Today’s long-overdue recipe post is for my grandmother, the wonderful cook and beautiful soul who taught me how to properly pick zucchini and how to relish simple meals like steamed fish with wild greens and minimal spices. Unlike widely assumed, spicier is not always better. In some cases, especially when using fresh ingredients, all you need is a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt, pepper and fresh rosemary to make a meal sing. Although I still love curries, Lebanese food and hot-sauce, learning to appreciate the simplicity of Dalmatian food was the best lesson I’ve ever been taught. Although my Nana isn’t known for excessive meals, the desserts she loves are almost always on rotation in her kitchen, not as treats but as necessities. After all, why wait for Friday to treat yourself when you can have a few bites of something delicious every day?
Šnenokle, a sort of trifle composed of vanilla custard and gently poached meringue is one such dessert. I always thought it’s origins were German but after snooping around on the internet for a while I learned that it actually comes from France, where the dessert is typically made with cream, served cold and decorated with sweet, sticky caramel. The Croatian version I grew up eating is decidedly simpler and healthier. My grandmother would probably even say it’s the best, as would any French grandmother or Italian Nonna. As usual with European food, it doesn’t matter. Make it however you want: thick or thin custard, caramel or no caramel, it’ll still be delicious.
- 1 liter of milk ( I used lactose-free milk)
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 5 tbsp raw sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla paste
- 3 tbsp cornflour
- 2-5 digestive biscuits, crumbled
- 5 tbsp or so chocolate shavings to decorate
Separate your yolks from your whites. Heat the milk in a large saucepan on medium-high until simmering (re: slightly bubbling).
Beat egg whites on medium-high speed, adding 2 tbsp sugar, salt and cream of tartar when egg whites are white but not yet stiff. Turn up speed to high and beat until completely stiff (ie: you can put the bowl upside down and nothing eggy will budge, proceed with caution).
Turn down simmering milk to low heat. With two large spoons, shape and transport large chunks of meringue into the milk. Once the meringues start to grow, turn them over gently with one of the spoons so that the other side can cook. Do this in several several batches depending on the size of your saucepan and baste meringues with milk as they cook.
Transport ready meringues to a plate to cool down.
Take your milk off the heat. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar and vanilla until very light yellow in color, thick and frothy. Add the three tbsp of cornstarch and combine well. Add a few tbsp of warm milk to the small bowl to bring up the temperature of the egg yolks (so they don’t curdle) and once warmed, return egg mixture to the large saucepan.
Put saucepan back on the stove and simmer mixture on medium until it thickens. Once bubbling, take it off the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Pour into a serving bowl.
Add in cooked meringues and crumbled cookies and cover with chocolate shavings. Refrigerate and enjoy cold.