Mixed spice custard

You know you’re getting old when you start to enjoy desserts with savoury twists. A red tea baba at Dabbous that I had about a year ago comes to mind. Likewise milk ice cream with coffee crumb and salted celery, made off the cuff by the chefs at Upstairs at the Ten Bells when a low sugar option was requested.

Recently the ‘adult’ flavours have been carried by ice cream. An Assam tea ice cream tested for the Plusixfive cook book, a gunpowder tea one tasted at Gelupo, and one flavoured by cloves, made to chef Alan Stewart’s instructions for his Two Dinners, One lunch pig extravaganza a week or so ago.

Which got me thinking … and at the weekend, instead of chucking cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves in with an apple pie, I kept that plain and instead laced a custard with mixed spice and less sugar than usual. It was super. Kind of like Christmas. Of course the spices in a mixed spice blend are fairly ‘sweet’ and are traditional pudding flavours, so this should seem neither revolutionary nor odd. But it did make a change from vanilla and loads of sugar.

On that note, I only had demerara sugar lying around. Its chunky granules required a bit of work when whisking into the eggs, and care to ensure it was all taken up later by the warm milk and cream. But the end result was a lovely, rounded and fairly subtle molasses flavour underneath the spice. So that was a happy convenience.

Mixed Spice custard

Makes about a pint of custard (a decent pour for six people, or one thirsty glutton).

  • 250g double cream
  • 250g full fat milk
  • 2g mixed spice
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 40g demerara sugar
  • A good whisking action
  • 1 full tube of Patience

Combine the milk and cream in a thick bottom milk pan. Add the spice. Warm on the hob so it just starts to simmer. Take off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until the mix is light and thick (basically, whisk hard for a minute or two until you get ribbons when you lift the whisk away from the mix. Then whisk hard for another minute, cos you’re probably not there yet).

Add a small amount of the warm milk into the egg mix, stir it in. Repeat, gradually adding more liquid each time until everything is combined.

Wash the saucepan. Pour the egg/milk mix back into it and place on a very low heat. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the custard gives a lush and lasting coat to the back of the spoon. Pass the custard through a sieve.

Leave to cool (press clingfilm directly to the surface to stop a skin forming) and gently reheat when required.