Rhubarb and Custard

11 April 2007

I’ve just come back from a trip to Italy, which was filled with wonderful food and meeting lovely people – I’ll write about it next time but for now I wanted to share some rhubarb & custard recipes that I’ve been trying out while this lovely ingredient is in season.

The combination of rhubarb & custard is very English – but as I’ve heard from some people here, it’s a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it thing. As I wrote last year, I too was a little sceptical about this vegetable at first and it took me a while to build up the courage to try it – but since then, there is no going back for me :) I love the tangy, clean flavour and of course, the gorgeous pink coloured juice when cooked.

I first went for a somewhat posh version – as a big fan of his book, I just had to try this recipe. He named this dessert literally ‘rhubarb and custard’ – it consists of rhubarb mousse and compote with ginger sponge base, rhubarb & custard ice-cream and rhubarb tuile – extremely rhubarb-y :)

First make the rhubarb compote (cooked in syrup), reserve some for making the coulis (liquidise the cooked rhubarb and cook with sugar until reduced by one-third), then use some of the coulis for the mousse, ice-cream and tuile. These components with their different textures and flavours are lovely in their own right but when combined, even better :) The recipe actually has dried rhubarb (thinly sliced and oven-dried) as well as custard sauce but I omitted them and made a simple rhubarb sauce instead by reducing the cooked juice. His recipe suggests using pickled ginger for the sponge, but again I used freshly grated ginger instead and it was delicious.

As he explains, I agree that by making several small uncomplicated dishes rather than one elaborate dessert, you’ll find it easy to achieve (and it helps to be working with something that has as beautiful a colour as rhubarb :)) I had a friend try this dessert, who grows rhubarb himself but hasn’t liked eating it since his childhood – I asked him to give me an honest opinion and he simply cleaned the plate :)

Next is the creme brulee with roast rhubarb – I adjusted the recipes from here and Tetsuya’s book (previously posted here)

Although it’s called creme brulee, it’s not cooked so it’s more like posset – roasting the fruit gives a more concentrated flavour, also helps to stop it going soggy which is the normal way to cook rhubarb. Even ignoring the fact that I’m a real custard fiend, I think this is one of the best ways to serve rhubarb, rich creamy custard with a slight heat from the ginger and sharp tangy rhubarb – it can’t possibly go wrong!

As if I hadn’t had enough custard already, I tried another recipe for rhubarb ice-cream – it’s Skye’s recipe from her first book, and I was looking forward to trying verjuice for this recipe. Verjuice literally means green juice (vert jus) in French – it’s made from unfermented grapes and is a milder alternative to lemon juice or wine vinegar. It’s not so common in the UK – so I was happy to find some (Maggie Beer brand) at Petersham Nurseries where Skye works as the head chef. It’s actually delicious on its own – I have a feeling that I’ll need another bottle soon :) Oh and I had to order Maggie’s book too!

The ice-cream recipe in the John Campbell book involved adding rhubarb coulis into the custard – it was lovely, but possibly a little too sweet for my taste and I wanted to try a recipe where the rhubarb flavour can be better tasted. Skye’s version adds whole cooked rhubarb as well as verjuice. Once the rhubarb is cooked, take the fruit out and reduce the juice to half, churn the custard as normal then add the fruit and juice towards the end of churning in the machine. I loved the earthy rhubarb flavour and of course, the gorgeous pale pink colour :)

I bought all of the rhubarb for these desserts, but I paid a visit to our friend’s allotment today and found his rhubarb is nearly ready – so it looks like we can enjoy this delightful vegetable for a while longer :)

Creme brulee with roast rhubarb

Makes 6-7 ramekins (about 7cm diameter)

For the roast rhubarb
300g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into about 1cm pieces
40g caster sugar

For the creme brulee
4 egg yolks
70g caster sugar
1 tablespoon of finely grated ginger
Finely grated zest of half a lime
450ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
Light brown sugar (make it finer in a food processor)

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Place the rhubarb in a roasting tray (single layer) and toss well in the sugar. Roast for 15-20 minutes (until the fruit is soft). Cool and divide into ramekins.

