As promised last time, today I have a quick little recipe for using up extra rhubarb juice. When I made my rhubarb curd the other week I had quite a lot of rhubarb juice leftover and it would have been a crime to waste even a drop of that gorgeous pink liquid. Instead I boiled it up with a splash of water, a few strips of lemon peel and a drop of sugar to sweeten. The flavour of this syrup is just pure rhubarb, and creates a delicious spring drink when mixed with soda water, which is also pretty in colour. I’m coming to the end of the bottle I made and now desperately need to get my hands on another batch of rhubarb to top it up.
Ingredients (makes about 500ml syrup) 300g rhubarb 90g granulated sugar
1. To extract the juice from the rhubarb follow steps 1-3 here. (Short version: simmer rhubarb with splash of water; strain.)
2. Mix 150ml of the rhubarb juice with 300ml water, the sugar and 3 strips of lemon peel.
Spring has finally arrived in Scotland! Easter weekend passed and suddenly the evenings seem longer, the temperature milder and the sun has been gracing us with its presence for weeks now. Despite the warning of a drop in temperature, and more than a drop of rain, this weekend the season has undoubtable changed and brought with it a new crop of spring produce. Every spring my mum makes a batch of lemon curd (you can find the recipe here) and seeing ruby red stalks of seasonal rhubarb inspired me to try a new twist on the recipe. I can reveal the results of this experiment now: superb.
Luckily my local gardener (dad) has a bumper harvest of both regular and forced rhubarb right now. I decided to go for the regular rhubarb for this recipe, purely based on aesthetics – I wanted a curd with a gorgeous pink colour. The initial juice from the rhubarb is an almost shocking pink, but when mixed with the butter and eggs it turns a more pastel shade. Very spring-appropriate, I think. If you have extra rhubarb and want to make something that retains the vivid pink then you can cook up the excess juice into rhubarb syrup for drinks. I’ll post a recipe in the next few days!
Ingredients (makes 1 medium-sized jar) 400g rhubarb (for leftover juice for rhubarb syrup increase to 700g) 100g butter 150g granulated sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
Method 1. Chop the rhubarb into small pieces and place in a pan with a splash of water (just a few tablespoons).
2. Simmer the rhubarb on a low heat for 10-20 minutes until the rhubarb has completely softened.
3. Strain the rhubarb through a fine sieve to achieve a beautiful, smooth rhubarb juice. Measure out 250ml of the juice for the curd.
4. Melt the butter in a bain-marie making sure the water in the pan does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
5. Add the sugar and mix.
6. Add the eggs and rhubarb juice and whisk well.
7. Continuously stir the curd over a very gentle heat with a wooden spoon until you have achieved the consistency you want – usually so that it’s thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. It can take a very long time to get to this stage so stick at it. And remember that the mixture will thicken a little more once cool.
8. Pour the curd into a sterilised jar and leave at room temperature to cool completely. Keep the curd in the fridge – it will last for at least 3 weeks.
Spread on toast or swirl through yogurt for an indulgent spring breakfast, or use the curd to top ice-cream for the perfect, simple spring dessert.
There have been a lot of savoury recipes on the blog recently: pizza, lamb shanks, spring vegetables and fresh pesto. I make no apologies for this – this blog was never intended to be sweet-only; all food was created equal – but with “pudding” in the title it seems only fair to throw in a dessert after so many main meals. And what better to satisfy a sugary craving than a generous slice of pie. You might remember (if you have been reading the text in my posts and not just skipping through to the pictures…I know, I do it too) that a few weeks ago I was contemplating what to do with the next crop of rhubarb from my dad’s allotment. On Saturday he dashed round in his gardening gear, threw some stalks of rhubarb at me without even crossing the doorstep, muttered something about “we’re leaving for Oxford in 30 minutes and I still need to have a shower” and then ran back to the car. Needless to say, I was very grateful for the delivery and knew I had to do the fresh, ruby-red stalks justice. Rhubarb and strawberry is a classic combination, and paired with sweet and crumbly short crust pastry it couldn’t really go wrong.
