IN THE PINK?Rhubarb is in now season.
Don’t quote me on that…
Just in case there is a belief out there that I cook everything to perfection and all my cooking forays are a resounding success, let me set the record straight. Only last month I served up (and ate) burnt Easter pancakes, I boiled rice dry, and I watched while nobody ate my side dish of cabbage and fennel seeds!
In cooking, you can’t always get it right, let’s be clear about this. In the words of Bertie Ahern, it’s easy to ‘upset the apple tart’ by taking your eye off the ball. For me, as innocuous a distraction as the phone ringing, baby Penny calling for something or, of course, making a cup of tea for the brunette, can cause ruination in the kitchen.
The point is that cooking, at least in real life, is never a black-and-white, clinical issue. Life is just not like that. If one ingredient is missing from your starting list, then you must improvise and forge ahead as best you can. We are creatures of evolution – we adapt to situations, that is what we do. And in cooking it is no different.
I do get agitated by the presentation of cooking as an exact science. It may be for one per cent of the population, but for the rest of us, it most certainly isn’t!
Therefore my bedrock of belief is all about ingredients. If the ingredients have good provenance, then you can’t go too far wrong. I encourage you to follow this belief too. Don’t be too hard on yourself trying to follow exact recipes – it can tie you up in knots. Focus on the goodness and integrity of foodstuffs, the rest tends to look after itself with a little tweaking, some attempts at skill and minimising distractions!
No-fuss rhubarb-custard bake
It’s rhubarb season, and for this recipe, I dipped in to my memory of seeing the Druid chef, Rory Morahan in Westport. He gave a fascinating demonstration last year at the Westport Food Festival that mixed both historical influences and delicious recipe ingredients.
My recipe is easily mixed and constructed, and is just popped in the oven to bake. It mixes the tart, healthy rhubarb and an egg-based custard’s soft sweetness. There’s also nuggets of sweet raisin discovered against a warm background influence of cinnamon. It’s not as dry as a cake, and kids and adults alike should love it.
This is a rich dish, but it is natural richness rather than processed fats and richness, if you know what I mean.
What you need
- 500g rhubarb stalks
- 5 free-range eggs
- 200ml milk
- 100ml cream
- 200g brown sugar
- 100g flour
- 100g butter knobs
- 100g raisins
- 1 tspn vanilla essence
- Pinch cinnamon
What you do
I like to cut the rhubarb into one-and-a-half-inch stalks and cook it first with the brown sugar, butter and a drop of water. This caramelises and softens the stalks before they cook in the oven.
To make the custard-style mix, mix the cinnamon into the flour. Crack your eggs into the centre of the flour. Add the vanilla essence and the milk and cream gradually, whisk and slowly rotate, taking a bit extra of dry mix each time, until it is all smoothly mixed. If a stodgy mess with lumps appears, don’t blame me – deep breaths and a laugh, remember, adapt!
Grease a baking dish, lay down the cooked rhubarb mix, and pour the wet mix over it. This custard mix will cook and rise up, maybe drop some raisins (or flaked almonds) along the top surface for texture and sight differences. Cook for 30 minutes at 170 degrees, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Serve out with a touch of stiff cream, crème fresh or ice cream, for the extra-sensory element. Remember, a dusting of icing sugar on all desserts like this lifts the visual quality of these dishes.
I am next writing about original, light, starter dishes influenced by new spring produce. If you have any ideas or thoughts, stop me on the street or drop me an email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.