Cooking the blueberries in their juices really helps to bring out their flavour and creates a wonderful contrast with the smooth, rich custard in this dessert. With blueberries, you probably won’t need to use any additional sugar unless you have a very sweet tooth. If you decide to use fresh currants (black or red) instead, you may need a sprinkle. Figs, apricots and peaches will all work beautifully in baked custard, too.
PREP TIME 15 minutes, plus infusing and cooling
COOK TIME 50-55 minutes
400ml double cream
1 vanilla bean
10 egg yolks
65g caster sugar
2 tsp lemon or orange juice (or you could use water)
1. Preheat the oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Put the cream and milk into a pan. Split the vanilla bean down the middle and scrape the seeds into the pan – then drop the bean in too. Stir well, then place over a medium heat until it is just coming up to boiling point. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 40 minutes.
2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until creamy and noticeably lighter in colour. Remove the vanilla bean from the cooled cream mixture before pouring it into the egg yolk and sugar mixture. Stir well to thoroughly combine.
3. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a shallow 23cm ovenproof dish and put into the oven. Bake for 35 minutes then check to see if the custard is set; if not, give it another 5 minutes before checking again. It should be lightly golden on top and with a slight wobble in the centre (it will continue to firm up as it cools). Remove the custard from the oven and let it cool.
4. Meanwhile, increase the oven temperature to 230C/210C fan/gas 8. Put the blueberries in a separate shallow ovenproof dish and roast for 8 minutes, shaking the dish once during cooking to ensure that they are roasting evenly. You want them to be tender but not completely collapsed.
5. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with the fruit juice and shake the dish until some juices begin to form. Spoon over the baked custard before serving.
For me, blueberries alone are reason enough to have a container garden. These acid-loving plants struggle on our clay soil at Great Dixter, so by growing them in a pot I can give them exactly what they need – a 50:50 mix of John Innes soil-based compost and ericaceous compost. I also water them with rainwater, as the lime in tap water will affect the pH of the soil. Top Hat and Sunshine Blue perform well and are compact, so thrive in a pot.
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Grow Fruit and Vegetables in Pots: Planting Advice and Recipes from Great Dixter will be published by Phaidon Press Ltd on 7 February, price £24.95. To order a copy for £19.95 with free p&p until 2 March call 01603 648155 or go to mailshop.co.uk.