Saturday 14 May 2016

Rhubarb and Custard Tart with Butter Crumble

The closest I ever came to running an allotment plot was directly after I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which she and her family attempted to eat only locally grown food for a year. I signed our family up for a local plot...and was told the waiting list was taking on average 7-8 years. Recently (about 7 years after signing up) we were sent a letter asking us to contact them if we were still interested...I didn't respond.

I mean, I like the idea of gardening and growing my own food. I just don't actually like spending my time doing it. Good weather is so rare here, it seems such a waste to spend it on an allotment when I could spend that time in a park instead and amble down to buy locally grown produce at the farmers' market.

...Or simply cozy up to friends who sweat over their own plots. And friends like these always gift you some of this stuff:

Rhubarb. Glorious, wonderful, heavenly rhubarb. Barbara Kingsolver has a chapter in her book when her family set off on their first week of local eating at the very beginning of spring. Her daughter has one request from the market: fresh fruit. So early in the season, they went with little confidence to their small gathering of farmers' stalls. They had given up hope until they found our cold weather friend: RHUBARB! Admittedly, much like tomatoes are fruit, rhubarb is a vegetable and needs a fair amount of sugar and stewing to make it palatable, but what a flavour it is. And once you have a plant which has established itself, you need do little to maintain it apart from cut it regularly, so it is a lazy gardener's dream, constantly producing a steady stream of stalks, so I am told

One of the mums at my children's school came to the playround the other day armed with four shopping bags of freshly hacked stalks, determined to give all the cuttings away in order to save her family from a plant threatening to take over the back of her house. Three bundles were given away to mums who had previously put in requests, and as she threateningly swung the last sack towards the remaining crowd I did not hesitate to stake my claim to it, quickly snatching the parcel and cradling it carefully for the two mile journey home, pondering what it would become. A crumble was the obvious choice, but I wanted to incorporate a custard element somehow, as well as some orange flavour that others recommended, so I searched and found a recipe for rhubarb & custard pie with butter crumble.

But I'm going to call it a tart, because that sounds fancier and more continental. 

I started by making some pastry from Jamie Oliver recipe. I later realised this was a mistake, as it's a fairly short dough that tears easily, and with a custard pie you really need a leakproof base. Live and learn. But yeah, I put a bit of clementine zest in (oops, no oranges in stock) which was a bit pointless as we couldn't taste them anyway, and blind baked it with my trusty jar of pulses and beans as pie weights. Then in went the rhubarb which I had briefly cooked in a pan with some sugar until the sugar dissolved.

On top of this I poured my custard mixture. The recipe called for single cream, but I didn't have any of that either, so I used the last bit of double cream I had and topped it up with whole milk and a touch of vanilla paste just because vanilla makes everything better.

I baked it until the custard was just starting to set (and the crust just starting to burn).

And then on went the butter crumble mixture which I had whizzed together in the food processor before adding sliced almonds as an afterthought.

Back in it went to let the crumble crisp up and to burn the edges of the pastry.

So yeah...I trimmed off the more, er, caramelised edges.

Then on a plate it went to cool. The recipe said to eat warm, but then I read the comments section (it's ok to read comments sections on recipes) and everyone was all "HELL TO THE NAW SHOULD YOU EAT THIS HOT! IT NEEDS TO COOL TO MAKE THAT CUSTARD SET, YO! "

Well, they didn't say it quite like that, but they all agreed that essentially you need to let it cool, as it keeps cooking as it cools and makes it less of a gloopy mess when you slice into it.

So eventually we did slice into it, and the comments people were right.

It needed that time! Mary Berry wouldn't have liked the soggy bottom, but it was still tasty. 

Now I know what you are thinking: Why not just make rhubarb custard and pour some fresh custard on it? Isn't that pretty much the same thing? Plus a bit of pastry, maybe?


But yeah, I just stewed the rest of the rhubarb and had it on some yogurt, and that was pretty tasty too. Rhubarb is awesome like that. 

Recipe is here, but I also know how to copy and paste, so it's below too:

Rhubarb & custard TART with butter crumble

  • 350g rhubarb
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 350g sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 1 large egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 284ml carton single cream

For the topping

  • 50g butter , melted
  • 50g demerara sugar
  • 50g porridge oats
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • Cut the rhubarb into bite-size pieces, then put them in a frying pan with half the sugar and warm through just until the sugar dissolves. Immediately tip the rhubarb into a bowl with the juices and leave to cool. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4/fan 160C.
  • Roll out the pastry quite thinly and use to line a deep, loose-based 24cm fluted flan tin. Line with greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake for about 20 minutes until the pastry is pale golden and no longer raw.
  • Beat together the egg and egg yolk, vanilla extract, remaining caster sugar and the flour. Gradually whisk in the cream with any juice from the rhubarb (you should have a tablespoonful or two). Now spoon the rhubarb into the prepared pastry case and pour the cream mixture over.
  • Turn the oven temperature up to 200C/gas 6/ fan 180C and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the custard is very lightly set and there is a thin skin on the top.
  • Mix together all the topping ingredients and spoon evenly over the pie. Return it to the oven for a further 15 minutes or until the crumble is golden and the custard set with just a little wobble. The top of the pie may have risen and cracked when you take it from the oven but don’t worry as it will settle back again on cooling. COOL COMPLETELY THEN SERVE

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