The colour of Easter: Seafood custard

Easter treat: Seafood custard made with duck eggs and topped with crème fraîche.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2020

Following nature´s seasonal cycles, eggs are plentiful during this time of year, the reason for Easter food recipes filled with eggs, from rustic pies to custards and braided breads baked with the use of whole eggs. Apart from eggs, seafood and shellfish feature prominently in Easter food traditions in Swedish west coast fare, as well as in Northern Norway. Some familiar dishes are smoked salmon and/or mackerel, gravad lax, variety flavours of preserved herring to egg halves topped with shrimp and caviar.

In the past week, I´ve been eating a variation of the Southeast-Asian otah/otak, which is baked fish paste wrapped inside a banana leaf, sans banana leaf. Laid in a glass ovenware, casserole style, what I had put together from local bought ingredients tasted better than I had expected. So I thought to try with another batch, but with a twist in the local ingredients. I had by now also acquired a second batch of 30 duck eggs from Aimee´s Farm from Lofoten in Northern Norway. After much YouTubing and hearing the consistent feedback that duck eggs bake well, enhancing creaminess in pies and custards with its yolks and lightness in cakes, meringue, soufflé etc. with its whisked whites, I thought to use them in this second round of seafood otah/otak, sans banana leaf and baked bain marie.

I went to the grocery store yesterday afternoon, mostly looking for skrei (wild cod) roe and liver to include in this seafood custard. But it´s the tail end of the skrei season here in Northern Norway, and a couple of weeks too late to get fresh skrei. Cod tongue is still available and one could wonder about its popularity, the reason for its continued availability. It even outlived cod liver in supply.

Apart from cod tongue, which I have never heard about or tried until I began living in Tromsø slightly more than a year ago, the other unusual ingredient in this seafood custard I used is the blue mussel. Blue mussels are sold in netted bags at the grocery stores here when available. Not being particularly a fan of seafood, I´ve just never got around to include them in my cooking ventures. The blue mussels used here come from a can, as is the cod liver used. The prized experiment element here for me however were the use of duck eggs. I started baking this seafood custard early evening yesterday, where it came out of the oven with the edges quite soft. I took a teaspoonful to try, and noted the prominent flavour of the cod liver. I generally love organ meats and livers, so I didn´t mind the cod liver taste. I placed it in the refrigerator after cooling and couldn´t wait to try more of it this morning for breakfast.

Custards tend to firm in consistence when cooled overnight in the refrigerator. So this morning, I was greeted by a rich Easter yellow custard sitting in my refrigerator. It looked luscious and luxurious. The bain marie baking took care that the custard did not overcook, and I was able to make clean portions of the bake and have one slice out on a plate.

The taste and texture. The flavours matured some overnight and the blue mussels and cod tongue (a muscle meat) certainly gave the custard a meaty feel that reminded me of a Chinese steamed minced pork and egg dish that I used to have as a child when growing up in Singapore. It was also a rough blend of ingredients, so there were larger bits of cod tongue that gave nuance and contrast to the soft creamy texture of the duck egg custard. I added no salt to the seafood custard, because the last fish otah/otak I made turned out way too salty (part ingredients, part heavy-handed with the salt). This time around, I also counted on the canned ingredients and Norwegian made butter to have that pinch of salt required for this dish. I had thought that the taste of the cod liver would be more pronounced, but it seemed to have mellowed into the background of flavours by morning.

Last but not least, the hint of fresh sourness from the crème fraîche together with this decadent seafood custard is something I just love.

Cod tongue (top of the picture), on discount at the grocery store at the tail end of the skrei (wild cod) season.

Ingredients to the seafood custard from top left moving clockwise: Monkfish/Angler (Lophius piscatorius), cod liver (canned), duck eggs, cream, blue mussels (canned) and cod tongue.

A shrimp sandwich, Swedish west coast fare, also during Easter.

The ingredients were blended with a little butter added, then baked bain marie. The custard turned out certainly creamier and thicker in consistency.

Out of the bain marie baking, and on the kitchen counter to cool.

This was baked without added salt, because some ingredients such as the canned cod liver and butter contained the pinch of salt needed for this. I loved the faintest hint of sour in the crème fraîche on this creamy seafood custard.

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