing with food; she’d use her hands to gently mash the egg yolks with the milk. Only years later was I to learn that it was to prevent bubbles in the flan. It was always fun watching her cook, but by the time I was old enough to be interested in cooking, she had already migrated to the States.
While she would still come home and visit, I would be busy with school or work, and she’d be busy meeting up with other relatives. Still, I always told myself, next time she comes home to Manila, I’ll corner her and make her teach me.
Two Augusts ago, she passed on. But while I will never taste food prepared by her hands again, it doesn’t mean I can’t try and keep her cooking alive through my own.
Leche Flan is a Filipino custard with caramelized sugar on top. It’s name is derived from the Spanish word leche which means milk. Aptly enough, this is a confection of egg yolks and milk. Creamy and not too sweet, leche flan can be eaten as is, or it can also be used as an ingredient for halo-halo, a milky iced dessert with a multitude of sweet ingredients.
Lola Maring’s Leche Flan v. 15 October 2006
“Seven egg yolks per can of milk,” my mom instructed me. That, according to her, was Lola’s recipe. Everything else, we’re trying to piece together through memory and experimentation. This is the second time I’ve tried making leche flan myself. Not quite Lola’s. But close enough.
7 large egg yolks
1 can (378 ml) evaporated milk
1/2 can (150 ml) condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Mix together the egg yolks, evaporated milk, condensed milk, and vanilla, making sure to use light motions to minimize the formation of bubbles. Using a strainer, fish out any floating debris caused by egg whites, etc.
3. Sprinkle evenly a few teaspoons of sugar in your llanera. Heat your llanera until the sugar caramelizes. If you’re not using a llanera, you can opt to make a simple syrup instead, then pour it into your mold.
4. Distribute the egg yolk mix between 2 syrup-bottomed llanera. Set the llaneras into a baine marie1, then bake for around 50 minutes to an hour. To test for doneness, use the good old toothpick test. If a toothpick comes out clean after being poked into the center of your leche flan, eureka,you can eat in a few minutes.
5. To serve, slide a blunt knife around the edges of your leche flan then invert over a large plate.
Makes 2 llanera.
1 Baine Marie – A baine marie is a cooking technique often used for delicate desserts. To prepare one, set your pans inside a larger pan. The larger pan’s sides must be taller than your inside pans. Then, pour water into the larger pan, making sure at least half of the inner pan is submerged. Monitor your baking; don’t let the water dry out. To replenish, just pour some more hot water.
Check out the rest of the Ala Espanola entries at: