We turn up the heat on a selection of your best blackened recipes.
Burnt might not sound the most appetising theme, but as usual, you lot were on fire - introducing me to the joys of charred rice in no fewer than three different ways this week. Those bitter burnt flavours work particularly well with sweetness - which is why Nigel Calaghan's Spanish caramel ice-cream is such a deserving winner. It's soft scoop, so you'll have to eat it fast: but that won't be a problem, trust me.
The winning recipe: crema tostada
We had this extreme caramel ice-cream in Santander and decided to try to recreate its burnt edge at home. You have to be bold making the caramel. How far dare you go? The recipe is adapted from my mother-in-law Pat's recipe for "ordinary" caramel ice-cream.
Nigel Calaghan, Ilkley
225g caster sugar
235ml double cream
8 egg yolks
1 Dissolve 60g of sugar in 2 tbsp of water in a pan, then bring to the boil without stirring (shake the pan instead). Cook for 3-5minutes until brown, with a slightly burnt aroma.
2 Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Meanwhile, bring the milk and cream to the boil and stir into the caramel.
3 Whisk the yolks and remaining sugar together until pale and fluffy. Whisk in the caramel and pour into a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, stirring every 5minutes.
4 Pour into a container and freeze - no stirring required.
Burnt aubergine no-stir risotto
A lot of myths surround risotto - the most persistent being the need to stir continuously to release the starch in the rice. In fact, this will permeate the dish naturally, and once you jettison the incessant stirring, you can take all sorts of shortcuts, including pre-soaking the rice, which will allow the grains to be cooked almost unattended in 6-7minutes, making it much more practical for a dinner party.
Stefano Vozza, Dublin
400g carnaroli rice
1.2 litre chicken stock
1 large aubergine
100g shallots, finely chopped
150ml white wine
60g parmesan, grated
1 tbsp mint, finely chopped
2 tbsp pine nuts
Oil, to cook
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 Soak the rice in the chicken stock for 2hours in the fridge.
2 Meanwhile, cook 80g of the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat until nut brown. Refrigerate until solid.
3 Char the aubergine on the largest ring of a gas stove over a medium heat, turning occasionally with tongs, for 10-15minutes until it collapses. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to cool, then scoop out and finely chop the flesh.
4 Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Soften the shallots, then pour in the wine and reduce by half.
5 Add the rice, stock and aubergine and bring to the boil, then cook on a high heat for 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6 When the rice is tender but still al dente, take off the heat and stir in the browned butter, parmesan and mint. Season, cover and rest for 4minutes.
7 Fry the pine nuts in a little oil over a medium heat until golden.
8 Divide the rice between 4 plates, sprinkle over the chilli and pine nuts and serve immediately.
Chicken and aubergine gratin
I first tasted this this dish at a friend's house, when I was in my early teens, growing up in Iran. It's rich and luxurious, a complete family meal on its own but equally impressive centre-stage at a dinner party. Serve with a side salad or greens.
Moji Walmsley, London
Olive oil, for frying
1 onion, chopped
4 chicken breasts or 8 thighs, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp advieh (Persian mixed spice)
½ tsp paprika
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 medium aubergines, sliced
4 large waxy potatoes, thinly sliced
45g plain flour
A pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp sundried tomato paste
150ml double cream (optional)
150g cheddar or emmental, grated
1 Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Saute the onions on a medium heat in a large frying pan until soft and golden. Add the chicken and garlic and gently toss, then add the spices and stock, reduce the heat and gently simmer until the chicken is cooked.
2 Brush a griddle with olive oil and chargrill the aubergines on a high heat.
3 Boil the potato slices in salted water until just soft, then drain well.
4 For the bechamel sauce, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook for a few minutes, then gradually stir in the milk. Bring to the boil, simmer for a minute, then season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
5 In an ovenproof dish start with a layer of chicken, onions and garlic and 2 tbsp of the liquid, followed by a layer of aubergines spread with 1 tbsp of sun-dried tomato paste, bechamel sauce, cream if using and grated cheese. Repeat until all the ingredients have been are used. Reserve a third of the cheese for the top.
6 Arrange the potato slices on top, overlapping them until the dish is covered. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for 25-30 mins until bubbling, golden and beginning to charred around the edges.
Minced beef claypot rice
Claypot rice is classic winter street food in Hong Kong. When we were small, my siblings and I were always fighting over the burnt rice at the bottom of the pot, where all the flavours accumulate. The aroma of the claypot brings me straight back.
Natalie Wong, London; twinnydip.blogspot.co.uk
225g lean minced beef
Oil, to grease
2 spring onions, finely sliced
For the marinade
1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine or dry sherry
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp white sugar
2 tsp cornflour
½ tsp ground white pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
For the sweet soy sauce
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 Mix the beef with the marinade ingredients, cover and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
2 Grease a claypot or medium saucepan, then put over a medium heat. Add the rice and 375ml water, cover, bring to the boil and cook on a low heat for about 7minutes.
3 Put the marinated beef on top and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the sweet soy sauce ingredients together in a small pan until the sugar has dissolved, then set aside.
4 Cover the claypot and cook for 5 more minutes, then turn off the heat and leave until the meat is cooked.
5 Scatter the spring onions over the beef, then crack an egg over the top and cook to your taste. Stir in the egg and serve with the sweet soy sauce.
Rice pudding requemada
Imagine my surprise when my Spanish flatmate started to make rice pudding on the top of the stove instead of in the oven like I'd always done. When he replaced our baked skin with crunchy caramel I was converted. Here's the recipe if you fancy a change from soggy school-dinner rice pudding. Diane Kitchen, Ilkley
1 litre milk
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
125g short-grain pudding rice
100g caster sugar, plus extra for topping
30g unsalted butter
1 Put the milk, zest, cinnamon and rice in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring frequently, then lower the heat and simmer for about 30-35mins. Keep stirring until the mixture becomes thick and creamy.
2 Remove the cinnamon, add the sugar and simmer, stirring, for another 10 minutes.
3 Take off the heat, stir in the butter and a pinch of salt and spoon into shallow ovenproof dishes. Cool but don't refrigerate.
4 To serve, sprinkle the tops with 1 tbsp caster sugar each, and use a blowtorch or grill to caramelise this. Cool and serve while the top is still brittle.
Double-burnt rice crackers
For many of us Japanese, the smell of burnt soy sauce is deliciously nostalgic. It's the smell of festival-day food stalls, childhood and the countryside. Some of us love it so much we've recreated this simple snack to enjoy at home. Sakura Nishimura, Cambridgeshire
Makes about 10
200g cooked white Japanese rice
Oil, to cook
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp mirin
1 Roll the rice between 2pieces of clingfilm into a 2mm thick sheet, folding and rolling again if necessary until firm enough to handle. Cut into biscuit-sized pieces.
2 Lightly grease a non-stick frying pan and put on high heat. Cook the cakes, well spaced and in batches, for 5-7minutes on each side until stiff, fragrant and freckled with black spots. Set aside.
3 Turn down the heat a little, pour the soy sauce and mirin into the pan and let them bubble up for a second to get that burnt smell. Quickly take the pan off the heat to prevent them evaporating completely.
4 Return the crackers to the pan so the sticky sauce clings to them a little, but doesn't cover them. Lift out and leave to dry, then eat as a mid-afternoon snack with green tea.
Crema tostada. Photograph: Jemma Watts