Making your own short crust pastry from scratch can be a stressful experience. The “short” in the name refers to the shortening, or fat, that is added to the pastry and gives it a light, flaky texture. This means that the pastry can be hard to work with and often breaks when it is rolled out. However, that said, the blessing of short crust pastry is that it can easily be patched up no matter how delicate it is. Any holes can be covered up with another small piece of pastry and after cooking no one will notice. So if you’re being bold and making your own, don’t worry about the flimsiness of the dough – keep calm, carry on and it will turn out perfect in the end. If you’re short on time or just not in the mood for a battle with flour and butter, then the ready-made pastry that you can buy from the shops is a great substitute.
Ingredients (serves 8-12 using a large pie dish approx. 28cm across the top) About 10 stalks of rhubarb 1 tbsp sugar 2 tsp vanilla extract 450g plain flour Pinch of salt 200g chilled butter, cut into small cubes 30g chilled white cooking fat, cut into small pieces 50g of caster sugar mixed with 10 tbsp cold milk and chilled 750g fresh strawberries, husks removed and halved if large 1 egg, beaten
White or Demerara sugar for sprinkling
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/Gas Mark 6. Chop the rhubarb into chunks and lay out in a roasting tray, sprinkled with the sugar and vanilla extract.
2. Roast the rhubarb for 5-10 minutes until just tender.
3. Make the pastry following my previous recipe. The only difference here is that we have double quantities but the steps are exactly the same: rub the butter and fat into the flour and salt, add the sugar and milk to combine and knead the minimum amount of times needed to bring the dough together. Wrap the pastry in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. If you leave the pastry to chill for longer (there is no problem making it a day ahead) then give it 30-60 minutes out of the fridge otherwise it will be too hard to roll. 4. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/Gas Mark 6 again. Cut the pastry in half and pop one piece back in the fridge while you roll out the base of the pie with a rolling pin (wine bottle). Use plenty of flour on the surface as you roll since the high butter content can make the pastry sticky. Roll into a rough circle 1cm thick and lift into your pie dish. Press into the edges, leaving the excess pastry to hand over the sides.
5. Fill the pie with the roasted rhubarb and fresh strawberries. If you have a sweet tooth then you can sprinkle with some extra sugar.
6. Roll the second half of the pastry out to top the pie. Press the crust down firmly to seal the pie and crimp the edges either with your fingers as shown below or with a fork. Brush the pie with egg and sprinkle with a little sugar. Cut two slits in the top to let the steam escape while the pie cooks.
7. Bake the pie for 40 minutes until golden brown. If the edges begin to brown too quickly then you can cover them with some tin foil, though I found this tricky because by then the pie was very hot!
Pie-fect (sorrynotsorry) served with lashings of cream or a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.
As you can see, this pie produces a lot of juice from the strawberries – don’t let this delicious syrup go to waste and drizzle it over your slice of pie or spoon of ice cream.
Rhubarb has a fairly long and generous season, as I mentioned before when sharing my recipe for a Rhubarb Crumble. At the start of the year forced rhubarb starts to peak its golden-crowned head up, but now that spring is really upon us the dark red stalks are really coming into their prime. Now is the time to peruse the supermarket shelves or pop into your local greengrocers and grab a pile of stalks for a crumble or a pie or some simple stewed rhubarb. I’m lucky enough to have a green-fingered father who lives nearby, and received a beautiful bunch of rhubarb stalks freshly picked from his allotment two weekends ago. It was so perfectly fresh that I didn’t want to muck around with it (besides, with only two of us in the house most of the time, endless puddings and desserts can get a bit much…it’s a hard life, I know). So I stewed it up with a few complementing flavours: vanilla, cinnamon and ginger.
Ingredients 600g rhubarb (about 6 large stalks, with the ends chopped off) 150g caster sugar 2 tsp vanilla extract 1 tsp ground cinnamon 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
6 tbsp water
Method 1. Chop the rhubarb into small pieces, about 2 inches long.
2. Place the rhubarb into a large pan and add the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and water. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cook on a low heat for about 5 minutes for a mixed consistency with some rhubarb still in whole pieces – you want a fork to easily slide through the chunks, and not meet with resistance. If you’d like a more liquid consistency then the take the cooking on for a couple more minutes, it won’t take long.
