Over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, lightly toast the cardamom and allspice for about 1 to 2 minutes, or just until fragrant.
Add cream and half-and-half, cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, crushed peppercorns, lemon zest, sugar, and salt to the pan over medium-high heat and bring to boil, remove from the heat, and let spices steep for 10 to 15 minutes, or longer if you want a more flavorful custard. Taste as you go and decide how intensely flavored you would like your dessert to be.
Heat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with a kitchen towel and place the ramekins in the baking dish.
Put eggs yolks in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. About 1 minute.
After the spice and cream mixture steeps, it should be slightly warm. Add the egg yolks to the spiced cream and then strain the pudding through a fine strainer or cheesecloth, into a 4-cup glass measuring cup or something that you can easily pour from.
Pour custard into ramekins or serving the dish and then pour hot tap water around puddings until it comes halfway up the sides.
Using aluminum foil, cover the pan; poking several holes to let the steam out.
Bake until the custards are just set, but still have a little jiggle in the middle. This will take about 30 minutes, but start checking at the 28 minute mark.
Remove ramekins or serving dish from the water bath, and let cool on a rack. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until cold.
Serving ideas: Softly whipped, lightly sweetened heavy cream, toasted or candied nuts (pistachios or almonds, preferably), citrus supremes, toasted coconut, cookies, or orange caramel.
Rose and Cardamon Pudding
Instead of the spices (cardamom through peppercorns) in Version 1, toast 8 crushed cardamon pods in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and follow the recipe as above. Add one teaspoon of rosewater to the pudding after straining the mixture. Garnish with candied pistachios and rose petals. Oh, and whipped cream, possibly scented with a tiny splash of rose water: 1 cup of heavy cream, lightly sweetened with 4 teaspoons of granulated sugar, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of rose water, to your taste.
Star Anise Pudding with a Grapefruit Garnish
I am on a star anise and grapefruit kick because these two flavors work so well together. Instead of the spices (cardamom through peppercorns) in Version 1, take 6 whole star anise, lightly crush and toast in a small skillet over medium-high heat, for about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Steep and strain as described above and garnish with grapefruit or pomelo, cut into bite-sized supremes. Other garnishing ideas: candied pistachios and toasted coconut. Or serve simply with a dollop of lightly whipped and sweetened heavy cream.
This custard needs some chill time, so plan accordingly.
For serving, you will either need six 6-ounce ramekins, or you can put this dessert in one large 4-cup dish, and simply serve by scooping out.
Quick substitution: Instead of the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of a good quality store-bought garam masala.I like the Rani brand or make your own.