Rhubarb & custard nostalgia

…this surely is a match made in heaven?

Tis’ the season for the delightful rhubarb. There’s something incredibly pleasurable about cooking with these sticks of brightly-coloured ruby. For the vegetable that thinks it’s a fruit,  there is really no better time to indulge. No doubt the majority of us still hold sweet ‘sweet’ memories of entering the aladdin’s cave of the traditional sweet shop, with shelves-upon-shelves of jars filled to the brim with a various assortment of colourful confectionary. Whether your go-to candy was cola bottles, mint humbugs, pear drops, chocolate limes – to name a few – my absolute favourite was the rhubarb and custard variety. Some things were meant to be together. My late grandfather ran a local sweet establishment (and for this reason alone, I hold him entirely responsible for my high tolerance of sugar) and I will never forget our regular Saturday jaunt to buy these pink and cream jewels. His patience was one to be admired, slowly and meticulously filling the brown paper bags from the brass roberval scales by the scoop. It felt like an eternity. These retro sweets of a bygone era have recently had a resurgance, and quite rightly so.

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But I should really return to the subject in hand….

The combination of rhubarb and custard unsurprisingly also make deliciously comforting puddings which was the inspiration behind my recent recipe creation. I’ve added stem ginger to this recipe, marrying so well, it counteracts the bitterness of the rhubarb with ease.  Homemade custard brings so much to this recipe, but if you are short of time I won’t shun you for buying the fresh tubbed variety (preferably with vanilla seeds….not that I am being pedantic!) And what a spectacle this guarantees. Even if, compared to me, you are a bit more slapdash in your approach, a trifle always serves as an impressive centrepiece for the table.  I decided to pay homage to another childhood favourite of mine by including ginger Jamaican cake as the base of this glorious pud. Could this nostalgic journey really get any better?

Sticky rhubarb and ginger trifle

Sticky rhubarb and ginger trifle

Serves 8
Prep 20 minutes (plus cooling)
Cook 50 minutes

600g rhubarb, washed and cut into 5cm lengths
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 tbsp chopped stem ginger in syrup
1 small lemon, zest and juice
1 x 245g McVitie’s Jamaica ginger cake, cut into 4-5cm pieces
40ml Cointreau or spiced rum (orange or pineapple juice can be used instead if preferred)
Crystallised ginger, chopped and/or toasted flaked almonds, to decorate

For the vanilla custard
300ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp Billington’s golden caster sugar

For the vanilla and ginger cream
300ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp stem ginger syrup

1. Begin by making the custard. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Put the cream and vanilla into a small pan and heat until it just comes to the boil. Remove from the heat, and pour the cream through a sieve into the egg mixture, whisking thoroughly as you go. Rinse the pan in hot water and dry before pouring the custard mixture back in. Cook over a low to medium heat whilst constantly stirring with a spatula. After about 10 minutes, the custard should thicken (this can be tested by making sure it coats the back of a spoon). Remove from the heat and set aside to cool, stirring every now and again to avoid a skin forming. Once cooled, cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C, fan 160C, gas 4. In a small bowl, mix together the lemon, stem ginger, vanilla and sugar. Place the rhubarb in a large overproof dish and evenly pour over the lemon mixture. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until softened. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

3. Lightly whip the cream with the vanilla and stem ginger. When you are ready to assemble the trifle, line the bottom of a trifle bowl or dish with the ginger cake and evenly drizzle over the rum or Cointreau to soak. Layer on top the rhubarb with a few tablespoons of its juice, followed by the custard and then top with the cream. Chill in the fridge and finish with a sprinkling of crystallised ginger and/or flaked almonds before serving.

About prettyediblestylist

Cookbook author, Food and recipe writer, Food and Prop stylist, Photographer, Jo Malone London stylist, Estella Cupcakes founder. Instagram: @prettyediblestylist
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