First the custard. Pour one litre milk, preferably the full fat variety, into a thick bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer until the milk reduces to half. This can take a really long time but be sure to stir every few minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time, add 50 grams sugar and stir well to mix it all in. Take the saucepan off the heat and add in 1/2 tsp each of rose water and vanilla essence.
When I went to the Parsi food festival at Sofitel, Chef Tehmtan Dumasia gladly shared his recipe for lagan nu custard, a delicious baked dessert. The recipe is so simple it's hard to believe you get something so sublime at the end of it. While I stuck to the classic recipe for the custard, I'm topping it with Heston Bluementhal inspired crystallised nuts to add some crunch and texture.
Let cool. Separately, beat two eggs lightly. Add to the cold milk and whisk well. Chef Dumasia did not say this but if you see any cooked egg bits, even tiny ones, strain the mixture once. Pour the custard into ramekins, arrange them on a baking tray and bake in an oven preheated to 180C until the custard is all bubbly and browned on top. Chef Dumasia said it will take 20 minutes but it took closer to 35 minutes in mine so please be guided by how your custard looks and only take it out once browned. Let cool, then pop in the fridge for a few hours or overnight to chill.
Chef Dumasia sprinkled chironji seeds on top of his custard before he baked it but I left it plain for a reason. We are going to add a mad Heston touch here. Heston has used the crystallisation technique to make chocolate soil and pistachios. I used it to make crystallised chironji.
Spread 50 grams chironji in a hot nonstick pan and lightly toast for 5-10 minutes. Remove the seeds to a plate. I the same pan, mix 50 grams caster sugar with 50 grams water. Bring to a boil and let cook, without stirring, until the sugar syrup starts to brown on the sides. Turn off the heat and immediately add the toasted nuts. For a while, the sugar will be sticky and the nuts will all clump together. But don't be scared; keep stirring and eventually the nuts will get coated with a white sugar layer. At this point, you can store them in a jar.
But we will take our custards out of the fridge and sprinkle nuts on top - a crunchy, sweet companion to the smooth custard!