Place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl, whisk until pale and add the grated ginger and lime zest. Place the cream and vanilla seeds (as well as the pod) in a pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave for about 10 minutes to infuse the flavour. Heat the cream again, take the pod out then slowly pour into the egg mixture, stirring all the time. Place the custard into the pan, set over a low heat and cook until the custard coats the back of a spoon, keep stirring! (it takes about 15-20 minutes) Cool the custard and sieve into a clean bowl. When the custard is cool, pour over the ramekins (with the fruit). Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

To serve, sieve the brown sugar thinly over the custard. Brown the sugar with a blowtorch (you can place under a hot grill if you don’t have one). Repeat this process 2-3 times to make the perfect crunch. The custard will be softer than ‘cooked’ creme brulee, so you need to work fast while you’re browning the sugar.

Food - Sweet        63 comments    Permalink

  • Hey Keiko,its really worth waiting around almost a month to see your post,i have unfortunately never tasted rhubarb but after seeing these beautiful pictures i simply cant wait :-))

    Posted by Kate | 11 April 2007 #
  • As usual keiko, gorgeous I’m going to make it soon, looks really good

    Posted by mercotte | 11 April 2007 #
  • Wow! Again, it’s very interesting spring desserts that you made. I was looking for rhubarb recipes so I will try to make brulee when I get rhubarb next time. Thanks!

    Posted by Chico | 11 April 2007 #
  • Welcome back! Beautiful and delicious-looking post. Thank you for sharing the recipe for the crème brulée.

    Posted by Astrid | 11 April 2007 #
  • You know, I’ve never thought of rhubarb as a delicate pretty thing but yours looks beautiful Keiko! Rhubarb is a great thing to get into in England as it’s about the only thing that passes for fruit that grows here at this time of year. A slightly less elegant way to use it up but I used to make rhubarb and custard muffins (with a dollop of gooey custard in the middle!)

    Posted by Sophie | 11 April 2007 #
  • I love the vibrant colour of rhubarb. I haven’t tried cooking with them yet but i think i might very soon. The recipe sounds delightful.

    Posted by Mae | 11 April 2007 #
  • the colors come through so beautifully in this dessert, a wonderful little bit of Spring on your plate!

    Posted by connie | 11 April 2007 #
  • wonderful combination! can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

    Posted by Kat | 11 April 2007 #
  • I don’t know how you do it. Your pictures are so beautiful. They give me the feeling there is hope for mankind. I check your website everyday for inspiration. Thanks, Sara

    Posted by striggs | 11 April 2007 #
  • Oh you are talking to my heart here Keiko. I am such a fan of rhubarb! Your desserts look all gorgeous! I feel like rushing to the store to get some!

    Posted by bea at La tartine gourmande | 11 April 2007 #
  • I just love the vibrant colors of this dessert. It looks gorgeous and so fresh. A dessert that includes creme brulee is always welcome at my place. beautiful pictures.

    Posted by Rose | 11 April 2007 #
  • wow beautiful & delicious!

    Posted by leonine19 | 11 April 2007 #
  • I love rhubarb and the photos are exceptional – as always!

    (I can’t wait to see you!!!!)

    Posted by matt | 11 April 2007 #
  • Wow, so beautiful, I love rhubarb, I love your pictures, I love everything here.

    Posted by $ha | 11 April 2007 #
  • I love both your desserts and your pictures!
    What kind of lenses do you use on your camera?

    Posted by Jessica | 11 April 2007 #
  • Rhubard is something I can’t say I love or hate. In fact, even though I know I’ve tasted it somewhere, I can’t really recall much about it. It always conjures up images of Knotts Berry Farm’s rhubarb pies (famous in California years ago). As always, reading your site has me itching to try something like this because it leaps off the page at me screaming “TRY ME—I“M AMAZING.”

    You are amazing Keiko!

    Posted by kevin | 11 April 2007 #
  • Your blog is an inspiration. It’s like opening a little kitchen cupboard and finding a whole world of interesting and beautiful things inside.

    Posted by Jeanne | 11 April 2007 #
  • Your blog is an inspiration. It’s like opening a little kitchen cupboard and finding a whole world of interesting and beautiful things.

    Posted by Jeanne | 11 April 2007 #
  • Looks great ! Brilliant idea !

    Posted by Elodie at Mon Petit Biscuit cuit | 11 April 2007 #
  • Mmm what a lovely tribute to rhubarb Keiko. I love the cake especially, it looks like a butterfly has alighted on top!

    Posted by Anita | 12 April 2007 #
  • Looks creative and beautiful! Thanks for the recipe Keiko.

