Sunday, March 04, 2007

Custard, "Ham" and Fanny Cradock

Recently I was treated to an amazing Caramel Custard dessert as well as a hands-on lesson on how to make this creamy wonder. Dr. Raghavan Amarasingham (aka "Ham"), cardiologist and Caramel Custard expert, shared his tried and true recipe he's been making for 40 years and was kind enough to let me film him making it (watch the video below). He learned this recipe from watching Fanny Cradock on the BBC when he lived in England. He says she was the "Julia Child of England." I had never heard of her so I decided to do some digging to learn more about her.

Pictured at left (dig those false eyelashes), Fanny Cradock was born Phyllis Primrose Pechey - why would she change that great name? She is known as the first TV celebrity chef, most popular in the 50s and 60s. She introduced the English to the "Escoffier-standard" of food. Auguste Escoffier (28 October 1846 – 12 February 1935) was a French chef in the late 1800s and early 1900s who popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. He replaced the practice of service à la française (serving all dishes at once) with service à la russe (serving each dish in the order printed on the menu).

Fanny had several television shows on the BBC and apparently was quite the character. She was married four times and, according to, "the formidable genius Ms. Cradock became famous for her snobbish, battle-axe persona and her long-suffering husband Johnnie." Boy would I like to dig up some of those old episodes. Fanny is also known for inventing the "prawn cocktail" which is a little fun fact. What endeared me to her most was when I read this about her on Wikipedia: "She insisted that everyone [was] entitled to a piece of really good cake at least once a year" which I think are good words to live by although I would change "year" to "month."

All I know is that Fanny made a mean Caramel Custard. Ham, thank you so much for inviting me into your kitchen, for patiently teaching me how to make this most incredible dessert and for introducing me to Fanny. I highly recommend that everyone try to make this wonderful dessert. As I mentioned, it's not difficult. It just requires a little patience while the caramel cooks and keeping a watchful eye on the custard as it bakes.

Caramel Custard Recipe - "How To" Video and Recipe


For the caramel:
• 4 heaping tbsp of sugar

For the custard:
• 2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks
• 3 heaping tbsp sugar
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1 quart of milk

How to: (here are the basics but watch the video to see Ham work his magic)

Making the caramel:
- In a heavy-bottomed pan, slowly melt down the sugar into a thick caramel consistency. Keep an eye on it. Don't let it burn.
- Carefully pour caramel in each ramekin, covering the bottom of each.

Making the custard:
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Blend together with an electric mixer: 2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks, the sugar and vanilla.
- Heat the milk in a saucepan until almost scalding but not boiling.
- Mix some of milk into egg mixture, put the mixture back into the pan - do this 2 or 3 times.
- Ladel custard into the ramekins with the caramel in them.
- Place ramekins in a pan that has about 1/2 inch of water in it (a "bain marie" as they call it en francais).
- Bake for 1 hour and a half (or until the custard is firm and slightly browned on top).
- Remove ramekins from water bath and refrigerate custard for about 6 hours minimum.
- To eat, place a plate on top of the ramekin, flip the plate, tap the ramekin on the bottom a few times and release the custard onto the plate. Simply gorgeous!!

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Anonymous Donna said...

I got to taste this treat and it is delicious. Makes a beautiful presentation as well. The video is great! Love the credits at the end.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Madeira Mama said...

That is the cutest video. Ham is a very good instructor...he should be on the Food channel. Am going to try this lucious looking dessert this weekend.

1:30 PM  

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