Tag Archives: custard



I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this but I’m obsessed with trifle. I had forgotten about this obsession until quite recently. It had manifested in other ways – my take on Nigella’s Italian Christmas Pudding Cake which I’ve made for several years for dessert on December 24th; my love of all things custard. But pure trifle, unfussed with, traditional sponge cake, custard, berries and cream trifle, I hadn’t made in a long time until we went to Spain (of all places) last May.


There I met Andrés’s friends for the first time. We had a braai one day and they requested that I bring trifle as dessert. (They all pronounce it so it sounds like ‘truffle’ to my ear, elongating the ‘i’ so it sounds more like ‘e’, which makes it sound much more magical and alluring.) So I made a strawberry trifle. It was such a hit – gone in about 30 seconds – it made me remember the magical power of trifle. The power trifle has to make things better, seduce people, make you feel like the world is going to be a better place. That comforting memory of early childhood, where adults knew how to fix things, and the world was a place full of wonder and magic… (Of course, there are other takes on trifle, possibly not fueled by the same experiences I had, which you can hear about on this BBC Food programme or read about in this book, which is on my wish list.)

In need of such reassurances recently, I made what I like to term ‘freezer trifle’. This is trifle thrown together from things you already have skulking about in the back of your freezer. In my case there are always cake pieces and frozen raspberries (as well as emergency gin – like I suspect other people have homemade ready-meals, muffins and vegetables). Add in some super fast and easy vanilla custard, a slightly whipped double cream (and hazelnut praline for the funsies) and you have an easy dessert, any day of the week.


So this is not a recipe for trifle as such, it is a collection of ingredients that can be used to make trifle. With the exception of the custard – I’ve given you the recipe for that.

Some leftover vanilla cake pieces

Sherry (if you have it. I didn’t so mine were non-alcoholic trifles. We can debate whether this renders the dessert something else entirely if you’d like.)

Frozen raspberries, about a handful if there are two of you, heated with a tablespoon of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. You just want them slightly mashed and a bit juicy. (If you have a syrupy raspberry preserve, that’d work too.)

One quantity vanilla custard (see below)

Double thick cream, whipped to soft soft peaks.

Hazelnut praline. Toss a few hazelnuts (about half a cup) in a nonstick pan until they start to brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, heat some sugar – add just enough to cover the base of the pan. Cook until the sugar is a deep golden. Add in a knob of butter and swirl to incorporate. Roughly bash the hazelnuts and then place them  on a sheet of baking paper, on a tray. Pour the caramel over the nuts and leave to cool. When cold, bash up so you have different sized pieces.

For the custard (This recipe comes from my cooking school days and so I think belongs originally to Sam Marshall.)

180ml full fat milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract (or one quarter of a vanilla pod, split with seeds extracted)

2 egg yolks

60g caster sugar

25g plain flour

double cream (1-2 tbsp)

2016-04-04 12.48.19

Heat the milk and vanilla to scalding point. Whisk the yolks, sugar and flour together until thick and no lumps remain. Temper the hot milk into the eggs. Whisk to incorporate. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook out over a low heat until the custard is thick. (A wooden spoon is best here.) Pour into a container and cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to cool.


Once the custard is cold, you can assemble your trifles. Layer cake pieces at the bottom of the serving dish. Splash with sherry, if using. Pour over the raspberries. Then distribute the custard. This makes enough for three (or two plus the cook eating what is left in the dish). Cover with cream and sprinkle generously with the praline. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour so things can settle. Eat.



Milk Tart Pancake Stack


Well well well. It is now March. Of 2014. I last blogged in November. Of 2013. Whoops. I’m fairly sure the only explanation for the massive gap in-between posts is: I have now entered that period of a PhD known as ‘writing up’. It’s also known as (perhaps not officially), the period of mass freak outs and major questions. Of like everything. But particularly, why on earth am I subjecting myself to this quest of intellectual endeavour? What is wrong with baking cakes for a living? Why on earth did I decide to leave that perfectly satisfying profession? And what in the world is Michel Foucault saying? This week, all of my work is on old Michel. And his ideas on how we come to know what we know. And what it is we can claim to know. And how this knowing is used by people in power. And how it forms a part of governance and bio-power. I am using Michel to help explain how all we seem to be concerned with is childhood obesity. And eating fruits and vegetables. And getting children to eat more fruits and vegetables. I’m not particularly concerned with this in my project per se, but everyone I read certainly is. So Michel Foucault and I are getting to know each other. Or I am getting to know him. He is certainly not getting to know me.


