I need your help for a successful Birthday tea

Filed in Blog by on March 3, 2010 16 Comments
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custard powder in composite material packaging

custard powder in composite material packaging

It’s Little Miss Green’s Birthday tomorrow and one of her favourite puddings is trifle.

I don’t have a problem with trifle, I even make my own jelly to avoid the plastic packaging (and the sugar and the artificial crap in it), but this year I’m against something new:


Yes I need custard. Our old pot has run out, long since gone, and when browsing the shops last week I couldn’t find anything that was landfill friendly. All custard seems to come in a pot which is laminated with plastic and foil inside.

We have our own set of requirements you see; it’s not just about the packaging, but it’s the ingredients too.

If you’re new to the site, Little Miss Green can’t eat sugar – if she does she goes blue, sprouts green hair and ends up covered in purple spots.

Well ok, actually her skin gets itchy, she gets stomach ache and turns into a wall climbing spiderwoman who gets angry; very angry. Then when she’s no longer angry, she gets tearful.

Hardly worth it, is it?

So I’m used to making my own food, but custard was something I had not accounted for.

You can buy it preprepared in tins and tetra pak cartons, but of course, it has lots of sugar in it.

Not to be deterred, I put my ‘wartime housewife’ head on and took to the kitchen to rustle up a bowl of delicious custard. The trouble is, my kitchen chemistry went a bit wrong.

We ended up with overly sweet lumpy stuff with a texture that was mildly reminiscent of cat sick. I’m sure even a dog wouldn’t have eaten it.

I was so careful too. I even used a bain marie and stirred for 20 freakin’ minutes. but oh no, it wasn’t good enough and I ended up with this watery, lumpy stuff that no 1940’s housewife would ever have created, I’m sure.

I can’t remember exactly what I did, but I used cornflour, an egg, milk and some vanilla extract. My two dutifully ate it, bless their hearts, but I’m not sure it will do for a Birthday Party. Maybe I should have missed out the egg, but then the custard would be anaemically white. I guess that doesn’t really matter; we do tend to get terribly hung up on things ‘looking right’…

Well time is running short – I need trifle today, so I need your help.

I need a fail safe custard recipe; not something you’ve seen in a site or read in a book, but something you have actually tried and know to be good.



About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (16)

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  1. Sarah says:

    ‘Eck! Good luck!

    Having had a long discussion about ingredients in paediatric medicines with a pharmacist on Monday I feel your pain here. Why on earth is calpol laced with sunset yellow, aspartame and other evil nasties?

    Hope you find your recipe.

  2. David says:

    Maybe your local wholefood store will have this – http://www.goodnessdirect.co.uk/cgi-local/frameset/detail/554222_Just_Wholefoods_All_Natural_Custard_Powder_100g.html

    If not then it might be useful for the next trifle.

  3. David says:

    Hey! Guess what? Just Wholefoods are based in Gloucestershire! –

    Unit 16 Cirencester Business Estate
    Elliott Road
    Love Lane
    GL7 1YS
    01285 651910

    The packaging looks like good old recyclable cardboard too.

  4. Alyson says:

    I’ve made custard using cornflour, milk and unfortunately, homemade vanilla sugar for years, I think it was because its so much cheaper. My children don’t know any different.They probably think it’s wierd to see yellow custard . Why do we have to have yellow custard anyway? My mum was doing it before me.

  5. I don’t have a recipe for you, unfortunately, but I used to make custard from, I think, 2 or 3 eggs, and a pint of (whole) milk, with cornflour, in the MICROWAVE! It worked perfectly. You mix the milk with the cornflour and beat in the eggs. You then microwave on med power and keep whisking with a balloon whisk every few seconds! I never had lumps and it didn’t take long. I used sugar too, of course, but it should work fine without. I never tried, but I reckon honey might work….

    You just need to be careful and keep whisking, or you’ll end up with scrambled egg…

    If you get nothing better, give this a try.


  6. Poppy says:


    Calpol – it used to annoy me that there were non-sugar varieties and I was always asked which one I wanted. If my child is poorly, I’m not going to worry about a bit of sugar in a couple of teaspoons of medicine and I’d rather he had that than the artificial sweeteners.. Sorry Mrs G, but I’m sure someone in your position would need to worry and would make their concerns known at the time of purchase, but the majority don’t.

    Which doesn’t help with your custard dilema ………. sorry, we rarely use it. Could you use a thick yoghurt instead?

  7. Margaret says:

    The main ingredient for custard powder is cornflour which is available in a paper bag in a cardboard box. I’ve made custard with it adding sugar , milk and vanilla flavouring/essence. i don’t know how you would sweeten it but you would get the same consistency.

  8. Linda says:

    Raymond Blanc made a wonderful custard the other night on TV – eggs, sugar, milk. cornflour etc (he also included Calvados – but hey – life’s for living!!) and poured it over an apple tart.

    Recipe on BBC.co.uk/ food.

    Packet foods (custard etc) replaced “doing it from scratch” – I think we should all go back to “scratch”.

    Whatever happens – I hope your little Honey enjoys her trifle. Wish I was there!!

    Happy Birthday Little Miss G. xxxxxx

  9. Sheila says:

    Dear Mrs Green
    On the matter of wardrobe clearing, I wonder if you might give a thought to disposal of old bras. Of course charity shops don’t want them, but there is a place which accepts old (clean!) bras and distributes them at home and abroad to those who need them. The website is http://www.breasttalk.co.uk. Do please have a look at it when you have a moment.
    Keep up the good work.
    Best wishes

  10. Karen says:

    Morrisons sell 750g Value cornflour at 99p
    I have just bought Xylitol which is a 100% natural sugar alternative from a health food shop. I have yet to try it. Check out http://www.xylitolshop.co.uk.
    If your homemade custard goes lumpy just use a hand mixer might have to add a bit more milk and that should save it. Unfortunately you can’t rush home made custard. I first made it in Domestic science class at school in Scotland many years ago.

  11. John Costigane says:

    Happy Birthday, LMG.

    I use tinned custard for quickness but making homemade, without lumps, is worth learning, not forgetting the Zero Waste aspect.

  12. Karen says:

    @Sheila: There are a number of Charity shops accepting bras in Devon so I guess if you look around you might find one.

  13. gill says:

    Some of you might be interested to know that the charity Breast Cancer Campaign has bra recycling points, or you can send them to the charity via Freepost, have a look at this link: http://www.breastcancercampaign.org/how/recycle/

  14. Mrs Green says:

    well I don’t know what happened to my last comment **sigh** I’m not going to write it all out again, but thank you to everyone for your suggestions, research on my behalf and ideas about recycling 🙂

  15. Karen says:

    There is a video on how to make real custard on http://www.bbcgoodfood.com click on to the “How To ” You will then be able to do it for the next birthday party.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Karen: Fantastic Karen – thanks so much! Off to watch and learn later …

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