Vattalappam (Spicy Coconut Custard)
250 g/8 oz dark palm sugar (jaggery)
250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup canned coconut milk
375 ml/12 fl oz can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons rose water or 1/4 teaspoon rose essence
Chop palm sugar into small pieces and put into a small heavy saucepan with 200 ml (7 fl oz) water. Dissolve over low heat, allow to cool. Beat eggs until well mixed but not frothy, add palm sugar and coconut milk diluted with 125 ml (4 fl oz) water. Strain this mixture through a fine strainer into a large jug. Stir in evaporated milk, spices and rose water or essence.
Pour into individual custard cups placed in a baking dish. Add hot water to come half way up sides of cups and bake at 120 degrees C (260 degrees F) until set, about 1 1/4 hours. Cool and chill.
Note: Instead of individual servings, the custard may be cooked in one large dish, allowing extra baking time, but do not be tempted to raise heat to more than moderately slow, as this will cause the custard to curdle.
Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)