Rich Smoked Salmon Custard
Make no mistake, this starter is unashamedly rich, as it's name indicates. It's a recipe originally from Good Housekeeping which I have adapted over the years. When I was a very inexperienced cook I remember stirring and stirring, vaguely expecting something akin to the thick Bird's gloop of our school days to appear, rather than the sophisticated real custard of this recipe. I have never forgotten how absolutely scrumptious I thought it was at the time, and do to this day. I like to serve the custard in tiny pots topped with a generous twist of smoked salmon and a fresh bay leaf (wipe it with kitchen paper dipped briefly in olive oil to give it a shine), a sprig of thyme or rosemary and a few nigella seeds. Eye appeal is so important and that brief moment before plunging your fork into something that looks irresistible is one of life's great joys.
Enough for approximately 8 small pots
180g full fat cream cheese
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons, juice of 1
3 egg yolks
284ml double cream
180g smoked salmon, chopped but not too finely
Bunch fresh dill, chopped
60g fresh soft white breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
Put the cream cheese, egg yolks and finely grated lemon rind into a bowl and mix together until smooth
Add the cream and stir to combine
Sit the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water (don't let the water touch the bowl) and stir the mixture until it begins to thicken and coat the bowl's sides, approximately 8 minutes
Remove from the heat and allow the custard to cool down for about 15 minutes
Stir in the smoked salmon pieces, lemon juice, dill and cayenne. Taste and season; the smoked salmon may be salty enough; you may wish for more cayenne.
Stir in the breadcrumbs
Spoon into your chosen little pots (see below if you wish to serve them turned out of the pots)
Leave to set in the fridge for at least 2 hours; preferably over night.
Drizzle with a scrap of melted butter and adorn with alluring garnish.
Serve with salad leaves and perhaps a fat finger of toast.
• Sometimes I line my pots with a double layer of cling film (wetting both the cling film and the pot makes this easier) so that each set custard may be lifted out with the help of the cling film.
• If in doubt about the custard, it may be helpful to know that the sauce will become quite thin at the beginning of the cooking process when you heat it. Keep stirring and you will see that as it cooks the sauce becomes silky and lightly coats the sides of the bowl. When this happens the custard is ready. For me this usually takes 5-8 minutes.
• Grate the lemon rind very finely because the sensation of "bits" in the mouth is unpleasant and spoils the dish's silky softness.
• Allow the custard to cool down before stirring in the smoked salmon to prevent it from cooking. Don't worry though, cooked or uncooked, it will still be good.
• The custard firms up as it cools.
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