But today is fat Tuesday. A day, I read (via the copious links on my Twitter feed), for eating fried foods (if you’re in the States) or pancakes (if you’re here in the UK). I’ve chosen pancakes. I am in the UK, after all, and whilst I don’t think I’d even heard of pancake Tuesday until I started my PhD, I’ve given things a South African spin and filled them with milk tart custard. I don’t have many food memories from my childhood. I’m not one of those people who has had various epiphanies of long-lost flavours or has distinct childhood memories of food. (I remember the practically white, flourly beef tomatoes that used to be a feature of salads in my youth and which nearly turned me off tomatoes for life though.) But milk tart – unbaked mind you – was a big love of mine from early on. I have no time for the baked variety. I love the custard in milk tart. I think it is the origin of my love of custard in general, but milk tart custard is particular. Slightly cinnamon-y, sweet, gloopy. And preferably from Pick ‘n Pay. And what better way to fill a pancake than with the custard mixture that would normally fill a tart base? It’s a winner I tell you.

For pancakes (or crepes, if you’re being very technical), I used the recipe on Poires au Chocolat – mostly because she made a crepe cake with them. Emma’s cake was much prettier than my stack. I learnt that having a decent sized crepe pan is something rather necessary if you’re going to get all the pancakes the same size. (Otherwise you’ll end up with what I had, a domed shape of chaos and confusion). I made the milk tart custard first, so that it could cool in the fridge whilst I made the pancakes. In terms of flipping them, I find it’s easiest to do so with fingertips – something I learnt whilst making crepes for crepe Suzette in the downtime around service at Gleneagles. (As a chef you can never not be busy and so we used to flip crepes on quiet nights or whilst we waited for things to pick up.)

Milk Tart Custard
(This makes enough to fill 20-odd pancakes with a thin layer of custard. Double if you’re filling a regular tart case.)
500 ml whole milk
20g butter, unsalted
1 cinnamon stick
25g plain flour
25g cornflour
1 egg
125ml golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Heat the milk, butter and cinnamon stick to scalding point.
Mix the flour, cornflour and sugar with the egg. If it won’t make a smooth paste, add in some of the milk you’re heating. You want a smooth, fairly loose, paste. Whisk in the vanilla and cinnamon. Temper the scaled milk onto the paste, whisking to incorporate. Pour everything back into the saucepan and cook on a medium heat until the custard is very thick.


Pour into a square baking tin, smooth out with a spatula and cover with cling film (so that it doesn’t skin). Allow to cool for 15 minutes before placing in the fridge.

Once you’ve got all your pancakes cooked, assemble the stack by placing a pancake on a plate. Dollop some custard onto the pancake and smooth it out thinly.



Repeat until all the pancakes and custard are used. Slice with a hot knife and eat.

This photo proves how not pretty the whole thing looked. But it looks fab when sliced no?

Also, here is a picture of another Pancake. One with a capital P. No, I’ve not gone and got domesticated. She belongs to friends of mine, who, when I said I was making pancakes for fat Tuesday, suggested I include her in the post. So here she is.

pancake 11 weeks

Real Custard

I really feel this post needs little introduction. Real Custard is something my childhood missed. My memories of custard as a child are either Ultramel from a box or homemade ‘Moirs’ custard resembling a bright egg yolk with the thickest skin imaginable – the kind that when you tip the jug the skin falls into the bowl in a whole piece. (Just thinking about it now makes me slightly nauseous.) Fortunately I now know better and as chief cook in resident I never have to eat custards like that again (although I will admit to being partial to Ultramel under certain circumstances). Real Custard (spelt with capital letters so that you appreciate its significance and importance) is light and creamy and vanilla-y and yummy. I like my custard cold but if you’re partial to hot custard you can eat it pretty much from the pan. It makes a great addition to various desserts… the butterscotch pecan bars listed here, tinned fruit, stewed fruit, ice-cream, jelly, hot desserts, cake. You get my drift. I’m a big Real Custard fan. But I am also the type of person who can eat the whole jug of custard without sharing so there you go. Maybe you don’t feel exactly the same way. Shame.  I think I have written enough on the values of this Real Custard. Here is the recipe.

Real Custard
4 egg yolks
40g caster sugar
400ml milk
1 vanilla pod

Heat the milk and vanilla until scalding point. Whisk the yolks and the sugar together. Pour some of the hot milk into the yolks and whisk. (Tempering.) Pour the mixture back into the milk and give it a whisk to make sure everything is combined. Then stir with a wooden spoon over a medium heat until the custard coats the back of the spoon. Strain into a jug and cover the top with some cling wrap if not using immediately. Will survive 3 days in the fridge.

This recipe works (as maybe you’ve guessed) in 10% increments. 4, 40, 400. So you can use pretty much any incarnation of this formula. (2, 20, 200 or 8, 80, 800) The amount made here provides enough custard for about 8 if serving with a dessert.