I think there comes a time in every ageing northerner's life when they turn to their friends, partners or dogs and say 'bloody hell, mint custard! I'd forgotten about that...' My own nostalgic epiphany happened in 2007 during the second series of Life on Mars...
Phillis: how's the treacle sponge, sir?
Sam Tyler: It's magnificent...
Phillis: ...mint custard?
Sam Tyler: Yes, it's a triumph
Cue predictable scenes of me over-enthusiastically explaining the joys of pale green, toothpaste-flavoured gloopy sugary cream poured indiscriminately over an assortment of chocolate puddings by plump school dinner ladies to the soon-to-be Mrs Custard. Naturally enough she was appalled.
And yet I am far from alone. Records show that on any given day at least one hopeful Googler will land on these pages eager to find out "how do I make mint custard" or (more likely given the Gen-X demographics involved) "where can I buy mint custard?" To those school dinner revivalists who have thus far slunk away disappointed I apologise, but hey, stick around for I am about to make amends...
But before we launch in, I should admit that I had no idea how to make mint custard and set out with more enthusiasm than actual cooking nous. What follows is a true account of what happens when basic culinary skills are mixed in a child-proof blender with equal parts nostalgia and a bottle of cheap wine.
Creme Anglaise a la Menthe (Mint Custard)
You will need:
- 1 packet of custard powder
- Peppermint essence
- Green food colouring
- 1 tablespoon of white sugar
- 2.5 cups (625 ml) full cream milk
- 1 chocolate pudding (optional... you probably should though, unless you fancy drinking half a litre of custard on its own)
Step 1: Pour 1/2 cup (125 ml) of milk into a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon (20ml) of sugar, 2 tablespoons (40ml) of custard powder and stir up good. Be amazed at the concrete-like adhesive properties of custard powder which will stick your fork to the bowl if you don't keep guard. Set to one side.
Step 2: Pour the rest of the milk (500ml) into a saucepan and heat slowly. DO NOT LET THE MILK BOIL. Come on... everyone knows that. (The keen eyed amongst you will have noticed my top quality boil-in-the-tin chocolate pudding simmering nicely in the background. Custard or not, there will be cake tonight my lovelies.)
Step 3: time for a bit of Muppets-style kitchen experimentation: Bunsen and Beaker meet the English Swedish Chef... how much peppermint essence maketh the mint custard? I plumped for a 1/4 teaspoon (1.25ml) which I tipped into the bowl with the custard powder and cold milk. And wouldn't you flurdy burdy burg - it worked...! You may disagree and want something mintier but I would start with 1/4 teaspoon and see how you go...
Step 4: now you gotta get you some green. Put about 4 or 5 drops of the green food colouring in your custard mixture. It should be enough to get you a gentle minty-coloured green going on. Any more and you've got mouthwash-coloured custard and no one wants that.
Step 5: stop staring at the pretty ink blot patterns and whizz it all up with your fork. You should now have 125ml of pale green mint flavoured custard concentrate... liquid gold!
Step 6 (optional): at this point I accidentally spilt custard powder all over the floor. It's up to you if you want to do this. I don't think it affected the recipe... although it is still all over the soles of my slippers.
Step 7: Pour the concentrate into the milk heating up on the hob. Don't spill any on the hob. It burns and 'tis a bastard to clean. Believe me.
Step 8: stirring constantly, mix the concentrate with the milk and simmer for about a minute and a half. To help pass the time (and to celebrate the end of winter in Australia) why not watch the Undertones performing Here Comes the Summer from 1979 - a golden period for school dinners. I bet Fergal Sharkey loves mint custard.
Step 9: pour the contents of the pan into a serving jug and set aside whilst you get your pudding ready. Admit to yourself that that if you could start again you would have added another spoonful of custard powder at Step 1 to make the custard a bit thicker. They suggested it on the box but you ignored them because you know best. You now regret this arrogance and vow to warn others so that they don't make the same schoolboy error.
Step 10: Pour and enjoy. Your mint custard can be served hot or cold but I would suggest that however you take it, make sure it accompanies some form of chocolate pudding. Chocolate concrete was popular at school, as was chocolate sponge. Unlike DI Sam Tyler I would not recommend mint custard and treacle pudding, but each to their nostalgic own I suppose.
And there you have it. I would definitely have made it thicker with another spoonful of custard powder had I known, but the colour and the flavour were pretty much spot on. Your own preferences will depend on how the Eileens, Veras and Gwens at your school mixed up their vast cauldrons of gloopy mint custard for your post-dinner sugary delight, but this should at least set you on your way... Look out for more English Cooking elsewhere in these here pages.