Dessert: serves 4. Total 30 minutes plus overnight chilling
600ml double cream
1.5 vanilla pod, split lengthways
5 large egg yolks
3 heaped tbsp caster sugar

Chill a (preferably) shallow, Pyrex dish with a capacity of around 700ml. Heat together the cream and vanilla pod using a solid saucepan until just about to boil. Whisk together vigorously to disperse the vanilla seeds into the cream, cover and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Briefly beat together the egg yolks and 1tbsp of the sugar in a small bowl until just mixed.

Decant a modicum of the infused cream on to the egg yolks and sugar and mix together. Reintroduce this to the saucepan of cream and thoroughly combine. Gently heat over a very low light, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. After a few minutes, begin to take a break from stirring and look to see whether there is the occasional tremor of heat emanating from the base of the pan; this is clearly signalled by the odd blip upon the surface. Now is the moment to change from spoon to whisk and beat the mixture with vigour.

Resume stirring, but the whisk may have to be used again. A sure sign that the custard has achieved its ultimate thickness before disaster sets in (ie, sweet scrambled eggs), is when the consistency seems almost jelly-like, when a whisk clearly leaves its trail marks across the surface. Give it a final whisk and strain into the chilled dish. Put directly into the fridge, uncovered, to thoroughly chill for at least 6 hours - preferably, overnight.

Either preheat an overhead grill to its highest temperature or have to hand a handyman's blowtorch. A couple of hours or so before you wish to serve the crème brûlée, remove it from the fridge and evenly strew the surface with the remaining caster sugar. Using a water spray (as you may use when ironing clothes), play a light mist over the layer of sugar; this helps it caramelise evenly. To glaze, either place the dish as near to the heated grill as possible, watching it like a hawk and turning the dish around to achieve an even burnish or, to take a modern approach, burn it with the blowtorch.