3. Eat hot or leave to cool in the pan, then transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate.
This compote was so simple but utterly scrummy, and the ginger in particular made it wonderfully fragrant. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that we had it (the night I cooked it) on top of mini pavlovas:
All I did was follow the meringue recipe from a previous post (but without the extra flavourings and using just one egg white), shape the mixture into two large meringues and top with crème fraiche and the compote to finish. I also had the compote for breakfast every day for a week with coconut yogurt and never got bored of it:
This would be perfect on top of porridge or cereal – I did try to tempt Ross to have it on his cereal, but he has a strict No-Fruit-On-My-Cereal policy. This will keep in the fridge for a week, or you can even freeze it for later. I’m hoping for another fresh rhubarb delivery this week and am thinking about a rhubarb and strawberry pie – a match made in heaven. What’s your favourite thing to cook with rhubarb?
Crumble has to be one of the ultimate comfort-food puddings. It’s simple, sweet and stodgy, plus anything that can be served with custard is already winning. The choice of the crumble base can be whatever fruit you fancy – apple crumble is a classic, gooseberry is my personal favourite and in the autumn it’s amazing with a seasonal combination of apples, pears, plums and brambles. Rhubarb is in season, roughly, between late December and June. Forced rhubarb, which has been grown in the dark, has beautiful bright pink stalks and pale yellowish leaves and is available in the earlier months of the year. This was what I saw on the shelves on Sunday and it had to be mine. The smell of fresh rhubarb reminds me of being little and dipping raw stalks into mounds of sugar – sometimes the simple things in life are the best.
This was my first attempt at home made custard, and I have to say it was easy-peasy. This is not a boast – I guarantee you that, provided you can whisk and stir, you can make homemade custard too.
I think that one of the nice things about crumble is that you can tailor the topping to your own tastes and whatever you have in the cupboards. If you like a plain topping then just go by my mum’s basic recipe of 250g flour, to 125g butter and 60g sugar. Otherwise get creative – oats, ground almonds, flaked almonds, pine nuts, desiccated coconut, sesame seeds, even granola, are all delicious.
Ingredients (serves 6 to 8) 4 sticks of rhubarb, about 400g 40g golden caster sugar Zest of 1 orange 1 star anise
A few grinds of ground vanilla beans or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod
150g plain flour 50g ground almonds 125g chilled butter, cut into small cubes 40g oats 30g pine nuts
60g light brown muscovado sugar
500ml milk 4 egg yolks 70g caster sugar
1½ tbsp cornflour
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6. Chop the rhubarb into pieces approximately 2-3 inches long. Lay snuggly in a baking dish and sprinkle with the golden caster sugar, orange zest, star anise and vanilla.
Roast for 20 minutes until the rhubarb is tender and the sugar has melted into a pink syrup.
2. Add the chopped butter to the flour and ground almonds. Use your finger tips to rub the butter into the flour and almonds. The aim is to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients so that you are left with a “breadcrumb” texture.
3. Mix in the oats, pine nuts and brown sugar.
4. Whisk together the egg yolks, caster sugar and flour. Heat the milk in a saucepan until just at the boiling point, then remove from the heat.
5. Add the hot milk to the egg yolks a little at a time, whisking continuously – no scrambled eggs here please! Put the mixture back on a low heat for 5-10 minutes. Make sure you stir constantly and remove from the heat as soon as the mixture is thick, so as to avoid the horror of lumpy custard.
6. Spoon the crumble topping over the roasted rhubarb and bake for 30 minutes (still at 200C/180C fan/Gas 6) until the topping is golden brown and the rhubarb juice is starting to bubble up the sides.
If you want to make the custard ahead of time then a good tip is to transfer the custard to a jug or bowl and cover with cling film directly touching the custard. This stops the custard forming a skin on top. When you are ready to eat, put the custard back into a pan and reheat slowly. Or serve the custard cold – this might gross some people out, but personally I think cold custard is the food of gods.
We enjoyed this on Sunday night after dinner, sat in front of the last episode of Season 3 of Game of Thrones (mum and dad are catching up). So excited for the new season to start!
Would you put crumble near the top of your comfort-food list? What are your favourite crumble flavours?