For the uninitiated, custard is a sweet vanilla flavoured English dessert sauce. In short, it’s delicious. In fact, in my humble opinion, it is one of the pinnacles of British cuisine.

For many years I’ve been lazily reliant on packets of Bird’s instant custard and the occasional Ambrosia ready made custard when camping or sailing. That’s all changed. I can no longer obtain such things with ease so I’ve been investigating ways to replicate the brilliance of custard from raw ingredients. So, my first experiment was  ‘proper custard’. You use four egg yolks and a load of milk and, to be honest, it doesn’t taste like Birds!! I guess that means I can’t lay claim to being a great custard snob after all. I decided that there lay madness and a waste of eggs. Knowing that Mrs Bird was allergic to eggs, the cheap stuff is basically a white sauce with vanilla flavouring, so that’s what I made. This time, the taste was pretty good, but it looked awful, like anaemic vanilla-flavoured gloop. No, that wasn’t for me. So, experiment three was a mixture of the two. Here (tada!) is my recipe for delicious, good-looking, irresistable custard:

Put a dollop of butter in a pan and melt it

Add about the same amount of white flour (you can use corn flour if so inclined), about two heaped dessert spoons for a pint

Add milk, followed by one egg yolk and stir. I stir with a mixture of spoon (to get the bits round the edge) and whisk (to make sure it’s all dissolved in and mixed well).

One the sauce has thickened (the more stirring the better), add in vanilla essence, about 1tsp and sugar to taste (1-2 dessert spoons per pint is good for me).

Serve and savour. Mmm.

I find the egg just lifts the flavour and gives it a more classy taste, without being as strong as experiment number one. Let me know if you try it! To be honest, now I’ve found the perfect formula I don’t think I’ll go back. It takes about the same amount of time as the packet stuff and you can play around with the ingredients to get the optimal texture and taste.

Now, about custard in Germany. I’ve seen vanilla sauces, even in sachets, that amount to more or less the same thing. There are really two problems. First, the sachets are way too small and you’d have to buy loads of them to have a decent supply. Secondly, when I’ve been served it, it’s cold and to me it’s just not the same. Now I just have to work on the perfect crumble, sticky toffee pudding, spotted dick, treacle sponge…..

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