crème anglaise with saffron

crème anglaise with saffron

Crème anglaise with Lebanese saffron is a perfect pairing for the tartness of a gooseberry compote. Having made Claudia Roden’s hazelnut cake with chocolate ganache from The Med, (delicious) there were 6 egg yolks spare. While custard is traditional with gooseberries, adding saffron to the custard, gave it a touch of the unusual, more interesting than vanilla.   

In France, custard is called crème anglaise, which sounds very grand. When we lived in Bordeaux, our children brought friends home for lunch on a Friday, which was slightly unnerving. This discerning audience gamely tucked into shepherd’s pie and fish cakes. When we presented them with another British classic, apple crumble and custard, they promptly poured the custard in to their glasses, and declared it “pas mal”. Our children’s jaws dropped, surprised that custard was something to drink from a glass!
Saffron divides people. However, as custard/crème anglaise can be quite “eggy”, using a bit of Zejd’s saffron somehow tempers the “eggyness” or zankha in Arabic. Served in glasses, straight from the fridge, alongside a compote of tart gooseberries, this might even make it on to a grown-ups table in Bordeaux!
enough for 6 served in small glasses


6 egg yolks
5 tbsp caster sugar
500ml full fat milk
a pinch of Zejd saffron ground with a pestle and mortar


  1. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl until thick and pale, without creating too many bubbles.
  2. Gradually add the milk into the mixture, stirring to combine thoroughly before heating.  
  3. If you’d rather make this in a bain marie, half fill a small saucepan with water, bring to the boil, then reduce to a medium heat. Place the bowl over the saucepan.
  4. Add the ground pinch of saffron, (if you don’t have a pestle and mortar, crush the threads with your fingers). Stir the mixture as it slowly cooks over the steam, until it coats the back of a spoon.  This could take up to 15 minutes, or longer, so it helps to have something good to listen to!  It won’t get nearly as thick as ready made custard. 
  5. If you’d rather use a saucepan, which is quicker, find one that has a thick bottom.  Place on a very low heat, and stir until it coats the back of a spoon.  If it looks like curdling, quickly sit the saucepan in a basin of cold water and beat very quickly. 
  6. Remove from the heat and after 5 minutes, transfer to the glasses on a tray. When cool, put the tray in the fridge.  Leave for as long as you can, and eat within a couple of days. 

Serve with something tart, a compote of gooseberries or blackcurrants.  A bowl of fresh red currants or raspberries would work well too. 

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