A-Z of treats: V for Vanilla Custard

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The Independent Culture
V is for real Vanilla Custard, what the French know as creme anglaise, which is curious since the best-known English custard is Bird's, a concoction of sweetened, coloured cornflour. Served cold, this custard adds a touch of luxury to any pudding.

It goes without saying that it deserves the full, rich flavour of a real vanilla pod, regardless of expense, though it's possible to buy vanilla 'extract' as opposed to artificiallymade vanilla essence. This is the recipe of the BBC's French cook, Mireille Johnston.

VANILLA CUSTARD

Serves 4 to 6

600ml/1 pint milk

1 vanilla pod cut lengthwise

(or six drops vanilla extract or essence)

6 egg yolks

150g/5oz caster sugar; pinch of salt

55g/2oz butter

Place the milk and vanilla pod, plus seeds, in a heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil (or simply heat the milk). Then remove the pan from the heat, cover it and keep it warm.

Place the egg yolks in a bowl and gradually work in the sugar and salt, whisking vigorously for about 5 minutes until the mixture is smooth and pale yellow. Gradually stir in the hot milk then return to the pan over a low heat and stir gently for 6-10 minutes without allowing the custard to reach simmering point. All the froth will disappear and the custard will be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from the heat, add the butter (and vanilla extract if preferred) and continue to stir for a few minutes. Strain into a cold bowl and stir until the custard is cool, standing the bowl over a pan of ice cubes to speed up the process, if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. If lumps appear, process in a blender.

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