Rhubarb crème brûlée.
March is a tricky month for the foodie. Trapped in 'The Hungry Gap'; the time of year when fresh fruit and veg are thin on the ground, the seasonal chef is found scratching her head, scouring the store cupboard for ingredients. Cue the arrival of robust rhubarb - the bright pink stems shoot through the hard earth to brighten up these bleak winter days.
And with the arrival of rhubarb comes the inevitable craving for custard. This Christmas, the new toy in the Keston Kitchen was a a chef's blow torch. It didn't take long to conclude that this very British flavour combination could add a twist to an old French classic. The divine Creme Brulee (a posh name for egg custard with a crunchy sugar crust) is fun to make and even more fun to eat: firing the sugar then tap taping the crust with the back of your spoon to delve into the cool creamy custard. The hit of tangy pink rhubarb is the surprise hiding beneath.
This recipe requires a bit of patience and attention. I know to my cost that the cream can quickly bubble over and, if it is too hot when you add it to the egg, it will have a curdly consistency rather than the longed-for creaminess. But the treat is worth it in the end. And if you don't have a blow torch, you can get similar results by putting the custards under a very hot grill to burn the sugar crust.
What better way
to spend a cold winter's day
than making creamy and delicious
rhubarb creme brulee?
4 stems of rhubarb, cut into 1cm slices.
4 egg yolks
450 ml double cream
10 tablespoons caster sugar
1 vanilla pod (sliced lengthways and seeds scraped out)
4 large ramekins or 6 smaller ones.
Preheat the oven to 180C and put the rhubarb in the roasting tin and sprinkle over 4 tablespoons of the sugar to coat. Roast until soft (20-30 mins). Divide between the ramekins and chill.
Whisk 4 tablespoons of sugar and egg yolks together until pale.
Heat the cream and vanilla seeds over a medium heat until the cream bubbles at the edges. Be careful not to overheat!
Gently pour the warm cream into the egg mixture whisking until smooth. Pour back into the saucepan and stir over a low heat for 20 mins until the custard is thick. This needs patience and attention - you don't want the cream to boil over or burn.
Pour into the ramekins and chill for 6 hours or overnight.
Sprinkle the remainder of the sugar over the custards and - the fun bit - fire with a chef's blow torch.
Alternatively place under a very hot grill until glazed. Allow the crust to cool and harden for a moment then serve to your guests who are eagerly waiting to get cracking.