Beat the eggs with the sugar until creamy. Put the cornflour into a small bowl, add a little of the cream (about 4 tablespoons) and beat well to form a liquid paste. Now pour the cornflour paste into the egg and sugar mixture and beat well to incorporate. Pour in the rest of the cream, add the lemon zest, and continue beating until the mixture is well blended.
Transfer to a saucepan and cook over a very low heat, stirring the whole time, until the mixture is quite thick and the first bubbles break the surface (about 5 minutes). Cook for a couple more minutes while stirring.
Moisten your silicone moulds with a drop of cold water and fill each of them with the custard. Give a wet teaspoon to your Coco and ask her to spread the mixture all round each mould, so that every corner is filled. When the shapes are cold, put them in the fridge. They can stay there for a day or two. I like to serve these gnocchi with the softened fruit in the next recipe.
About sweet milk gnocchi
This pudding is to a Northern Italian child what rice pudding is to an English child: a sweet, soft, eggy mixture which can be eaten by itself or with some stewed fruit. It used to be one of my favourites, a real treat, since puddings do not appear very often in an Italian home.
Now it is one of Coco’s favourite puddings. The first time I made it for her I followed my mother’s recipe; it was a very sweet pud and Coco was ecstatic. I cut down the sugar and Coco is still ecstatic, although when she makes it with me, she always asks for 'one more spoonful of sugar, please'.
If I serve the gnocchi by themselves I like to substitute the lemon zest with either the seeds of the ½ vanilla pod or with ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon. 'Very yummy surrounded by a chocolate sauce,' suggest Coco (see p.165 of Cooking with Coco).
We usually spoon the custard into silicone moulds of different shapes – hearts are great favourites, and the yellow hearts look lovely surrounded by the poached blueberries on p.60 of Cooking with Coco. But you can also spread the mixture and let it chill in a single shape and then cut it into squares, rectangles or rounds.
Extracted from Cooking with Coco by Anna Del Conte, published by Chatto & Windus at £18.99. Copyright © Anna Del Conte 2011. Photographs © Jason Lowe 2011.