Zuppa Inglese Or Zuppa Ferrarese
a vanilla pod (optional, but makes it special)
Whisk constantly and whisking patiently on low heat to bring the mixture almost to boiling point so that it thickens - the very fine bubbles on the surface will disappear when it is ready. Snatch it off the heat, and transfer to a cool bowl as soon as possible, as it can continue to cook and so curdle, .
Mix the water and Alchermes* together. Dip the lady fingers lightly in the liquid, and use make a layer at the bottom of one large or several small glass bowls. Place with the pink side facing the outside, so it is visible through the glass.
Now add a layer of the chocolate custard and if you wish carefully top with a very thin layer of sour cherry or apricot jam, dropping teaspoonfuls at regular intervals as it is impossible to spread the jam over the soft custard with a knife or spoon. If you like you can reserve some of the chocolate custard and place it in a piping bag or squeegee bottle to use for decorating the top.
Finish with a deeper layer of plain custard.