Kai on the Fly – July 2010

With Aunty Rata

Namaste  people. Hope you are keeping warm. Congratulations to Michael Phethean who climbed Everest on May 23. Aunty Rata is delighted for him and I’m sure the rest of you are too. When someone realises a dream it is time for a smile, a salute and to be thankful that it didn’t turn to custard.

The custard season has arrived. Custard is an excellent tramping dessert because it is warm, filling and relatively nutritious. Plus it’s bright yellow colour serves as a reminder of what sunshine looks like!

While you might think cooking custard is a bit of a no brainer Aunty Rata recommends that you try making it at home before cooking it in the hills. The phrase “turn to custard” is in fact a reference to what happens if your custard execution is not up to scratch. Aunty Rata is a pretty average custard maker herself so I speak with personal experience when I assure you that without practice there is a high risk the outcome will be neither yellow nor tasty. You have been warned custard novices. Try to remember to pack a whisk and a long handled stirring implement such as a wooden spoon.

Custard is excellent poured over cake, especially ginger cake or dried fruit. Soak the dried fruit in hot water to rehydrate it while you cook the custard.

Sunshine Custard (serves 4-6)


  • 1 tb custard powder per person 1 tsp sugar per person
  • 4 tb milk powder per person


  • Add water to the milk powder to make milk. 4tb milk powder makes 1 cup of milk.
  • Put all the ingredients in a billy and mix well. If you have a whisk then great. Otherwise use a fork.
  • Turn on your cooker, try to get a low heat.
  • Cross your fingers or undertake some other good luck ritual. If you are religious now would be a good time to pray.
  • Put billy onto the cooker.
  • Stir the mixture constantly or it will burn. Burnt custard is horrible. For the first few minutes nothing much will happen but after that the mixture will reach boiling point and quickly start to thicken. There is an art to cooking the custard long enough to get it thick but not long enough for it to burn.
  • Remove custard from heat and serve immediately. Cold custard is horrible.

If you are a custard veteran then you can do more advanced stuff with custard. The following recipe is great fun if you have a pit day or get to a hut early and have plenty of time for mucking around. Aunty Rata would not bother trying it on a fit trip. Remember to bring an extra billy or other serving vessel to put the trifle in.

Sherry Trifle (serves 4)


  • 200g packet trifle sponge
  • Quarter cup jam – a tart jam like plum is best
  • Quarter cup sherry
  • 425g can of fruit salad 4 tb custard powder
  • 3 tb sugar or honey
  • 8 tb milk powder to make 2c milk
  • 300ml cream or a can of instant whipped cream (much easier)
  • Half tsp vanilla essence (if taking real cream)
  • 1 tb icing sugar (if taking real cream)
  • Quarter cup chopped nuts (optional, could substitute chocolate chips or hundreds and thousands or more sherry…)


  • Mix up the milk powder to make milk and set aside
  • Cut the sponge in half horizontally. Spread surface with jam. Sandwich the halves together to make a jam sandwich.
  • Cut your jam sandwich into cubes and neatly arrange it in the bottom of a billy or other serving vessel if you have one.
  • Spoon sherry over the sponge. Resist temptation to sample sherry.
  • Spoon fruit salad over sponge. Set aside.
  • In another billy mix the custard powder, sugar and milk into a paste and cook as per Sunshine Custard method.
  • Poor custard over sponge mixture. Set aside to chill a bit.
  • After your main meal mix the cream, vanilla essence and icing sugar together and whip it till it thickens. [Note you can cheat and bring the cream that comes in an aerosol can and save your wrists].
  • Slap whipped cream over the sponge mixture. Sprinkle with nuts. Serve.

If on a fit trip make custard and serve with sherry on side or take a can of instant whipped cream and serve with chocolate biscuits, (thanks Mark Hanson), or just sherry. If worried that you may be in breach of the no alcohol without permission of Chief Guide rule heat sherry to burn off all alcohol.

Good luck. Send your tramping recipes to .

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