I first cooked vattalapam in Melbourne when I was a young chef, after reading the recipe somewhere. It is wonderful — like a dairy-free cashew nut creme caramel.
- Heat the oven to 180degC. Have six 200ml ovenproof ramekins ready (ceramic souffle dishes are ideal).
- Prepare a bain-marie by half filling a roasting dish with hot water and place it on a sheet in the top third of the oven.
- Bring the coconut milk, spices and palm sugar to the boil, cover with a lid and put aside in a warm place for 10 minutes.
- Beat the eggs, vanilla and second measure of palm sugar for 30 seconds and gently whisk the hot milk mixture into them.
- Oil the ramekins and divide the cashew nuts between them, then pour the custard over the nuts.
- Place in the bain-marie and bake for 40 minutes. Test the vattalapam by insering a wooden skewer, it should come out clean, if a little moist. Let them cool in the ramekins before placing in the fridge for at least 2 hours to set (they will keep for up to four days). Run a knife around the sides and shake gently to remove the dessert. Serve with wedges of tropical fruits.