Ask your average Brit what custard is and he'll tell you it's a thick yellow 'gloop' traditionally served with stewed fruit or apple pie and made from milk, sugar and custard powder. It is very much a comfort food loved by almost everyone.
Ask a chef or a French person and they will tell you it's a thin pale yellow sauce made from eggs, sugar, vanilla and cream.
Confused? Read on...
Real custard is actually Creme Anglaise. It is a wonderful, sweet sauce thickened with egg yolks. It tases divine but is tricky to make because it is very sensitive to temperature - get it too hot, or forget to stir it for a minute, and you end up with a nasty, grainy mess instead of an unctuous, velvety-smooth liquid. This is not something a harrassed housewife wants to be dealing with while trying to cook the Sunday lunch.
The most famous British custard is made by Bird's (now owned by Kraft Foods UK). The custard powder was invented by Alfred Bird who wanted to make a sauce which didn't contain eggs because his wife was allergic to them. He experimented with colours, flavourings and thickening agents (cornflour) until he came up with the perfect recipe in 1837; this was marketed in 1844 and is still extremely popular today.
Bird's custard is made by mixing 2 tablespoons of custard powder with 1 tablespoon of sugar and a little cold milk from a pint. The rest of the milk is brought to the boil, poured onto the slaked mixture, then returned to the heat until boiling.
Bird's Instant Custard has been obtainable since 1979 - this is made by pouring boiling water onto the powder, but tastes no-where near as good as the milk version.
Ready to Serve custard is available in cartons or tins.
Most of the major supermarket chains have their own brand of custard powder and instant custard but Bird's is still the most popular.
According to the Bird's website: a five-year supply of the Custard Powder was taken aboard the 'Fram', which took part in the Nansen Expedition to the Arctic in 1893 - 96; all but one box was eaten. Over 235 million pints of custard are served in Britain each year.
Apologies to any Merkins
, I'm afraid I dont know anything about your custard-eating habits, but if anyone would care to enlighten me...?