Mama’s Punjabi Recipes- Custard (Custard)

RECIPE-INThis is a recipe that is as British as it is Indian and has become ingrained in the landscape of Indian cuisine. Below is a reprint of Mama’s Custard recipe, which is a tasty sweet seldom found in Indian restaurants overseas but on the menu of many Indian restaurants in the Old Country? It is reprinted with some additional information and directions.

India has been a destination for foreigners for many centuries, and especially Northwestern India which has been the place of many battles with invading hoards from ancient empires like the Greeks, Persians and Mongols and later by the Europeans: the British, French, Portuguese and Dutch. Each foreign culture left its mark on Indian cuisine, and they remain popular even today in India.

So, it is not surprising that some of the foods – and tastes – of the last colonizers, the British – have found a comfortable corner in the Indian hearts and stomachs. Among these is the British sweet custard, a favorite milk based pudding that North Indians have adopted as their own, adding blanched, slivered almonds, crunched cardamom and pistachios on the top crust, and even soaked raisins. It is a variation of flan or crème caramel that is so popular around the world.

It is a sweet dish that my family grew to love when we were living in London in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s as it had become a standard item at many a weekend party. My two young boys enjoyed it immensely, especially when it was a little thick and had a nice, soft but thick congealed layer on top which they would fight for. The popular brand of custard powder then was Bird’s, invented by Alfred Bird in 1837 and still going strong now 181 years later. There are many other English manufacturers now and many Indian ones too which make a fine product like Aziza, Golden Caramel, Henrik and Pruthvi’s.

Custard is nothing more than a cooked mixture of milk or cream and egg yolk. When it is thin, it becomes a sauce called crème anglaise and if it’s a thicker cream (crème patissiere), it is used to fill eclairs. Most common custards use sugar and vanilla and sometimes flour, corn starch or gelatin. Though it’s not as popular in India as it once was, it is still a crowd pleaser, especially after adding the nuts, which no Indian can resist!


  • ½ gal  – doodh (whole milk) 
  • ½ cup chinni (sugar) 
  • 1 pouch custard powder (about 2 tbsp) 
  • Toppings: cut slivers of apples, bananas, blanched almonds, pistachios, cardamom, raisins (to your taste)


1.Take a half cup of the milk. Pour in the custard powder, mix well and put it to the side. 

2. Bring the rest of the milk to a gentle boil over low heat. 

3. After it has come to a boil, mix in the sugar and let the milk continue to boil. 

4. Pour in the custard mixture into the boiling milk and stir well. Turn the heat down to low and let the milk thicken up, stirring often so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn. 

5. When thick (per your taste), turn the heat off 

6. Pour into a serving bowl and mix in the bananas, grapes and apples or sprinkle the top with the almonds, pistachios, cardamom and place in a the fridge to chill for 2 or 3 hours. 

7. Serve chilled in small bowls. 



Piyaaz or onions of all sorts are as essential to Indian cooking as sauce is to pasta, for very few dishes are made without them. There are three varieties of onions (other than green ones) normally available in the markets: yellow, white and red, and each has its own taste and the color they add to the dish. In North India, the most available are the red onions, although these are not as large as the ones found in the US.   

Now, you can easily find cut, browned, fried onions in a bag in the supermarket, but if you prefer to make your own, there is a simple trick to quickly saute the onions till they are golden brown. Just take a good pinch of salt and toss it on the onions while they are in the pan and they will get brown faster.    


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Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India (since renamed Faisalabad) before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her late-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share her delectable Punjabi recipes for future generations.