A really good vanilla custard

In France, we call runny custard “creme anglaise” (English cream) and I really understood why in the first year I lived here. You eat A LOT of it! You seem to have it with or in most puddings.
In France, most puddings and desserts are served as they are, no cream or custard required. There are some things like chocolate brownies or a very chocolatey and rich cake with which we do serve custard but it has to be very cold and is usually quite runny.
And then we have the creme patissière, a thick custard.

The other thing that surprises me is that everybody (I mean most people) use shop bought custard.
I think that english people have a very different approach to shop bought stuff. You would never think about serving a shop bought custard in France, some guests would be quite insulted if you didn’t make your own.

custard_mix

Home-made custard is simple and 100 times better.

If you make your own, I assure you, the people you are cooking for will know and will appreciate the fact that you spent the 5-10 extra minutes to make it from scratch (tip for come-dine-with-me contestants). For me, the 2 things you need for a very quick and quality custard are corn flour and vanilla – you can use any sort of vanilla (extract, pod, paste…) but I highly recommend a vanilla pod or the vanilla powder.

I love vanilla powder so much. I use it everywhere. I can’t bare the extract anymore. You can find vanilla powder in good supermarkets and it’s fairly cheap for the quantity and quality you get.

I’m sure you already know the recipe but I’ll put it anyway!

For 800g of vanilla custard, you’ll need:

– 500ml of milk
– 5 egg yolks
– 100g of sugar
– 10g of cornflour (optional, it’s just much quicker)
– Vanilla

Heat the milk and vanilla together.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour until fluffy and light yellow.

When the milk is boiling, add a little of it, a bit at a time, to the egg mixture without stopping whisking.

Bring it back to the hob and put on a medium heat. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes or until it reaches the constistency you’re looking for.

It will get thicker when it cools.

If your custard is lumpy, whisk it and if the lumps are still there, you can seive it.
You can adjust the quantity of cornflour you need. If you want it thicker, put more of it or if you like it thinner, put less.

If you want a stiffer custard, for a trifle or a vanilla slice, you need more cornflour (about 40g).

Mylène

Iles flottantes

The other day, I got given a vanilla pod by the owners of St Giles Cheese in Northampton. They wanted me to try their new arrival of vanilla pods. It was a big fat one, very fragrant.

I absolutely adore fresh vanilla, it’s so delicate in the taste but so strong in the smell.

Anyway, I had to use it but I didn’t really know what to make with it. I wanted something which would make the flavor of the vanilla pod shine and not be overtaken by other ingredients. So I decided to make some Iles flottantes (floating islands).

I’d never made it myself, you can find quite decent ones in supermarkets in France so I never really tried. When I was little, I used to be mad about them (my mum is delighted to tell the stories of me and Iles flottantes).

If you never ate it, it’s something you have to do. It’s a very impressive dessert for dinner parties.

For 6 people, you’ll need:

– 4 eggs, yolk and white separated
– 80g of sugar (for the crème anglaise)+ 90g for the meringue + 50g for the caramel
– 1 vanilla pod, scraped
– 500ml of milk
– 1 tablespoon of water

Make the crème anglaise (runny custard) by heating the milk and the scraped vanilla pod until boiling.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and gently pour the hot vanilla milk while still whisking.

Put it back on a low heat and stir for 5 minutes without boiling. Put it aside and in the fridge for cooling.

For the meringue, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until firm.

Fill a pan with water, simmer it and poach blobs of meringues, 1 minute on each side and put them aside.

Make the caramel by heating sugar and water together until golden brown. Leave it to cool in the fridge.

When you’re serving your dessert, pour some crème anglaise in your serving bowls, then one or two poached meringues and then a tablespoon of caramel, which is going to give the sweetness.

You can make the Iles flottantes the day before you want to eat them and leave them in the fridge

Mylène