Seven Swans A Swimming

Seven Swana A Swimming

I have to admit to having alot of help with this one, Seven Swans A Swimming, seemed so difficult, but Delicious Magazine had it all sorted out.  A variation on Iles Flottantes or floating Island.  I’d always thought I didn’t like this dessert but, looking at the ingredients – what’s not to really-like? A rich Vanilla custard drizzled with caramel and dotted with almond praline. Floating on this lake of deliciousness are seven, poached meringue, swans.

For those of you who’ve never had poached meringue, it’s soft, sweet and sticky. Much to my surprise, it’s also very easy.  Of course, you could buy real vanilla custard from the supermarket and just add the swans and the caramel.  Or you could follow the recipe and make the entire dish from scratch.

Seven Swans A Swimming

For The Vanilla Custard

Vanilla And Sugar

  • 500ml whole milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods, split lengthways, seeds scraped out


  • Cream together the egg yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl, until pale and fluffy.
  • Put the milk in a heavy bottomed pan, add the vanilla seeds
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 1 minute.
  • Pour the milk onto the eggs and sugar mixture whisking continuously until smooth.
  • Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and place back onto a medium heat.
  • Stir continually for 5-6 minutes until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
  • Pass the mixture through a sieve to get rid of any possible lumps.  Place cling film directly on the custard, this help to stop a skin forming.  Set aside in the fridge.

For The Poached Meringue makes 10 ‘swans’

Free Range Eggs

  • 3 Egg Whites
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 350ml milk, for poaching
  • 500ml water, for poaching


  • Place the egg whites in a large bowl with a pinch of sugar and whisk until it forms soft peaks.
  • Add the remaining sugar gradually whilst still beating the egg whites.
  • This should form stiff peaks and be very glossy.
  • Place a saucepan on a moderate heat with the milk and water in it and bring to a simmer.  Keep at simmering level.
  • Using two tablespoons make quinnelles (Quenelles are made by passing the stiff egg whites back and forth between two tablespoons, scooping the mixture out, and thus shaping it, with each pass.  It should resemble the shape of a rugby ball.)
  • Place the ‘swans’, no more than three at a time into the milk to poach for 2 minutes on each side.
  • Remove onto kitchen paper and repeat with all the mixture.

For The Caramel

  • 115g caster sugar
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 tablespoon vanilla essence


  • Put the sugar into a heavy bottomed pan
  • Add 3 tablespoons of water
  • Tip or shake the pan to help the caramel form and the sugar to melt.
  • Continue to cook until it has a lovely golden brown colour.
  • Remove from the heat and add 3 more tablespoons of water, be careful it will spit.
  • Add the vanilla.
  • Return to the heat and stir, leave to simmer until the caramel thickens, set aside

Almond Praline

Almond Praline

  • 115g caster sugar
  • 20g flaked almonds


  • Melt the sugar in a pan and cook until it reaches a warm brown colour
  • Pour onto a silicon sheet or baking paper and quickly tip tje sheet or paper to make the praline thinner on the sheet.
  • Scatter with the almonds and set aside.

To Assemble The Dish

  • Pour the custard into a large dish.
  • Re-heat the caramel if it has thickened too much.
  • Swirl the custard with the caramel.
  • Place the ‘swans’ on the custard.
  • Break the almond praline into small pieces or cut with a large sharp knife.
  • Scatter the praline in between the ‘swans’.


Seven Swans A Swimming


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  1. says

    Now that I’ve discovered that it’s really delicious, I agree with you it is wonderful comfort food. Grown up marshmallows in creamy custard. GG

  2. says

    I have always found Ile flottante too sweet to my taste, but if one makes it at home, the custard will not be necessarily so sweet! Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe. It sounds more complex than the basic dessert I know.

    • says

      The poaching of the meringue is really easy and the custard is custard. The caramel and praline is just the faff of being sure not to burn it and covering the kitchen in sugar! GG

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