I have a special fondness for both custard and fried things, so you can image my delight when I was served a version of these in an excellent restaurant in Piemonte. Here, we’ve made it even a little more exciting with some delicious flavours of Southern Italy.






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Fennel sugar

  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and finely crushed
  • 40 g caster sugar


  • 400 ml full cream milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
  • 3 large pieces of orange peel
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and coarsely crushed
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp river salt
  • 50 g butter
  • 60 g plain flour
  • 40 g cornflour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 80 g milk chocolate, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 50 ml milk
  • 80 g panko crumbs, buzzed until fine
  • oil, for shallow frying

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Chilling time 2 hours

Combine the fennel seeds and sugar, set aside.

In a pot over a medium heat, combine the milk, orange, vanilla, fennel, sugar and salt. Slowly bring to the boil, remove from the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes to infuse a little. Strain this mix into another pot and place it over a very low heat.

In another pan, over a medium heat, add the butter and both the flours, stirring until it starts to go golden and smell toasty.

Slowly start adding the milk, bit by bit, stirring thoroughly after each addition and making sure there are no lumps. Once all the milk is added, your mix should be fairly thick. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks and melted chocolate.

Cover a tray (14 cm x 28 cm) with baking paper and pour out the custard. You want it to be spread fairly evenly to a thickness of about 2 cm. Cover the surface of the custard with a sheet of plastic wrap, set aside and allow to cool completely.

Once the custard is completely cool, cut it into square-ish shapes (about 3 cm squares).

Whisk together the egg and milk and lay out your crumbs. Dip each custard square into the egg mix and then into the crumbs. You want to make sure the custard is nicely coated with crumbs otherwise you’ll have issues when frying.

In a wide frypan, add about 2 cm of oil and heat to 180°C. Gently slip the custard squares into the oil and fry in batches until golden brown. Remove from the oil, drain onto paper towel. Dust with the fennel sugar and serve while still hot but please do warn your friends not to burn their tongues.


Cook's tip

• It works well if you make the custard the day before and let it sit overnight in the fridge. The cooler it is, the easier it will be to work with. 


Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Suresh Watson.

Dessert fork from Chef and The Cook; salad plate from Mud Australia.


For a taste of O Tama Carey’s cooking, visit her at Berta restaurant in Sydney. Like Berta on Facebook, and follow the restaurant on Twitter and Instagram.


Read our interview with Tama. This recipe is from our online column, The Seasonal Cook: spring milk. View previous The Seasonal Cook columns and recipes.