Time flies when you’re having fun, and I’ve been in Turin for more than three months now. I’ve made a nice wee home for myself, and I’ve gotten used to most things here. My work, my daily routine, the pubs and bars in the area, my favourite vegetable guy at the market, all of it has become pretty familiar. Mostly it’s my flatmates that make me feel at home here, though.
Remember how awkward I was at the beginning, and how I had a nervous breakdown every time I cooked for them? We’re way past that stage now. We’ve gotten completely comfortable around each other, or rather, I’ve gotten comfortable around them. Where I felt I had to dress properly around them before, any day can now be pyjamas-Sunday. Announcing for the whole household that you’re going for a dump is no problem (although one of us is guilty of this more than the other two – I’ll leave you to guess who). And having gotten over my fears in the kitchen, I’ve started cooking them what I jolly well want, including the deplorable cuisine of my native country.
I had a sort of Dutch-themed dinner the other night, and I decided a Dutch dessert was inispensable, just in case the main turned out too Dutch to handle for Italians – or more specifically, for my flatmate, Blenderman, the only attendee. (Telling people it was going to be a Dutch-themed dinner was probably a mistake, because everyone I invited politely declined.) This dessert, vla, is one of those things that foreigners visiting the Netherlands tend to go mad for. I don’t see why, because the industrially-produced rubbish you buy from supermarkets is absolutely revolting. However, the home-made version, the real thing, is pretty delicious, and you can use it to make a traditional vlaflip, which combines this vla with yoghurt and syrup. Or jam, in my case, because to hell with syrup.
So for about half a litre of vla, use:
- half a litre of milk
- 30gr of sugar
- 25gr of cornflour (or, to avoid confusion, maizena, as they call it here and in the Netherlands)
- half a vanilla pod (yeah, a real one! pricey but worth it – don’t you dare use vanilla extract or vanillin)
- one egg yolk
- half a pinch of salt
Heat the milk au-bain-marie. Slice open the half vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds, chuck them in the milk and then throw in the now-empty pod for good measure.
Whilst the milk heats up, mix the sugar with the cornflour and the egg yolk. This will turn into a crumbly mixture, which you then dilute with the milk. Once the milk gets pretty hot, near boiling but not quite boiling, remove the empty vanilla pod, them take a couple of spoonfuls and add it to the egg yolk and sugar mixture, making it into a smooth paste. Add this to the hot milk, and stir well – I used an electric whisk, but a spoon or fork should be OK, too. Now keep stirring for quite a while. The mixture will go dense, but it’ll take quite a while, so don’t worry if nothing seems to happen at first. The mixture should be the consistency of yoghurt, more or less. It’ll stiffen up a little bit as it cools, so you can take it off the heat just before you feel it’s done.
Pour the vla into another bowl, then put some clingfilm over the bowl and press it down so it touches the surface of the vla – that way, you won’t get a skin as the vla cools.
Now you’re ready to make a vlaflip! Take some glasses, pour in some strawberry syrup (or if you want to be a rebel like me, jam), some yoghurt, and top it with vla. Add some whipped cream if you really want to push the boat out.