The ancient Romans were the first to write down the recipe for a custard and they enjoyed egg custards, flavoured with fish sauce as both an accompaniment and a dessert.
Egg custards are so fundamental in cooking (many pies, all quiches and a number of desserts depend on them) that I am giving a recipe for a basic (but tasty nonetheless) dessert custard here today.
Add a topping of caramelized sugar and you have a brûlée. If you top with fruit purée, then you have a cheat's cheesecake. The bas is just so versatile...
Baked Egg CustardServes: 4–6
Ingredients:1 egg, lightly beaten
100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
500ml (2 cups) milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Method:Brush a deep 1l (4 cup) ovenproof dish with melted butter or oil.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla extract for 2 minutes. Strain this custard mix into the prepared baking dish then sprinkle over the nutmeg.
Place the dish in a shallow roasting tin then pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides.
Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180°C (350ºF, Gas Mark 4) and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the custard is set and a skewer inserted into the centre emerges cleanly.
When ready, remove the ovenproof dish from the roasting tin and serve immediately.