Monday, September 24, 2007

Eid Custards

This custard could live with being made the day before so that the flavours really settle in. It's called Eid Custard because I made it up for a feature I did on Ramadan food: Eid Al Fitr is the celebration that follows the month of fasting and the Middle East LOVES custard and, in fact all things creamy. And it loves dried fruit and nuts, too. So I just put everything everyone likes together!

If you can use a vanilla pod, scraped to get the velvety-tasting seeds out, then do so instead of using vanilla essence.

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 480ml double cream
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 drops vanilla essence
  • 4 dates, chopped
  • 40g pistachios, chopped
  • 40 skinned almonds, whole
  • 1 tbsp orange flower water

Put the almonds into the orange flower water, and shake them around to coat. Leave them to soak.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together with the vanilla essence in a roomy mixing bowl while you heat the cream in a pan over a medium heat stirring occasionally and generally taking care not to burn it. It should be just on the point of boiling but not actually rising up the pan. Pour the hot cream over the eggs in a steady stream, whisking all the time.

Return the mixture to the pan you used to heat the cream in, and heat gently, stirring to stop the mixture sticking, lumping or over-heating (the latter means a curdle and we don't want that). If you're scared of curdling, do it in a double boiler or a pyrex dish suspended over a pan of boiling water. over boiling water for ten minutes, stirring continuously. Don’t stop stirring for anything: if you do, all is lost!

After a couple of minutes, the custard should thicken nicely and adhere to the back of a spoon placed in it. Remove the pan from the heat but keep stirring for a couple more minutes, then cover the bowl with cling film to stop a skin forming on the custard. Leave it to cool for 15 minutes or so.

Add the chopped dates, the pistachios and the whole almonds to the custard and mix them in well. Fill four glasse with the custard mixture. Stand, covered, in the ‘fridge to cool and thicken further overnight. Serve. You could top the glasses off with a whorl of cream or some chopped soaked apricots, or perhaps with a dash of honey. Or all of the above!

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