With the bounty of summer fruit arriving, especially berries, mangoes and peaches, a fragrant homemade custard is one of the best ways to complement it. Fruit custard is one of the most popular Indian home desserts. A hit with children and adults alike, it can be infused with vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg or rose. Indians made the custard, no doubt a British import, their own by inserting spices in them — like they do with most foods. During mango season in India, we would eat fragrant mango custard for weeks and weeks.
makes ~4-6 servings
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
Ginger, unpeeled and chopped 2-inch piece
1 large whole cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon crushed green cardamom pods
Pinch of saffron threads
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¾ cup sugar
2 whole large eggs (8 ounces)
2 ounces butter (half a stick)
In a stockpot, combine the milk, cream, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom pods and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 7-10 minutes then turn the heat off and let the mixture rest for 5 minutes. Strain. Stir in the saffron threads and salt.
Whisk together the sugar and the cornstarch in a bowl. Add the eggs and whisk together. Ladle some of the hot milk into the bowl and mix until smooth.
Pour it back in with the rest of the milk and continue whisking over medium heat until the custard is thick and light. Be careful not to over-boil — bubbles should not get vigorous.
Take it off the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes. Stir it occasionally to prevent film from forming on top. Cut the butter into tablespoon-size portions and start whisking it into the cream. Always make sure it is smoothly incorporated before you add the next tablespoon of butter. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until further use.
ideas / variations
To make the custard lighter, eliminate the heavy cream and use 4 cups of milk instead.
Replace the cardamom and cinnamon with vanilla or other spices.
Custard will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days; however, add fruit no more than 2-3 hours before serving it.
Add sliced almonds or other nuts as a crunchy topping.