Thanks to Mum and her nine lovely ladies in the backyard, we have a fairly continuous supply of beautiful, home-laid eggs.
Every now and then I crack one of these fine eggs and mix the yolk with some milk, vanilla, sugar and cornflour in a saucepan to make a quick custard. I had never made a baked custard in my life. But suddenly the other morning, when the pizza oven was still “hot” (about 100C) from a roast the night before, it occurred to me to try it. I dug out Mum’s ancient recipe books – the kind that have a whole column of the index devoted to Invalid Cookery (Fricassee of Brains; Tripe and Onions, etc.) – and found a recipe for Plain Baked Custard.
And while the rest of my family went on a long bike ride, rescued a fallen cyclist with concussion and returned home feeling cold and tired but virtuous, I whipped up second breakfast and felt, well actually, hungry most of that time. Because as it turns out, 100C in a pizza oven is no substitute for the 400F specified, even if you do leave it in there for TWO FREAKING HOURS! While 10 minutes on Defrost in the microwave turns out to be just sweet perfection after those two hours of waiting and salivating and checking. Honestly, this custard was so light, delicate, perfectly set and utterly soul-nourishing that I had to eat the lot and destroy the evidence before the family came home.
So here it is – my first and hopefully last microwave recipe:
PLAIN BAKED CUSTARD (adapted from ‘Cooking the Electric Way’ 2nd edition, 1950-something by Edith Kinnear, Joyce Johnsen, Beryl H. Young and M. Jane Willington). Do you suppose I’ll live to see a new generation of Ediths, Joyces, Beryls and Janes? Imagine them all with their little backpacks and hats on for their first day at school…
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- dash of vanilla essence (no-one had vanilla beans in the ’50s, did they? Or microwaves for that matter)
- Beat eggs and sugar, add essence
- Warm milk (microwave in a heatproof jug) and pour over eggs, mix well.
- Pour into a greased pie dish; grate (or just sprinkle) a little nutmeg over the top.
- Microwave on lowest setting until almost set – give it a few minutes at a time; then allow to cool to just lukewarm if you can possibly wait that long.
- Serve with a very sharp, old-fashioned silver teaspoon to appreciate its silky smooth set texture.
- Lovely with good old-fashioned preserved fruit too.