This fresh egg custard needs to be lovingly stirred for about 8 minutes while it thickens. There are some occasions when 8 minutes seems a long time, and others when it seems pitifully short. This falls into the former category, so be patient - listen to music or meditate whilst stirring - this dish is well worth the effort
Takes 15 minutes
1. Pour full-fat milk into a heavy-based saucepan. Split a vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and add the seeds and pod to the pan. Bring just to the boil, then remove from the heat. Set aside until required.
2. Put egg yolks into a large bowl with golden caster sugar. Using a hand whisk, whisk until thick and pale.
3. Pour the vanilla-infused milk through a sieve onto the whisked egg yolk and sugar mixture, stirring well. Discard the pod (the seeds will fall through into the custard). Quickly wash out the pan and return the mixture to the clean, dry pan.
4. Return the pan to a low heat and cook slowly, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. This will take about 8 minutes. Test it by running a finger through the custard on the spoon: if it leaves a straight, clear line, it's ready.
Tip: Custard must be cooked slowly over a very low heat and stirred constantly, until it gradually thickens to the point where it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Boiling point is the enemy once you have added the eggs, so always keep the temperature of the custard just below the boil. If it boils, the eggs will begin to separate, much as they would if you were making scrambled eggs. If this happens, you may be able to save the custard by quickly straining the egg mixture through a sieve into a blender and whizzing it until smooth. You may then reheat it with a little blended cornflour and milk to help it stabilise, but all this will depend on how far it has curdled in the first place. So the golden rule is that you shouldn't be tempted to increase the heat. It will only take about 8 minutes to cook, and remember: a fresh egg custard thickens only to something akin to fresh pouring double cream.
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