Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Caramel Custard / Classic Crème caramel

What I enjoy when it comes to food are the memories and anecdotes that it evokes. And it gets even better when it comes from an era you were never a part of.
But, a little background first. Thanks to India's colonial past, the British left their mark on the Indian culinary scene. It was some of their beloved dishes that they improvised with the ingredients and spices that they found in India. Some of the popular dishes were Roast chicken, lamb stew, mulligatawny soup, meatloaf, fried fish with tartar sauce and for the desserts, there was trifle, bread and butter pudding, chilled lemon soufflé and caramel custard. And while this unique fusion cuisine is referred to as 'Anglo-Indian' cuisine, colloquially it was called 'English Khana'!

And much through the 50s, 60s and 70s, when very few Indians had the opportunity to experience the world outside, this English khana was all that we thought of as international cuisine. And I am told, in a distorted interpretation of modernity, it was considered 'modern' in those days, to say that you had English khana for dinner!!

My mother recounts how in the early 70s, a certain matriarch was on the lookout for a suitable match for her most eligible son. I am digressing but I have to state that I am yet to meet an Indian mother who does not think her son is most eligible. Anyhow, this particular lady rejected a whole host of young ladies because they admitted that they did not know how to make caramel custard!! Gasp!!! How did they ever think they would be suitable for her esteemed son if they did not even know how to make caramel custard, the epitome of English khana?!!?

It's such a random story but it makes Ma and me laugh every time someone mentions caramel custard!

I won't get into why I remembered this story but it did make me ask my mother for her very own caramel custard recipe. She's always insisted, it's extremely easy to make and I reckoned it must be, considering how often she churned it out when we were kids.

Looking at the recipe, there are only four ingredients and I have given a few tips from the dependable Mary Berry so that you just can't go wrong! Its all straightforward but it is preferable that you make it a day before you want to serve it.

The end result is perfect. The custard is smooth, light and not too sweet. It contrasts and compliments that dark, auburn caramel layer that is sweet with a hint of bitter that makes this dessert the classic it is. It is one of those desserts that isn't too heavy and helps finish off a meal on the right note.

Is there any food-related memory or anecdote that always has you in splits that you'd like to share??

Caramel Custard

Recipe courtesy : Gitanjali Chauhan with tips from Mary Berry

Serves 2 large sized ramekins / 4 small ramekins

For the caramel
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

For the custard
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar (make a choice depending on how sweet you like your desserts)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 350 mls milk
Cooking Directions
  • Pre-heat the oven to 150 deg C. Warm the ramekins in the oven, so they are warm when the caramel is poured in.
  • First make the caramel. Pour the sugar and one tablespoon of water into a clean stainless steel pan. Tip: Do not use a non-stick pan to make the caramel, it will not work, it will crystallise.
  • Dissolve the sugar slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon over a low heat.
  • When there are no sugar granules left, stop stirring and boil until the sugar turns a dark copper colour.
  • Remove immediately from the heat to ensure the caramel does not burn. Quickly pour the caramel into the warmed ramekins.
  • Set aside to cool and become hard. (Do not put in the fridge because the sugar will absorb moisture and go soft and tacky).
  • Once hard, lightly butter the sides of the ramekins above the level of the caramel.
  • For the custard, whisk the eggs, vanilla extract and caster sugar together in a bowl until well mixed and the sugar is dissolved.
  • Pour the milk into a saucepan, gently heat over a low heat until you can still just dip your finger in for a moment, then strain the milk through a fine sieve onto the egg mixture in the bowl. If the milk is too hot, it will curdle the egg mixture.
  • Whisk together until smooth, then pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins.
  • Stand the ramekins in a roasting tin and fill the tin half-way with boiling water from a kettle.
  • Cook in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the custard has set. Do not overcook the custard – check around the edges of the dishes, to make sure no bubbles are appearing.
  • Take the ramekins out of the oven, remove the ramekins from the tray and set on a cooling rack. When cool, transfer to the fridge overnight so that the caramel is absorbed into the custard.
  • To serve, loosen the sides of the custard by tipping the ramekin and loosen with a small palette knife round the edges. Place a serving dish on top of the ramekin and turn upside down.
  • Tip: Make these the day before - if you turn the caramel custard out too soon, the caramel stays in the bottom of the ramekins. But do turn them out just before serving or the caramel will lose its colour.


  1. Awesome recipes and stunning presentation. Great post sarvani :)

    1. Thank you soo much Nandita!!! Much much appreciated!! :))

  2. Perfect as always Sarvani! Caramel custard is my all time favourite dessert. My mum used to make it for us when we were kids! It been a long time since I had some and I have eggs and milk in the fridge so why not...it custard for dinner tonight!

    1. Thanks Maria!! You know when I unmoulded the custards and I had a bite, I realised how long its been since I had caramel custard! It was such a throwback to childhood!! :)

  3. Oh, yes, the Indian matriarch who thinks no one is good enough for her son - I know the type! Thanks for the laugh!

    The custards look delicious.

    1. Hehe...and even though the anecdote belongs to the 1970s..the Indian mother remains the same!!! Thanks for dropping by!! :)

  4. Oh Sarvani, I go weak at the knees for caramel custard. It's that bitter note to the caramel that does it for me and yours looks like the stuff of my dreams! I was howling at your post though, about the eligibility of the sons of all Indian mums. Also, I didn't realise creme caramel was a 'thing' in India! My mother made it but I've never seen it in the five years I lived in the South, so must be more of a North Indian acceptance. Good taste I'd say ;-) Lovely post, thoroughly enjoyed it :D And now, I must make this.

    1. I so agree.. that bitter note to the caramel.. that does it for me too!! from the way Ma tells it to me.. crème caramel was the 'it' dessert through much of the 60s and 70s. You hardly see it much these days.. but I always enjoy it whenever I can.. although in this attempt of mine, it cracked a bit on one side while unmoulding!

      As for the Indian mother and her blessed son.. they will continue to provide us entertainment for generations to come!! :))


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