    Posted by Ms... | 12 April 2007 #
  • You had me at rhubarb.

    I was completely delighted to find the gorgeous pictures and recipes of the desserts you made with rhubarb. I know it might seem silly, but that alone makes me look forward to reading more of your blog.

    Posted by Aaydia | 12 April 2007 #
  • Amazing as always. I missed reading your posts, Keiko! It is a shame we do not have rhubarb in Turkey. It would have been great to try the recipes.Take care.

    Posted by Cenk | 12 April 2007 #
  • Your rhubarb and custard picture set looks like it was designed for a tea party for the prettiest little girl in the world. Divine!

    Posted by Stephanie | 12 April 2007 #
  • glad to hear you had a good time in Marche. I am looking forward to hearing the details! Unfortunately my trip to Hong Kong and Shangai won’t happen just yet : (. Great pictures!

    Posted by Ales | 12 April 2007 #
  • Hi, keiko san,

    Very beautiful photos!

    I did not know that custard & rhubarb combination is very English! Actually, I’ve never tried rhubarb before! I want to try some time soon!

    Posted by junko | 12 April 2007 #
  • I seem to give way to the temptation of red.

    Posted by y_and_r_d | 12 April 2007 #
  • It is just splendid and delicate…
    A beautiful receipt for spring!

    Posted by B comme Bon | 12 April 2007 #
  • Hi Keiko! Absolutely gorgeous desserts! I’m normally not a fan of rhubarb, but your pictures are making me give it a second thought! Perhaps it’s that I have not had the priviledge of trying your preparations of it! The creme brulee sounds to die for!

    Posted by gilly | 12 April 2007 #
  • looks absolutely gorgeous!

    Posted by elyssa | 13 April 2007 #
  • The more rhubarb sweets the better! This way when I make plated desserts with it, less people will shy away.

    Something about pink in spring. It’s the time of year when I appreciate it the most. Maybe it’s because pink mimics all the stone fruit blossoms.

    Or reminds me of spring’s first blush.

    Posted by shuna fish lydon | 13 April 2007 #
  • My mom would be thrilled with these recipes, she loves rhubarb. I used to eat it only when dipped in sugar…

    Posted by brilynn | 13 April 2007 #
  • dearest keiko, as i look forward to hearing all about your trip to italy, i shall “make do” with admiring this beautiful rhubarb & custard post ;-) i simply adore the painterly palette of pinks you’ve created here and captured so adroitly!

    Posted by Joycelyn | 13 April 2007 #
  • Rhubarb — I haven’t had that since I was little. I remember them growing in our garden; I used to pull up a stalk and then I dipped the end in sugar. Not as fancy as custard & rhubarb, but a fine memory. Thanks for a wonderful post.

    Posted by Christina at Ramble Magazine | 13 April 2007 #
  • Hi, nice blog & photos are very beatiful & looks delicious..

    Posted by rita | 14 April 2007 #
  • stunning photos and the color of the rhubarb is so vibrant! i can’t wait to try my hand at some rhubarb recipes soon. and also to hear about your trip to italy!

    Posted by monica | 14 April 2007 #
  • Wow, lovely photos.

    Posted by Michelle | 14 April 2007 #
  • Hi Keiko! your pictures are mindblowing as always. I’ve been a fan of yours for a while. I started blogging about food a couple months ago (a very humble one!) I sorta took one of your tiramisu photos and used it as the background of my header. I hope you’re ok with that =). Looking forward to your next entry!


    Posted by Anisa | 14 April 2007 #
  • Une “oeuvre d’art” !

    Posted by Elodie at Mon Petit Biscuit cuit | 15 April 2007 #
  • I want it, Keikooooo!!! :)
    As usual fantastic photos… -
    A kiss for MAya!

    Posted by Gourmet | 15 April 2007 #
  • hello keiko. it’s always a pleasure reading and looking at your beautiful blog. From the comments of fellow bloggers, I have realized that you are from london as well. I am having a hard time finding baking ingredients here, like cake flour and feuilette. I usually get all my ingredients in waitrose but i still couldn’t get my hands on those.
    it would be wonderful if you can give me some advices.

    Posted by Jacqueline | 16 April 2007 #
  • Mais que dire, c’est sublime, gorgeous !

    Posted by Fabienne | 16 April 2007 #
  • Fabulous, it really is a great treat, my brother in-law calls it red celery and didn’t like it at first, till he tried it in his wifes tarte!

