Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Trifle

I love rhubarb. I was trying to think of the perfect Easter desert and Rhubarb trifle sprang to mind, and then I just could not stop thinking about it. Layers of stewed rhubarb, vanilla custard, rhubarb jelly, sponge, cream and of course sherry. I chose a light almond sponge and soaked it with Pedro Ximénez sherry, which if you haven’t tried before, it is time you did. It gives trifle a sophisticated edge and quashes any old-fashioned associations of sherry being just a drink for grannies.

Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Trifle

Almond Cake

110g ground almonds

140g caster sugar

4 eggs

Stewed Rhubarb and Jelly

800g Trimmed rhubarb (top and tailed)

200g Unrefined golden granulated sugar

Vanilla bean paste

Gelatin leaves

Vanilla Custard

570ml/1 pint milk

55ml/2fl oz single cream

1 vanilla pod or ½ tsp vanilla bean paste

4 eggs, yolks only

30g/1oz caster sugar

2 level tsp cornflour

Pedro Ximénez

Toasted flaked almonds, dusted with icing sugar

½ litre double cream

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

First make the sponge. Beat eggs and sugar until light and frothy. Add almonds and beat for 10 minutes. Pour mixture into a greased and lined 7-8 inch low square baking tin.

Bake in oven for 30-45 minutes at 170c. Cut into cubes when cold.

Next, stew the rhubarb. Cut the rhubarb into 1 cm chunks. Put into a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the sugar and 200mls of water. Stir well. Cover and cook on a medium heat. The lid will help the rhubarb cook down. Once the rhubarb has released enough liquid to cover itself, remove the lid, reduce the heat and gently poach until all the rhubarb is cooked through. It is nice if there is still some texture though and not a puree. Check the sugar. Add vanilla and strain the cooked rhubarb through a fine sieve collecting the juice in a measuring jug.

Soak the number of gelatin leaves required for the amount of rhubarb liquid you have in the jug. Soak them in cold water until softened (check the packet instructions for the correct amount of gelatin to use for the volume of rhubarb juice.) Place the rhubarb juice into a clean pan over a low heat and warm through gently. Gently squeeze the excess moisture from the gelatin leaves and add them to the pan, whisking until dissolved.

Bring the milk, cream and vanilla pod to simmering point slowly over a low heat. Remove the vanilla pod (wash the vanilla pod, dry and store in jar with caster sugar to make vanilla sugar). Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornflour together in a bowl until well blended. Pour the hot milk and cream on to the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time with a balloon whisk. Return to the pan, (add vanilla bean paste or extract if using) and over a low heat gently stir with a wooden spatula until thickened. You can just bring it to the boil and it will not split because of the cornflour, but whisk well all the time.

Whisk the cream with the vanilla and sugar until soft peaks. Add half the diced sponge to the bottom of your serving bowl. A glass bowl is nice as it shows the layers. Drizzle the sponge with a generous dose of sherry and then top with stewed rhubarb. pour over half of the jelly and put in the fridge to set. When set, add half the custard and once again put in the fridge to set. Repeat the layers and then top with the whipped cream. Finally, finish with the toasted almonds.

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