Around the World in Custards

There are some foods and drinks that weave through cultures and continents  For example tea in all its glorious fluidity or the limitless variations of alcohol; summer and winter salads that celebrate the lightness and warmth of the seasons; our daily bread, stews and pies and tarts- all can be found across the globe.  A quiet and understated player is custard but custards are versatile.  I will be posting variations of this Sri Lankan version over the course of the next few weeks and months.  There are that many!

The essential ingredients remain the same the world over, but tweaks can make subtle and interesting changes to the flavours.  In this Sri Lankan version jaggery is used.  This earthy and caramel-like sweetener gives my set custard a distinctive flavour and fragrance.


Serves 4-6


210g jaggery. Jaggery is either sold as blocks or grated.  Use the larger holes of a box grater to grate if you using blocks.

5 medium eggs

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

400ml coconut cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

20g butter

40g raw cashew nuts

30g of raisins

100g sugar


Grease a 1.25l heatproof bowl.

Place the jaggery in a small heavy-based saucepan with 60ml water and cook over low heat, stirring until the jaggery has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs using an electric beater on medium speed.  Whip until the eggs become light, airy and more than double in size.

Gradually beat in the cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and salt.

Next gradually beat in the coconut cream and vanilla, continuing to beat for a few minutes after they have been fully added.

Pour the mixture into a greased 1.25 litre heatproof bowl cover with foil and secure with a kitchen string.

Place the custard pudding into a double steamer and steam for an hour in simmering water.  The pudding is done when a knife inserted comes out clean.

Caramel Goodness

For the Decoration

Melt the butter in a pan and throw in the cashew nuts. Roast the nuts until golden and then add the raisins for a minute.

In a dry pan, caramelise the sugar and when it’s golden, pour onto a piece of greaseproof paper.  Gently and carefully (remember it’s very hot), manoeuvre the caramel until its finds its natural flat state (or whatever shape it morphs into!)

Caramel Shards

When the watalappam is cool, sprinkle the cashew nuts and raisins and crack the caramel into shards to decorate.

Bring the pudding to the table and idea is that everyone spoons a share for the other and then tuck in!  Goes really well with a cup of Ceylon black tea.

Crunchy, Soft and Gooey