Rhubarb and Custard Cake

Once again failed to enter anything in the Cottenham Park Allotment Show last weekend. As always by the time I came back from holiday, all my veg were either overgrown – courgettes the size of marrows and French beans the size of cucumbers, or had been eaten, mostly by snails.  Didn’t even manage to enter the cake, chutney or jam categories as I failed to get the form in, in time.

We went along anyway just to get ideas for next year. This cake won first prize in the cake competition so I thought I would give it a try and very delicious it is too. In my opinion a close call to my Upside Down Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Cake. Must remember to enter next year.

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

1 quantity roasted rhubarb (See below)

250g pack butter

150g pot ready-made custard (not the chilled kind; I used Ambrosia)

250g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

4 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g golden caster sugar

icing sugar, for dusting

Make the roasted rhubarb first, carefully draining off the juices before you let it cool. Butter and line a 24cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and thick. Add the eggs one by one until incorporated. Add the vanilla and custard and then stir through the flour and baking powder until creamy and smooth. Fold through the rhubarb. Bake for 40 mins until risen and golden, then cover with foil and bake for 15-20 mins more. It’s ready when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then dredge with icing sugar when cool.

Roast Rhubarb

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Rinse 400g rhubarb and shake off excess water. Trim the ends, then cut into little-finger-size pieces. Put in a shallow dish or a baking tray, tip over 50g caster sugar, toss together, then shuffle rhubarb so it’s in a single layer. Cover with foil, then roast for 15 mins. Remove foil. Give everything a little shake, roast for 5 mins more or until tender and the juices are syrupy. Leave to cool.

Vanilla and Lemon Panna Cotta with Roasted Rhubarb

I remember my first panna cotta. It was in Riva in Barnes and I must have been about 20 something. I was determined to try and recreate it but try as I might, I could never get close. A few years later whilst working at The River Café, I learnt how to make their version, which was different, but just as superb. I always thought though that it was so delicious due to the quantity of Grappa in the recipe. But in this recipe, I have omitted the Grappa, mainly because I did not have any, and now realize that it is the combination of vanilla, lemon and cream which actually results in its complete amazingness. Delicious alongside roasted rhubarb but also wonderful with poached figs or just some fresh raspberries.

Vanilla and Lemon Panna Cotta with Roasted Rhubarb

Serves 4

70 ml milk

2 vanilla pods, scored and seeds removed or 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste

1 lemon, finely grated zest of

375 ml double cream

1½ leaves beef gelatine, soaked in cold water

70 g icing sugar

250g rhubarb

65g golden caster sugar

Put the milk, vanilla pods, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and half the cream into a small pan and slowly simmer for 10 minutes or until reduced by a third. Remove from the heat and stir in the soaked gelatine leaves until dissolved. Stain through a sieve and then allow to cool a little, then place in the fridge, stirring occasionally until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

Whip together the icing sugar with the remaining cream. Mix the two cream mixture together. Divide into four serving moulds. Cover and chill for at least an hour.

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Rinse the rhubarb and shake off the excess water. Trim the ends and cut the rhubarb into little finger-sized pieces. Put the rhubarb in a shallow dish or baking sheet with sides, tip the sugar over, toss together, then shuffle the rhubarb so it’s in a single layer.

Cover with foil and roast for 15 mins. Remove the foil. The sugar should have dissolved, so give everything a little shake and roast for another 5 mins or until tender and the juices are syrupy. Test with a sharp knife; the rhubarb should feel tender, not mushy, and still have kept its shape.

To serve, sometimes I’ll dip the mould or cup into some simmering water to loosen the pannacotta a little, then turn it out on to a plate next to some rhubarb with its juice Or you can just put the rhubarb on top of your cups or glasses of pannacotta and serve from there.

Rhubarb, Rosewater and Pistachio Pavlova

I was sure I had come up with the perfect Easter dessert last week with my Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Trifle – that is until I thought up this Rhubarb, Rosewater and Pistachio Pavlova. Be careful when you use rosewater, it can vary massively in potency. I was used to a rather wishy washy version and was a little too liberal with the almost essence strength of the Nielsen-Massey brand I was sampling. The result was rather like eating a bar of soap. Don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend the brand, but just use it sparingly.

Rhubarb, Rosewater and Pistachio Pavlova

800g rhubarb stems, cut into small batons

200g golden caster sugar

2 vanilla pods, split in half lengthways or vanilla bean paste

350mls double cream

1 tsp rosewater (try Nielsen-Massey)

2 tbsp. sugar

For the meringue

4 large free-range egg whites, at room temperature

250g golden caster sugar

1 tsp cornflour

1 tsp white wine vinegar

100g pistachios, roughly chopped

Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas. Using a pencil, mark out the circumference of a dinner plate on baking parchment. Whisk the egg whites with a hand mixer until they form stiff peaks, then whisk in the sugar, 1 tbsp. at a time, until the meringue looks glossy. Whisk in the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla.

