Sunday, November 12, 2006

No Cowardy Custard!

Nope, this is no cowardy custard! It looks like the usual crème caramel but is flavoured with saffron and pepper, and omits the vanilla totally! This is my entry for November’s The Spice is Right hosted by Habeas Brulee.
You need to use a hefty dose of saffron and freshly ground pepper for the flavours to come through. It did smell eggy when it came out of the oven but not later. I once made caramel custard with orange zest and saw a recipe for one that included ginger — have to try that out when it’s binge time next!

The rules for the event demand that I mention a few facts about saffron and pepper – I’m sure most of you know but here’s my spoke anyway — Saffron is the dried stigma of the crocus flower (crocus sativus) and is used to colour and flavour food including biriyanis, pulavs and desserts. It’s very aromatic and combines well with milk-based desserts. Apart from its medicinal qualities, in Ayurveda, it’s believed to lighten skin so many fairness creams and soaps in India use saffron! It’s one of the most expensive spices, and that makes this an expensive dessert to make and eat – talk about hurting one’s own interests!
Pepper has a host of therapeutic applications as well, apart from culinary. It is supposed to act as an appetizer, and a drink using pepper and hot milk is used as a remedy for cough. As for why I chose them this month, I'm not sure - probably because I came to know about this event only this month and thought the spices would be a nice variation.

The recipe for the custard is a synthesis of various recipes that I’ve followed over time but the spices were my own idea. My experiment resulted in a mildly flavoured, set-just-right custard that tasted great after chilling for 3-4 hours. So, on with the show!

What you need:
1.5 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 egg yolks (the whites can go into an omelette)
A tsp or more of saffron (soak in 2 tsp of hot milk)
1-2 tsp of pepper powder, freshly ground
A pinch of salt
Around 1/2 cup sugar for the caramel
Oven temperature: 180 degrees C

Here’s how: Scald the cream and milk in a saucepan (until you see tiny bubbles on the sides of the pan). Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, slowly beat the 3/4 cup of sugar into the eggs and yolks. Even more slowly, whisk the cream-milk mixture into this egg-sugar mixture. Strain it through a double-lined/fine sieve. Stir in the salt. Add the saffron and pepper at this stage.
In a baking dish with deep sides, arrange some ramekins. (I used six because I had six, and found that I had some custard left over.) Put sugar for the caramel in a saucepan. Add just enough water to cover the sugar and put it on high heat. Very soon, it will come to a roiling boil, then thicken, and turn colour. Watch it very carefully at this stage, it can easily burn – when it is an even golden brown, carefully pour it into the ramekins. (It’s a good idea to wear oven mitts during this process as the saucepan will be very, very hot.) Make sure each ramekin has a thin layer of caramel.
Pour the custard into the ramekins, fill the baking dish with water enough to come halfway up to the sides of the ramekins. Bake until just set – it took me an hour but keep checking. Once it’s done, cool, cover with cling film and refrigerate.

To serve, run a knife around the edges and invert on to a plate. If you want to impress your diners, and yourself, float some strands of saffron and a few peppercorns in the caramel sauce around the custard, or sprinkle some saffron on top. I’d even go a step further and recommend you use only yellow lighting, not white, as long as this feasting is going on :) so that the glossy creams and browns of the custard are intensified! Ridiculous suggestion? Going too far? Who cares?


  1. That looks delicious. Thanks for joining in!

  2. WOW!! Beautiful and mouthwatering dessert, sra!! You are good! Somehow I never come out with good dessert:) May be bcos I don't dare even to try:D I find them hard.
    I didn't know this event The spice is right but I don't know if I get the time to do more than already do anyway:)
    Great entry ,hilarious Title and write up!:)

  3. very beautiful looking custard...yellow light or whatever...the orange glow to your custard is beautiful
    Very nice entry...

  4. where's my commenttttttttttt

  5. Wow..what a creative combo with Saffron and Pepper...and no Vanilla, you've gotta be kidding me!

    Looks good!


  6. Hi Danielle, Glad you are considering it. Thanks.
    Asha, thank u, thank u. i make dessert rarely myself - shd try more often!
    Sandeepa, thanks a lot - "orange glow" - am honoured
    Tripti - thanks, i'm so chuffed with my saffron-pepper brainwave, i get so few of them!

  7. Wow,it's really Gorgeous with saffron colouring .....:)

  8. Great combo of ingredients.

  9. Lovely recipe, well done for this. I'm bookmarking for future use.

  10. Hi,
    This is my first time here, i came here ferm foodie's hope. :).
    You have maintained a gread blog here with good pics asn new recipe ideas, I love surfing through it.
    Keepa posting , i think a newbie like me have lot to learn from blogs like yours. :)
    Hope some time you also will drop by my blog. :)

  11. Hi Lera, thank you.
    Pushpa, Kathryn, Pooja, thanks for visiting, I've signed your blogs as well.

  12. A custard without vanilla ,but instead saffron and pepper!You sure have come out with an innovative dish Sra.

  13. I left a comment but the blogger ate it up.. Just wanted to say its a brilliant idea.

  14. This is one of the more appealing recipes I have read lately - beautiful, full of rich and rare ingredients, and with a cool creaminess and spicy heat in balance. When are we going to find out the story beind your blog's name?

  15. Sumitha, hi, thanks for visiting my blog. Am a frequent visitor of yours.
    Shaheen, that's high praise coming from you.
    Nabeela, am thrilled.
    I'm glad all you accomplished bloggers liked the idea/blog. Thanks a lot.

  16. looks sooooo beautiful and tempting.custard without to try it!!!

  17. Hi Pepper, thanks for the nice comment. I will post the story in the next day or two - just came back from a short trip.
    Prema, do try it and tell me if you felt the lack of vanilla - I didn't, not for a minute!

  18. Sravanthi, its going great guns...the pix look lovely...oh why oh y wasnt i sailing in that boat with you.... :) things look absolutely yum and have sent the blog to a colleague in KL... she is a bit flustered about the ingredients, whether she would find all of them. I told her we could try the fine (read flimsy) art of substitution. take care Anna

  19. Wow! This is too good. I have just tasted the jelly you made,once upon a time, now i will call you when i am in chennai, may be you could rustle up this dessert, i don't want a heavy meal, just this custard is enough. :)
    Hope this entry to spice is right wins.

  20. Hi Vidya! Would love to make this and have you drool over it! I'm so thrilled you visited and commented.


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