This is a simple yet elegant baked egg custard dessert, commonly served at Parsi weddings or festive occasions. Lagan nu custard means “wedding custard” and is both a formal or a family dish. It is made with everyday ingredients and just a few spices. Unlike many Indian desserts, it is not tooth-achingly sweet.
This dish is a comfort food dessert, yet, with a bit of time spent on presentation, it is worthy of a wedding. Keep it simple and it is a family gathering staple.
The Parsis, as I have mentioned elsewhere in this book, came to India over a thousand years ago from Persia to escape religious persecution. They settled in the Gujerat region and soon their cuisine was influenced by local practices. Parsi cuisine became a favourite with the Raj, largely because it is not too hot and includes meat.
This dish has a variant with a caramel sauce and is rather like a crème caramel. We personally find that too sweet and fussy.
The recipe calls for charoli nuts, which are the traditional garnish for this recipe. They are a small, round musky-flavoured nut, pale, and speckled with dark patches. They have a nutty aroma and a pronounced taste that is between nutty and musky. These are available from good Indian grocers. They may also be called chirongi nuts. You should buy as small a pack as you can because you won’t use these too often.
The garnish or topping is what can elevate this dish. Simply topping with the raisins is fine, but the addition of the nuts, especially the charoli nuts, adds texture and depth and a layer of flavour.
Please make sure you use evaporated milk and not condensed milk because of the sugar content. Condensed milk will make this far too sweet.
Use the smallest baking pan you can fit the mixture into otherwise you may end up with thin egg custard biscuits. I look for a mixture depth of about 4cm in the pan.
The technique of using a baking dish in a tray of water is to ensure even cooking. Make sure the water comes well up the sides of the baking pan with the custard. If you have a steam oven, then this is an ideal candidate for steam cooking. Check your instructions for temperature and timing as a steam oven will cook this quite quickly.
Make sure you allow the custard to cool well before attempting to remove it from the baking pan. Our usual method is to chill before serving. The dish often tastes best the next day when the flavours have developed. If chilling, make sure you cover the dish well, as it will absorb every aroma in the refrigerator.
- 4 eggs - large, free range
- 500 ml milk - full cream
- ¼ tsp saffron threads
- 1 tsp ghee - to prepare baking pan
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 750 ml evaporated milk
- 150 ml pure cream
- ½ cup jaggery - grated
- 1 tsp rosewater
- ½ cup almonds - slivered
- ¼ nutmeg - grated
- ¼ cup charoli nuts
- ¼ cup raw cashews
- ¼ cup raisins
- 1 tbsp ghee - crumbled into small pieces
- Preheat oven to 175C
- Warm ¼ cup of the milk and add the saffron threads to infuse. Set aside for 5 minutes.
- Grease a small baking pan with ghee.
- Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and crush.
- Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl.
- Add the remaining milk, the saffron-infused milk, the evaporated milk, cream, jaggery, rose water, half of the almonds and half of the nutmeg and cardamom. Mix well.
- Transfer to the greased baking pan, sprinkle with the rest of the almonds, nutmeg and cardamom, the raisins, charoli nuts, cashews and small ghee pieces.
- Place baking pan into a larger pan or tray and fill the larger pan with hot water. Place into the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top of the custard has browned and a skewer comes out clean from the middle.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool. If serving cold, refrigerate for at least one hour.
- Carefully remove from pan and cut into squares or diamonds.
- Use the smallest baking pan you can fit the mixture into. Try for a mixture depth of at least 4cm in the pan.
- The technique of using a baking dish in a tray of water to ensure even cooking. Make sure the water comes well up the sides of the baking pan with the custard.
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