Spread the meringue inside the circle, creating a crater by making the sides a little higher than the middle. Bake for 1 hr, then turn off the heat and let the Pavlova cool completely inside the oven.

Place the rhubarb batons in a large pan along with the sugar, vanilla and about 200ml water. Bring to a gentle simmer, then cook very gently until just soft. Discard the vanilla. Remove the rhubarb from the pan, reserving the cooking liquid.  Reduce the rhubarb cooking liquid until thick and syrupy. Leave rhubarb and syrup to cool (can be made up to 2 days ahead and chilled until needed). To serve, whip the cream until it just forms peaks. Carefully ripple the rhubarb purée through the cream. Plate each meringue and spoon on some of the rhubarb rippled cream. Top with the remaining batons and spoon some of the rhubarb syrup on top and around the plate.



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.


Roast Rhubarb and Vanilla Custard Tart

I am still overrun with rhubarb. I decided to try baking it this week instead of stewing and I was thrilled with the results. The flavour is somehow more intense and it holds is shape, which is much more visually appealing. I don’t like the popular combination of rhubarb and orange so I omitted the juice in the recipe this week and just poached mine in a little vanilla bean paste and a couple of tablespoons of water and it was delicious. Look out for vanilla bean paste in large supermarkets. It is worth the extra money.

Roast Rhubarb

I found this week’s recipe in Good Food magazine. I love the combination of rhubarb and custard. It is so indulgent and comforting. But you can cheat. A tin of Ambrosia Devon custard will work very well!  And if you can’t be bothered with rolling out the pasty and lining a tin, you could just make biscuits. Roll the pastry into a fat sausage shape, wrapped in cling film. Put in the fridge for 30 minutes and then slice into ½ cm slices and bake until golden brown. Then make shortbread sandwiches with the poached rhubarb and custard. Delicious!

Roast Rhubarb and Vanilla Custard Tart

Roast Rhubarb and Vanilla Custard Tart

For the pastry

225g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

3 tbsp icing sugar

140g unsalted butter, diced and chilled

1 medium egg yolk, plus 1 medium egg yolk beaten, for glazing (save the whites for meringues)

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

For the vanilla custard

½ vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

250ml whole milk

3 large egg yolks

100g golden caster sugar

25g cornflour

1 tbsp unsalted butter

For the roasted rhubarb

700g thin forced rhubarb (about 5 stalks), trimmed, rinsed and cut into 9cm/3 ½ in-long pieces

175g golden caster sugar

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out, or 1 tsp vanilla paste

juice 2 oranges


Put the flour, icing sugar and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and mix together. Add the butter and rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add 1 egg yolk, the vanilla and 1 tbsp cold water, and mix together until it just starts to come together as a dough. Tip the mixture onto a clean work surface and gently bring together with your hands. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for at least 1 hr before rolling out. You can make the whole thing in a food processor.

Put the vanilla beans scraped from the pod (or the paste) in a pan over a medium-high heat, add the milk and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, tip the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour into a bowl and whisk together until smooth. Pour the milk over the egg mixture, whisking to combine. Pour the custard back into the pan and cook, whisking constantly, for 2-3 mins until thickened. Scrape into a bowl and add the butter, mixing until melted and combined. Press a sheet of cling film onto the surface of the custard to stop a skin forming, and chill for 3 hrs. Can be made and chilled 3 days ahead.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into a large rectangle big enough to line a 30 x 20cm fluted rectangular tart tin. (I used individual tins,) Roll the pastry onto the rolling pin and carefully drape it into the tin, carefully lifting and pressing into the corners and edges. Roll your rolling pin over the tart tin, cutting off the excess. Chill for 30 mins or until the pastry is firm.

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line the tart with a piece of crumpled baking parchment and fill with baking beans or rice and place on a baking tray. Bake for about 30 mins, then remove the parchment and the beans, and return to the oven for another 5 mins or until the base is golden brown. Brush the inside of the tart with the remaining beaten egg yolk and return to the oven for 1 min to set (this creates a seal, meaning the pastry won’t become soggy as quickly). Set aside to cool.

Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Put the rhubarb batons in a small roasting tin (so that they are in one flat layer) and sprinkle over the sugar, the vanilla pod and its scraped out seeds, and the orange juice. Roast for 15-20 mins, or until the rhubarb has softened but is still holding its shape and a vibrant pink syrup has formed. Remove from the oven, discard the vanilla pod and allow to cool.

Remove the custard from the fridge, beat to loosen, then pour over the pastry and smooth with a spatula. Top with the roasted rhubarb, brushing a little of the syrup on top, then sprinkle over the pistachios. Best eaten on the day it’s made.

