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How to make ‘Birds’ Custard’ – the Marina Social way

June 29, 2016

What was the first thing you ever did in the kitchen? I’d like to say my first tentative steps into cooking were scrambling eggs or stirring a risotto, but it was far less auspicious. The pre-school memory of standing on a chair next to our formica kitchen table helping to make custard is very clear in my mind. It didn’t involve eggs or cream but a little paper sachet from a brightly coloured box marked Birds. My job was to tip some light orange powder from the sachet into a jug, add a spoonful of sugar and a splash of milk. With a spoon, I molded these elements into a bright orange paste, making sure there were no lumps. Meanwhile milk was heating on the stove. As soon as it boiled and started to creep rapidly up the sides of the pan, my Mum would snatch it away and pour it onto my paste, stirring all the time. Magically, a jug of steaming, yellow custard was the result which cooled to thick pouring consistency with a skin (which when my sister came along used to fight me for).  We ate custard on an almost daily basis as pudding (we never called it dessert) was always served after ‘tea’ (our main evening meal).

Making Birds custard at Marina Social Dubai. Custard recipe on

The aftermath of cooking and lunch at Marina Social

This early processed convenience food was Bird’s Custard was first formulated and first cooked by Alfred Bird in 1837, because his wife was allergic to eggs the key ingredient used to thicken traditional custard.

A few weeks ago I spent a few hours with Jason Atherton, Tristan Farmer and the chefs of Marina Social. Jason first set foot in Dubai as Executive Chef for Gordon Ramsay’s Verre (now Table 9); after launching many other projects with the Ramsay Group he left to set up his own restaurants, earning a Michelin star for Pollen Street Social. At the last count he has seven restaurants in London, in addition to setting up others in New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Australia and, Marina Social in Dubai. His next to open will be on Cebu, the island in the Philippines where his wife Irha comes from.

The food is quite casual at Marina Social but a great deal of care goes into its preparation. We learned the secret of their slow-prove pizza dough and how to make tarte tatin without the pastry going soggy.  Our reward for all that concentration and hands on cooking was to sit down for a late lunch. One of the desserts was a show-stopping rhubarb souffle with ‘Bird’s Custard’ poured into the middle.

The vanilla-flecked yellow stuff in a Bird’s custard jug tasted remarkably like a luxurious version of the packet stuff, which I presume is their aim. You won’t be surprised that this was the recipe I begged for. I would put a little less sugar but that’s my taste. They specify Italian eggs for the intense yellow of the yolks; I think the free range ones I get from local farms will do the job.

If you are put off making custard because you think it might split, this could be the recipe for you. Adding a bit of cornflour makes it more stable.

Here’s Jason’s advice for making English-style custard – although he says to add the cornflour after heating and then putting it through a sieve which is different from the recipe supplied below:

Marina Social Birds Custard

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print


  • 350 ml double cream
  • 80g (approx. 4) Italian egg yolks
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 3g cornflour
  • 1 vanilla pod


Pour the double cream into a pan.  Split open the vanilla pod and, with the tip of a knife, scrape the seeds into the liquid and bring slowly to almost boiling point.
While the cream is heating, beat the sugar, egg yolks and cornflour together in a heat-proof bowl. When the cream is scalding hot and about to boil, pour it in a stream into the bowl while beating vigorously with a whisk. Tip  the custard back into the saucepan and stir over a very low heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon (approximately 75C). Do not let the custard boil, otherwise, it will curdle.
Remove from heat and place over an ice bath to cool.

Making Birds custard at Marina Social Dubai. Custard recipe on

We mean business! With Jason Atherton and the chefs at Marina Social

Thanks to Jason and the Marina Social team for a fantastic afternoon. You can find Marina Social at the Intercontinental Hotel Dubai Marina.

Find more classic favourites with Inheritance recipes over at Pebble Soup and Coffee and Vanilla.

Do you ever make custard from scratch? What is your first memory of cooking?





  1. July 20, 2016 12:19 pm

    I’ve always struggled with making custard. Thanks for the recipe and tips. I hope this one works out for me.

  2. explorewithmafaza permalink
    July 20, 2016 1:05 pm

    That’s easy. I just did a custard yesterday and it was yummy am loving custard. Will try this soon.
    My first memory in kitchen?
    Not so good but it was scool days. Making rava laddu and it dint set.
    Cuttlets burst in the frying pan 😃 we ate it with a spoon and sadly couldn’t get much. Will do a post soon cos I’ve gotcha tel a lot 🙂

  3. July 20, 2016 1:25 pm

    I could make a full meal out of custard – nothing beats homemade although I do keep a box from Woolies (their homemade) in the cupboard for a quick addition to a pud when Pete is home.
    I was always in the kitchen with my mom but can’t think what the first things was that I made – quite sad.
    Have a beautiful day.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  4. sarahlorrainebond permalink
    July 20, 2016 1:37 pm

    This looks so tasty and light and fluffy and yummm!

  5. July 20, 2016 2:09 pm

    What a beautiful treat!!

  6. July 20, 2016 2:55 pm

    A good custard is a thing of beauty. Your recipe looks lovely, a crumble or tart is not the same without custard

  7. July 20, 2016 3:48 pm

    We don’t often have custard, but when we do it is always Birds. I have a custard and crumble craving now!

  8. July 20, 2016 4:08 pm

    Custard is one of my favourite things to eat! I wouldn’t mind eating it every day 🙂

  9. July 20, 2016 7:19 pm

    First cooking memory? I think kedgeree, aged about 12. I was called into our kitchen once a week to make it for my parents. Still my go-to dish…

  10. ramblingtart permalink
    July 20, 2016 10:44 pm

    I grew up eating vanilla pudding, not custard, and didn’t have custard until I moved to Australia. 🙂 I was so startled to find it not very sweet – our vanilla pudding is quite sweet – but have come to thoroughly enjoy it. 🙂

  11. July 20, 2016 10:56 pm

    I adore Bird’s custard, but I do love the idea of making a homemade version! It looks amazing – custard goes with just about everything 😉

  12. July 21, 2016 5:40 pm

    I haven’t made custard from scratch for years and I have to say that my heart isn’t in custard making so it usually goes wrong so I give that job to hubby or buy it premade in a huge carton as like you my daughter loves to eat it on its own as a pudding or with sliced banana! This creamy version sounds amazing!

  13. July 21, 2016 6:31 pm

    My mum made birds custard too and my dad fell out with her over it. She made it to pour, but he liked it thick enough to stand a spoon up in. They argued for a while about who was right. It was hilarious. I love it fresh or Birds style.

  14. July 26, 2016 7:23 pm

    It sounds amazing. I usually make Polish custard, it is very thick and pale yellow.I think it is the corn flour that makes the difference. Thanks for sharing with #InheritanceRecipes 🙂

    • July 26, 2016 7:30 pm

      Margot, can we have the recipe? Fir me, Bird’s Custard is an instant memory of childhood, served in a blue and white striped jug…


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