Egg custards go wrong when the raw mixture does not include enough egg whites, which provide the set, or when cooked at too high a temperature, as this causes partial separation of the custard and a watery result.
Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas 3. Put the milk in a pan with the split vanilla pod over a low heat and bring very slowly to the boil.
While it is heating, whisk the caster sugar in a bowl with the eggs until pale and frothy. Pour over the scalded milk through a sieve, continuing to whisk.
Pour into 6 dariole moulds or one shallow dish and sit in a deep roasting tin. Pour in water from the kettle, just off the boil, to come two-thirds of the way up the moulds or dish and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Test the custard is done by inserting a knife. If it comes out clean it is cooked.
Leave to cool, refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, then run a palette knife round the edge(s) to turn out.
© 1998 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.