Sunday, 13 January 2013

Kat vs How to Eat: Custard

The year is 1998 and I have left home for the first time, shipped up to Sheffield and unceremoniously left in halls of residence to fend for myself. Only they were catered halls, so aside from the odd bit of toast, cooking really was none existent. Unfortunately this meant almost solely relying on what came out of the Sheffield University kitchens. At the time I was a devoted vegetarian, and sometime fussy eater, so this meant my meals were almost exclusively cheese salads (with the odd insult to Italian cookery that was industrial frozen pizza). Unless I was late back from lecture of course and the other veggies had beaten me to it, in which case starvation beckoned.

Until that is I discovered the vast vats of custard at the back of the hall, which is when I devised my plan; I would eat my hall fees back in custard. My parents had paid good money for me to be fed and I wasn't going to let them down. I set about eating at least three bowls of the stuff every meal time. I'm sure had I been famous I would have been responsible for a diet fad. Just 6 bowls of custard a day and as much vodka as you can drink and you too can have a flat stomach in just one term! 

Now, I'm not claiming the stuff I was eating bore any resemblance to proper custard, it was bright yellow, thick and had never seen a vanilla pod in its life, but now eating any kind of custard brings back happy memories so I couldn't wait to make a start on this, the next recipe in How to Eat. Happily it marries perfectly with my 2013 pie mission.

So, a first glance at the recipe indicates I have not bought enough cream, but I reason I'll just use extra full-fat milk. It should be 250ml single cream and 250ml milk so let's say it's that for argument's sake. Pop it in a pan and split a vanilla pod, adding that too. Bring nearly to the boil, then take off the heat to infuse for 30 minutes. So far so good. In my lovely new pink mixing bowl (thanks Lizzie) I beat 5 egg yolks and 40g of sugar with a whisk. Then I chucked the cream on top, removed the vanilla pod and stirred with a spoon. 

How custard should taste
Now comes the bit I was worried about, time to heat it without scrambling the eggs. Thanks to my recent cookery lesson with Sat Bains, where at least 3 people's custards were whipped away from them and binned  I knew this could be an issue. I have a hateful electric hob and temperature control is at best erratic. Unfortunately the custard did split slightly right near the end of the 8 minute cooking time. I bunged the pan in a sink of cold water and whisked it like a madwoman but there was no mistaking it, tiny little signs I had cooked it too hard. It still tasted okay, but, and I don't think this has anything to do with the splitting, it was nowhere near as nice as my favourite custard - Waitrose's Madagascan vanilla custard. It currently sells for £1.90, which is a lot less than I spent on ingredients today. If anyone has a better recipe that might produce something more like the factory born heaven that is Waitrose custard, I am all ears!

Kitchen wisdom gained:
  • You need 1 egg yolk for every 100ml cream, plus a tablespoon of sugar. If you can remember that you can make custard wherever and whenever!
  • Proceed with caution - when in doubt keep the heat lower than you think, it might just take longer for your custard to thicken - when it is ready it will coat the back of a wooden spoon without running (and hopefully without tiny bits of scrambled).
  • Seriously - just buy the stuff, life is too short.
Domestic Goddess score out of 10: 2 - I was happy to eat it, not so sure I'd have served it to someone else.

Final score: Kat 0 - Nigella 0 


Adam said...

Ah, so many food lessons possible from Ranmoor hall of horrors. Orange juice is harder to get than drugs, beans and burger buns must never touch and never, ever, eat mashed potato if it looks and smells like sewage all spring to mind.

Katharine Balyuzi said...

Ah yes, the teeny tiny orange juice cups! Thank goodness for Griddles chip butties, otherwise we'd have starved!