This pudim de leite recipe requires only five ingredients and yields a very impressive result. Creamy baked custard is topped with a silky smooth caramel sauce in this indulgent Cabo Verdean pudding.
Overview of Cabo Verde
Did you know Cabo Verde (or Cape Verde) is an archipelago of 10 islands, located off the coast of West Africa? You really do learn something new every day, particularly when you are cooking a meal from every country in the world. This challenge has been showcasing our gaps in geography, and we hope by the end of it that we at least have a general idea of the location of every country in the world.
The islands of Cabo Verde lie about 600 kilometres west of the coast of Senegal. Interestingly, the islands remained fairly uninhabited until the 15th century, when Portuguese explorers came and colonised the islands. This was the first European settlement to be established in the tropics. It took until 1975 for the country to gain independence from Portugal. It is now one of the most developed and democratic countries in Africa.
History of Cabo Verdean Cuisine
Cabo Verdean cuisine has been significantly shaped by the Portuguese. As a result, the food is a rich blend of its West African heritage with European influences. Unlike many African nations that maintain a very similar flavour palette, Cabo Verdean gastronomic offerings are a little more unique.
When the Portuguese first arrived to colonise the archipelago, there were little in the way of local food resources, other than fishing. As a result, they had to import a lot of their food from Portugal, Madeira and North Africa. This included the introduction of cattle, maize, pepper, pumpkins and cassava. Unsurprisingly, Cabo Verdean cuisine is heavily based off seafood, including lobster, prawns and octopus. Chicken and pork are also popular. While this makes the cuisine ideal for pescatarians, for vegetarians, it’s a little more limited.
Popular Cabo Verdean Foods
- Cus-cus– A common breakfast dish similar to porridge, made with cornmeal, sugar, and cinnamon.
- Goats Cheese– Cape Verdean goat cheese is very popular and used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Most commonly, it is paired with papaya marmalade.
- Jagacida– Portuguese-style rice and beans stew.
- Xerém- The savoury version of cuscus, which is prepared with cornmeal mixed with water, butter, salt, and bay leaves.
- Pudim de leite– One of Cabo Verde’s most popular desserts. Similar to flan, it is a pudding made of condensed milk and eggs, topped with caramel sauce.
- Gufong– A sweet fried pastry which is a popular snack. It is somewhat like a doughnut, being crispy on the outside and doughy on the inside.
Making Custard Flan (Pudim De Leite)
Our sweet tooth must have been tingling this week. As soon as we saw Pudim De Leite was one of Cabo Verde’s most popular desserts, our mouths were watering and we knew we had to make it. It is essentially a custard-based pudding made from condensed milk, eggs, whole milk and sugar.
While this is not the kind of dessert you normally see in African cuisine, this flan has obviously made its way into Cabo Verde from Portugal. Many countries throughout Latin America have their own version of this dessert, referred to as either flan or pudim. There is no difference between the two; it just goes by different names depending if the country is Spanish or Portuguese speaking.
The beauty of this dessert lies in its simplicity. It requires few ingredients and few steps to yield a delectable result. Honestly, we were surprised by how successful our flans turned out, although, it was a little touch and go for a minute during the process.
When we started pouring the caramel syrup into the ramekins, it hardened a lot quicker than we expected it to. So rather than coating each ramekin with a nice even layer of caramel, ours looked like paint thrown at a wall. If this happens to you- do not fret! When the flans cook, all the caramel remelts. This means when you unmould the flans upside down, liquid caramel drizzles down the sides of the pudding just like it should.
How to make Custard Flan (Pudim De Leite)
Although the flans do take some time to make, most of this is cooking and refrigeration time for the flans to set. The process might seem a little intimidating but its actually fairly easy!
- Make caramel sauce syrup by heating sugar in pan for about 10 minutes until golden. Pour into bottom of ramekins.
- Meanwhile, blend up egg yolks, then the rest of the ingredients for the flan for a few minutes. Pour into ramekins.
- Put ramekins in water bath covered with foil in the oven and bake for 45 – 50 minutes.
- Allow to cool then unmould flan and put in fridge to set for a few hours.
Ingredient notes for Custard Flan (Pudim De Leite)
- Condensed milk- Make sure you get condensed milk that is ready-sweetened for this recipe as no other sugar is added in the recipe.
- Milk– We used full-fat milk for this recipe, however we have seen other flan recipes that use either coconut milk or evaporated milk instead. We’d say that whatever milk you use, just make sure it is full-fat to give the creamiest texture possible.
- Vanilla essence- This is optional and isn’t traditionally added to Pudim De Leite, however we always love the extra note of flavour that vanilla essence provides.
- Coconut flakes- These are also optional, but we thought it was a nice finishing touch for the caramel flans.
Serving tips for Custard Flan
- For our recipe, we divided the mixture into 6 ramekins and made single-serve caramel flans, which looked great for presentation. However, traditionally Pudim De Leite is made in a big flan tin, so feel free to go either way depending on what bakeware you have on hand.
- When unmoulding the flans, we’d recommend doing this onto wide bowls that you will later serve them on, in order to capture the caramel sauce. Put these bowls into the fridge for chilling process and then everything will be ready to go when you remove them.
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- Coconut flakes, to serve
- Preheat oven to 175˚C (350˚F). Set 6 individual ramekins or flan tin on the bench.
- In a saucepan, make the caramel syrup by heating 1 cup of sugar over low heat. Stir occasionally, allowing the sugar to melt. After about 10 minutes, the sugar should turn golden brown in colour.
- Once this has happened, take off heat and pour immediately into ramekins or flan tin, tilting each so that the caramel covers the bottom and sides as evenly as possible.
- Meanwhile, put 4 egg yolks in a blender and whiz for a few minutes. Add in egg whites, condensed milk, normal milk and vanilla essence and blend for another few minutes.
- Pour the mixture into the ramekins or flan tin and cover each with foil. Place these into a deep roasting pan.
- Prepare a water bath by filling pan with boiling water 3/4 of the way up the ramekins/tin.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the flan.
- Allow to completely cool in water bath before unmoulding. Tip the ramekins/tin upside down onto a plate. The flans should release and the caramel syrup should run down the sides. If they don't immediately release, try tapping the bottom a few times.
- Chill in fridge for a few hours before serving.
Recipe inspired by 196 Flavors