Roast Rhubarb and Vanilla Custard Tart 2

Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Upside-down Cake

More on rhubarb – my favourite rhubarb recipe of all has to be this delicious upside down cake.  I am bit particular about my flavour pairings with my rhubarb.  Whilst many lean towards orange and ginger, I feel that they are too distracting in flavour and think that the more subtle vanilla or almond works better. Muscovado sugar adds a toffee note and makes sure that the cake is not too sweet. I am particularly fond of the sort of cakes that you can serve as a pudding, with a big dollop of clotted cream or a jug of custard Finally you cannot deny that this cake fully exploits the rhubarbs beautiful colour with its mosaic like pattern on top. If you wished you could take a little time arranging the rhubarb pieces in even more of an intricate design, but personally I just chuck them in.  The rhubarb gently stews in its own juices and ever so slightly begins to caramelise.  Quite delicious!

(I am attempting a dairy-free / gluten free version of this cake this week using rice flour and baking powder instead of the self-raising flour.  I’ll let you know how I get on.)

Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Upside-down Cake prep

Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Upside-down Cake

Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Upside-down Cake

400g pink rhubarb

150g golden caster sugar

130g dark muscovado Sugar

150g unsalted butter, softened

3 large eggs, beaten

110g self-raising flour

110g ground almonds

135g (1/2 cup) sour cream

1 tsp of Vanilla Bean Paste

pinch salt

Spring-form cake tin with a diameter of 24cm and a depth of 6cm, greased, sides and base lined with one piece of baking parchment

Serves: 8

Cut the rhubarb into 1cm slices and toss them, in a bowl, with the caster sugar.

Tip into your tin and scatter evenly.

Preheat the oven to 170C, 325F, gas mark 3.

Cream together the butter and muscovado sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs.  Don’t worry if it curdles.  Fold in the flour, almonds, vanilla and sour cream. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth on top of the rhubarb, making sure it is evenly covered.  Bake in the oven for about 3/4 hour or until the cake is firm to a light touch in the centre. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes before loosening around the edges with a knife and turning out either onto a serving plate or a wire rack to finish cooling.

This is good served with some custard, clotted cream or vanilla ice cream.

Rhubarb 1

Perfect Rhubarb Crumble

Next up, I’m on about Rhubarb again. You have to make the most of it whilst you can! My favourite crumble is Rhubarb and I make it all the time. Being a Chef, I have never really followed a recipe, I just sort of made it up as I went along, never quite remembering what I had done the time before but recently, I have to admit it started to go wrong. Too much crumble to rhubarb or stodgy instead of crumbly or not quite the right amount of sugar. I was getting a bit desperate, so quite uncommonly, being a Chef, I had to turn to my Mum for advice. Mrs Beaton she said, and whipped out her well-thumbed and much trusted tome of Every Day Cookery and shared her superior wisdom.

Perfect Rhubarb Crumble

Perfect Rhubarb Crumble

1lb Rhubarb

1oz sugar


3oz sugar

5oz plain flour

3oz cold butter, cut in cubes.

Pre-heat oven to 170C. Top and tail the Rhubarb and cut into 1cm pieces. Toss with 1oz of sugar. Tip into a pie dish and lightly press down to compact. Mix the four with the sugar and rub in butter until you have fine breadcrumbs. Pour over the Rhubarb and bake for about 30-40 minutes until golden brown on top and bubbling underneath. Serve with cream or vanilla ice-cream.


Rhubarb Fool

So excited to get rhubarb in my box this week. Rhubarb is actually one of the few vegetables which I seem to be able to grow on my allotment effortlessly. So as you can imagine, I am over-run with the stuff, but I don’t care, because I just love it.

I stew it by the kilo. It is one of the least calorific of any vegetable, so I don’t feel too bad when I add a little sugar and it is nice to know that rhubarb is high in vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, vitamin K, potassium, calcium, manganese, and many other essential vitamins and minerals that the body needs to function at the highest level. Rhubarb also contains powerful antioxidants such as anthocyanin and lycopene, which are good for your overall health.

Whipped Cream for Rhubarb Fool

Here is a recipe for my much-loved rhubarb fool recipe. It is important to get the quantities on fruit to cream just right. If you want a healthier option you could go for yogurt but personally I always go with my favourite moto – “Something that tastes this good, can’t be bad for you!”

Stewed Rhubarb

Stewed Rhubarb

600g Trimmed rhubarb (top and tailed)

100g Unrefined golden granulated sugar

Vanilla (optional)

Cut the rhubarb into 1 cm chunks. Put into a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the sugar. Stir well. Cover and cook on a medium heat. The lid will help the rhubarb cook down without having to add any water. 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. Remember rhubarb is a vegetable and needs enough sugar to stop tasting like one. Add vanilla if using.  Allow to cool.

Rhubarb Fool

Rhubarb Fool

250g cold stewed rhubarb

100mls double cream

Lightly whip the cream until it holds its own shape, Fold through the stewed rhubarb. Pour into glasses and chill for half an hour before serving. Serve with shortbread.