Fish & chips and cups of tea aside, nothing is more quintessentially British than rhubarb and custard. Normally this would be presented as a rhubarb crumble with lumpy custard, the rhubarb picked from the garden, of course. This dessert is a bit more grown-up, but still nostalgic and very British!
Try to get organic free-range eggs for this recipe (and for all the recipes in this book, if possible); the custard will be much creamier and smoother, and the colour will be a deep yellow, almost orange, rather than the practically white result you would get with regular store-bought eggs.
1 recipe prebaked Sweet Pastry Crust
1 bottle pomegranate syrup
1 bunch (900g) rhubarb, trimmed, washed, and cut in half
For the vanilla custard
500ml heavy cream
1 large vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
9 organic free-range egg yolks
900 grams or 32 ounces
Poach the rhubarb: pour the bottle of pomegranate into a large pot. Fill the empty bottle with water and add it to the pomegranate. Bring the poaching liquid to a boil.
Meanwhile, arrange the rhubarb in a long heat proof container with a lid. Pour the boiling liquid over the rhubarb and shut the lid straightaway. Leave this to macerate overnight in the refrigerator.
When you're ready to make the vanilla custard, preheat the oven to 120°C.
In a saucepan, bring the cream, sugar, and vanilla seeds to a rapid boil.
Place the egg yolks in a bowl and pour the hot cream mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly until it's combined. Let stand for 5 minutes, then skim off any bubbles.
Allow the custard tart to cool completely at room temperature, then place it in the fridge to prevent it from cracking.
Pour the custard into the prebaked crust. Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate 180 degrees and cook for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the filling is set but still slightly wobbly.
Remove the rhubarb from the poaching liquid and drain it thoroughly on a clean kitchen towel. Using a paring knife, slice the rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces, then arrange the rhubarb on top of the custard tart and serve.
TIP: The consistency of the filling should be the same as jelly - set but still wobbly. If the custard ripples when you gently shake the pan, bake it longer, but remember that it will continue to cook once it's out of the oven.
TIP: Egg-based custards need to be cooked low and slow. This method stops the eggs from curdling, or getting a grainy eggy texture and flavour, instead creating a creamy smooth consistency and vibrant taste.
TIP: Fun fact—when you rapidly boil the cream with the vanilla, the fat molecules in the cream will stick to the vanilla seeds and keep hold of them, so they'll be evenly distributed throughout the finished custard. Not only does this look more attractive, more importantly you'll enjoy vanilla flavour consistently, in every bite. (If you just warm up the mixture, the vanilla seeds will sink to the bottom and you'll get an overpowering vanilla flavour when you scoop up a bite near the base.)
A recipe from Bake by Rory Macdonald (Rizzoli).
Feature Image: Jade Young