    Posted by Jeremy | 16 April 2007 #
  • I have really fallen in love with your blog. I like everithing: photos, recipes, inspiration… I think I have look all your post in two days! I loved also your post about Barcelona. I’m catalan and I have been around Asia for 6 months. I’ll go home in 1 week and I can wait to go to La Boqueria since I saw your photos.
    (sorry I´m learning english but I learn slowly)

    Posted by Petroglifa | 17 April 2007 #
  • What a wonderful recipe ! mouthwatering photos !

    Posted by polish pottery | 17 April 2007 #
  • I’m studying Photography at Uni and during my end of year assessment yesterday, I was asked who’s work I particularly enjoy and yours was the first that came to mind, so that’s what I said. Lol, You’re now officially a recognised inspiration.

    Posted by GTO | 18 April 2007 #
  • Your blog is always stunning. I have image envy. Rhubarb always reminds me of my childhood. Cobbler in particular. Makes me pucker just thinking about it. Thank you.

    Posted by Eric (Eager Eater) | 18 April 2007 #
  • Hi Keiko,
    your pictures really have something special. They’re not only amazing but have that thing (don’t know how to describe it).

    Love – fanny

    Posted by fanny | 18 April 2007 #
  • Oh Keiko, how lovely! I, like you, did not grow up with rhubarb and I was deeply suspicious of this “fruit” that looked so much like celery. How could it possibly taste good in a dessert? But oh, now that I have seen the light I am a convert! The taste is like really tart Granny Smith Apples only better and… pinker (although the rhubarb I got from Borough Market at Easter wasn’t nearly as pink as yours!). Thanks for another heavenly post.

    Posted by Jeanne | 18 April 2007 #
  • Hey Keiko,

    I love how vibrant and colorful your pictures are and thank you for the recipie. I look forward to reading more from your blog.

    Posted by N.C | 19 April 2007 #
  • Waou ! it’s so wonderful

    Posted by pom d'api | 20 April 2007 #
  • Dear Keiko

    Your pictures are stunning as usual. I have to say that your Astier de Villate collection is driving me to distraction. I can’t wait to visit their store in Paris.

    Posted by S | 21 April 2007 #
  • Those pictures are so beautiful, I fell like I’m in your kitchen !

    Posted by Clairel | 21 April 2007 #
  • Wow! I’ve never been a rhubarb person myself but I suspect it’s because I simply couldn’t get fresh, flavorful rhubarbs. They never look so pink and vibrant. It may be time to hunt down some nice rhubarbs!

    Posted by Lynn | 21 April 2007 #
  • Beautiful post. Thank you for the lovely ideas for using rhubarb, and for the scrumptious photos.

    Posted by Christina | 22 April 2007 #
  • Oh Keiko… So pretty in pink!

    Posted by Lucy | 23 April 2007 #
  • My mom is a big fan of rhubarb and loves to experiment with it. She grows it in the backyard, and she’s already gone through her first batch of strawberry-rhubarb. It’s the best! The recipe for creme brulee sounds fantastic (and looks gorgeous, as always). I will certainly pass it on!

    Posted by Max | 24 April 2007 #
  • Hi Keiko-san~ ohisa desu!

    yummy! and lovely pink.

    Posted by azu | 25 April 2007 #
  • I so wish we could have had this in Fish & Quips. I hpe you are having a great vacation Keiko.

    love sam

    Posted by sam | 28 April 2007 #
  • Beautiful post, I’ve added it to my ‘delectable posts’ round up: http://asliceofcherrypie.blogspot.com/2007/05/delectable-posts.html

    Posted by Julia | 8 May 2007 #
  • i am in such awe in front of your talent! amazing once again!

    Posted by Marianna | 23 October 2007 #
  • This photography allows the taste of rhubarb to come through, even in November, so far from the season.

    Posted by Casey | 20 November 2007 #
  • Hi all, sincere apologies for taking so long to get back to you, thank you so much for your kind notes.

    Jessica – I normally use a 50mm and 90mm (macro) for food shots.

    Jacqueline – I must admit that I have a bit of hard time too, I try to buy in bulk when I go to Paris, but you should be able to find most of the things online.

    Anna – oh I miss Barcelona too, I must go back soon!

    Posted by keiko | 22 January 2008 #

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