The French compete with Catalunya for the origin of this famous dish; however, there are some small differences. Quicker, easier and cheaper, the Catalans cook out the egg a little further on the stovetop and set their custards in the fridge with the help of cornflour (cornstarch), as historically many people didn’t have access to ovens. They also use milk, not cream – another peasant compromise.
1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) full-cream (whole) milk
1 cinnamon stick
Peel of ½ lemon
Peel of ½ orange
7 large egg yolks
200g (7 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
3 Tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
1 Gently warm the milk, cinnamon and citrus peels in a medium saucepan over medium–low heat until just until simmering. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes for the flavours to infuse.
2 Whisk the egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl, then whisk in 150g (5½ oz) of the sugar until creamy. Whisk in the cornflour until well combined.
3 Strain the warmed milk into a jug, then slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking to combine.
4 Pour the custard back into a clean saucepan and return to medium-low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula. Allow to gently simmer and bubble, moving the custard constantly to avoid scrambling on the bottom.
5 When thick and coating the back of the spoon, remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve. This will pick up any scrambled egg from the base of the saucepan.
6 Evenly divide the custard among 4–6 ramekins, leaving a 5mm (¼ in) gap at the top of each ramekin. Transfer to a tray and allow to cool slightly before refrigerating for at least 4 hours or ideally overnight.
7 To serve, sprinkle the remaining sugar over the top of the custards and caramelise to a hard crust using a blow torch or sugar iron.
The Catalan Kitchen: From Mountains to City and Sea – Recipes from Spain’s Culinary Heart
by Emma Warren. Photography © Rochelle Eagle | Food styling © Lee Blaylock (Smith Street Books, October 2018 – AU$ 55, NZ$ 65)