I watched Josette Riondato, the cook at Château Loudenne in Bordeaux, at work in her kitchen one day, and was much taken with her version of a French classic.
Boil the sugar and water together until caramelized, without letting it brown too much. In the early stages of cooking the sugar, when you can safely leave it for a minute or two, whisk the egg whites to firm peaks with the caster sugar. Slowly pour the hot caramel on to the meringue, and continue beating, either with a fork or in the bowl of an electric mixer. When thoroughly folded in, pour the meringue into a buttered charlotte mould, and refrigerate until required.
To make the custard, scald the milk with the vanilla pod. Beat the egg yolks and sugar, and thoroughly mix in the starch. Pour the hot milk over the eggs, stirring continuously. Strain the custard back into the saucepan, and cook over a gentle heat, stirring, just until the surface breaks once. Remove immediately from the heat, and pour into a bowl. Cool and refrigerate until required. To serve, turn the meringue into a shallow bowl, and pour the custard around it.
© 1995 Frances Bissell. All rights reserved.