How to make proper custard

When I started chef school one of the things I’ll admit to not knowing was that custard is NOT made from a powder nor is it bought in yellow boxes labeled “Ultramel”.

Custard is made from egg yolks, cream and sugar. Its proper name is Sauce Anglaise, ironically a French name which means “English Sauce”. Simple to make but also very simple to mess up. A lumpy, watery and funny coloured custard is a no-no. Always strain it once done and don’t be scared to keep at it for as long as necessary. The longer you stir it over simmering water, the thicker it will get BUT it’s also easy to end up with scrambled eggs! Keep an eye on your custard at all times.

You make custard in a metal bowl OVER a pot of simmering water, never directly on the heat source or stove. This prevents the base from burning and causing lumps and also allows you to properly maintain a heat that isn’t to severe. I won’t lie, its a bit tedious and needs you to keep stirring with a wooden spoon (never use a whisk as this will cause bubbles and make you think its thickened when it hasn’t). The custard is done when you lift the spoon and run your finger along the back of it and the line holds its shape without the custard dripping and closing it.

Although you can use vanilla essence I highly recommend you use real vanilla pods or vanilla extract. Its a bit costlier but it makes a difference. If you have an ice-cream maker, this is perfect for vanilla ice-cream too. Make the custard, cool it down and pour it into the ice-cream machine and voila, perfect real vanilla ice-cream. Add other flavours for whatever type of ice-cream or custard you’d like.

4 egg yolks
1 cup (250ml) milk
1 cup (250ml) cream
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract


– In a pot pour the cream and milk and bring to scalding point (this is when it starts to steam but doesn’t boil).
– Mix the yolks and sugar together in a large metallic bowl and pour the scalding cream and milk slowly into it whilst stirring.
– Place the bowl over a pot of simmering (NOT boiling) water and begin stirring (I suggest you hold the bowl steady with a cloth or oven mitt)
– Add the vanilla to the mixture now and keep stirring until the custard thickens.
– Strain through a sieve to remove any lumps.
– Serve hot. If you want to cool it down make sure you place cling wrap or wax paper on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin forming.

That’s it. Real custard that tastes better than the store bought stuff.

Chef Lesego

4 thoughts on “How to make proper custard

  1. This sounds great…I will try this weekend. Just a quick question. Last night on Masterchef they had to make their own Mayo – do you have tips on this for a novice as the last time I tried it tasted awful and had to chuck it away!

    1. Use real dijon mustard, lemon juice, egg
      yolks and season with white pepper and salt. Whisk them all together until pale and fluffy and SLOWLY stream in sunflower oil as you whisk with your other hand. Add a little vinegar if the lemon juice isn’t sharp enough. Keep tasting and adjusting to make it the right flavour

  2. This recipe is A for taste and F for texture. I dont know what i did wrong but it just wouldnt thicken when i tried it last night. Its winter, its Friday, its lockdown, today we try again.

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