Custard is a traditional British dessert sauce made with egg yolks, milk and/or cream and sugar, flavoured with vanilla. Proper homemade custard is absolutely delicious, but don’t cut corners or it just won’t be the same. The key factor when making custard is to heat it just enough to thicken, but not too much so that it curdles: with a little practise you will be just fine. A neat trick is to add a little cornflour which will help stabilise the eggs. Custard is usually cooked in a double boiler (bain-marie), or heated very gently in a saucepan on a stove, though custard can also be steamed, baked in the oven with or without a water bath, or even cooked in a pressure cooker. Custard preparation is a delicate operation, but don’t worry about it, after a few experiments, the results will get better and better.
Bring the milk, cream and vanilla pod to simmering point slowly over a low heat. Remove the vanilla pod (wash the vanilla pod, dry and store in jar with caster sugar to make vanilla sugar). Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornflour together in a bowl until well blended.
Pour the hot milk and cream on to the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time with a balloon whisk. Return to the pan, (add vanilla extract if using) and over a low heat gently stir with a wooden spatula until thickened. Pour the custard into a jug and serve at once. To keep hot, stand the jug in a pan of hot water and cover the top with cling film to prevent skin forming.