If you don't agree, we're taking you into custardy
Oh custard, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways...
Whether tarted up in the Bake Off tent, dolloped lavishly on to your Nan's trifle, baked into biscuit form or just served neat in a bowl with a blanket over your knees, there is no denying that custard is the ultimate comfort condiment. No seriously, stop denying it. We're not listening. Cut us open and we bleed custard.
As well as being the sweet golden petrol on which our nation runs, the rest of the world has conquered custard in countless beautiful ways, too. But who wins? Does the crème brûlée trump the Manchester tart? Can our wobbly egg custard beat the Portuguese nata... or nada? There's only one way to find out.
SPLURGE GUNS! No, sorry – a definitive list.
12. Frozen custard
For any custard lover, this stuff sounds nothing short of magical. “It’s custard, but ice cold and solid! WHY have we never thought of this?!” we squealed when Shake Shack landed on UK shores and started flogging its sweet wares. Frozen custard was mixed into shakes, loaded with pretzels, drizzled with peanut-butter sauce. It was the most exciting thing to happen in the pudding world since people started putting bacon in cake.
Until, that is, we tried it and realised that 'frozen custard' is basically just ice-cream. That’s all it tastes of. That’s what ice-cream is: custard, but frozen. It’s like calling bread ‘toast sushi’. We've been had.
11. Rhubarb and custard sweets
The flavour’s lovely, the stripes are jolly, and so are the associations with that cartoon cat and dog from the 1970s TV show. In fact, these would rank higher if they didn’t scrape the roof of your mouth so aggressively. Ouch.
10. Manchester tart
It might sound like a Coronation Street casting note, but Manchester tart is actually a classic 1980s school-dinner pud, and one of custard's lesser-known vehicles.
Earning a place in the list mainly so we can remind the world it exists, the Mancunian delicacy has somehow never earned the fame of its neighbour the Eccles cake, despite featuring thick custard, pastry, coconut, jam AND a maraschino cherry.
What greater riches could you want in life? We're mad fer it.
9. Île flottante
Let’s be honest, until Bake Off 2013, none of us had actually heard of this bad boy. But now we know that it’s legitimate – classy, even – to eat lumps of meringue floating in a sea of custard, we’ve never looked back.
Technically ‘eggs two ways’, when you think about it, we’d be eating it for breakfast if shaping the quenelles wasn't so fiddly of a morning.
8. Banana custard
So nostalgic it may as well be served in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lunchbox with the faint smell of cabbage and gym plimsolls in the background, banana custard is comfort food to the power of 10. Fabulous hot or cold, it’s so easy to make that its name is also the entire recipe.
Unless, of course, you’re not a fan of bright-yellow food, in which case it’s probably a scarier prospect than the time the school bully flushed your Pokemon cards down the loo.
7. Egg custard tarts
There’s no way even national pride could blind us enough to place the humble egg custard tart above its sexy, golden-glazed Portuguese cousin, the nata, but it still deserves a place of its own on the list.
That pleasing wobble, for one thing, and the fact they always seem to come in packs of two – so you can just eat both yourself without anyone being allowed to judge you. Or if you bake them yourself, it gives you a chance to use the nutmeg that’s been languishing in the cupboard since you last made moussaka in 2002. Either way, an underrated hero.
6. Fried custard
Yep, you read that right. Fried custard is a snack native to both Spain and Italy, and if there’s any justice in the world, it’ll be the next street food trend to sweep our shores. Set custard rolled in sweet breadcrumbs and deep-fried in oil, the custard ends up hotter than the sun inside – but just as beautiful, too.
5. Crème brûlée
Show us someone who doesn’t get a little thrill from cracking through that perfect caramel surface with a spoon, and we’ll show you someone who isn’t living life to its fullest. Crème brûlée is the saviour of many a tourist with a confusing restaurant menu in front of them. Just head for the custard, it’ll see you right.
4. Portuguese natas
Golden, flaky and sinfully sweet, the Portuguese pastel de nata is like the glam European relative of our own wobbly, pasty egg custard tarts. There’s room for both in this world, but it’s pretty clear which wins the beauty contest. Phwoar.
A treat for life, not just for Christmas (which is a good job, because sometimes it keeps on going through to mid-January), trifle is a big old dollop of heaven. It’s your Nan’s favourite, it’s the most efficient method of ending up full, tipsy and asleep on the sofa on Boxing Day – and it’s a source of endless hilarious joke material.
Q: What do you call a man with jelly and custard in his ears? A: shark infested!
No wait, hang on. That's not it.
2. Custard Creams
It was controversially left out of our definitive ranking of teatime biscuits (the scandal!), but we’re here to reinstate the custard cream as a heritage icon. Crumbly, creamy, perfect. These days it might be a biscuit tin staple, but those Baroque swirls hint at a past life full of glamour that most Hob Nobs can only dream of.
1. Bird’s Custard, on anything
On sticky-toffee pudding. On apple crumble. On treacle tart. On Christmas pudding. On a biscuit. In a Thermos flask, up a hill. Poured directly from the jug into your own mouth. Whichever way you choose to serve it, Bird’s Custard is an icon.
Maybe it's the mysterious flavour (vanilla? Pure, liquid sunshine?). Maybe it's the knowledge that even after a nuclear apocalypse, you'll still be able to find some at the back of the cupboard. Maybe it's the cool science experiment you can do by mixing in a little bit of water and holding the weird liquid/solid result in your hand.
Whatever the secret, Bird's unites gourmands and junk food junkies alike. In fact, we'll say it: it’s more of a definitive custard than actual, homemade custard.
It’s certainly more yellow, anyway.