This dessert is a celebration of a quintessentially British fruit. What excites the tastebuds as much as different flavours is contrasting textures, so in this dessert we have tart rhubarb jelly studded with tender fruit; sweet, smooth, velvety custard; and a garnish of crisp dried rhubarb.
For the dried rhubarb crisp
- 1 rhubarb stick
- 20 g (¾ oz) caster sugar
- 2 tsp grenadine syrup
To macerate and cook the rhubarb
- 450 g (1 lb) rhubarb, cut into 1 cm (½ in) pieces
- 45 g (1½ oz) caster sugar
For the jelly
- 2 thin slices fresh ginger
- 1½ gelatine leaves, softened in cold water and drained
For the custard
- 150 ml (5 fl oz) whipping cream
- 150 ml (5 fl oz) milk
- 100 g (3½ oz) caster sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla purée or good-quality vanilla extract
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 gelatine leaf, softened in cold water and drained
For the honeycomb
- 35 g (1¼ oz) clear honey
- 70 g (2½ oz) liquid glucose
- 200 g (7 oz) caster sugar
- 20 g (¾ oz) bicarbonate soda
To serve (optional)
- young angelica shoots, thinly sliced
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Setting time 3 hours or overnight.
Place four glasses or glass serving dishes in the fridge to chill well. Preheat the oven to 100°C (80°C fan-forced/gas ¼).
For the dried rhubarb crisp, using a sharp vegetable peeler, carefully shave the rhubarb lengthways until you have at least 6 pieces, then put these in a small bowl. Chop the remaining rhubarb into 1 cm (½ in) pieces and set aside.
In a small saucepan over high heat, bring 100 ml (3½ fl oz) water, the sugar and grenadine syrup to a gentle simmer. Add the shaved rhubarb slices, then turn off the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Drain the slices of rhubarb, reserving the syrup, and place on a baking tray lined with a silicone mat. Place in the oven for 25 minutes to dry out, then store in an airtight container until needed. Increase the oven temperature to 140°C (120°C fan-forced/gas 1).
To macerate the rhubarb, in a large bowl mix the rhubarb (including the reserved chopped rhubarb) and sugar with 100 ml (3½ fl oz) of the reserved rhubarb syrup and leave to macerate for 30 minutes. Transfer to a shallow oven tray and cover tightly with plastic wrap to create a seal. Place in the oven for 25 minutes. Once cooked, transfer to the fridge to cool in its own syrupy juice before straining this off and reserving it. Finely chop half of the cooked rhubarb (about 180 g (6oz)), leaving the rest as it is, and set aside in two separate bowls.
Measure 200 ml (7 fl oz) of the reserved syrupy juice to make the jelly.
For the jelly, in a small saucepan over low heat, infuse the ginger and softened gelatine in the reserved juice for 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve the gelatine. Strain, reserving 80 ml (2¾ oz) for building the trifle. Pour the remainder into a small bowl, cover and chill in the fridge.
Start to build your trifle before you make the custard. Place 40 g (1½ oz) of the finely chopped cooked rhubarb in the bottom of each chilled glass. Top with 50 g (1¾ oz) of the larger pieces of cooked rhubarb. Add 4 teaspoons of the reserved jelly liquid into each glass and place in the bottom of your fridge for 15 minutes, until the jelly has just set.
For the custard, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla purée to the boil. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks.
Once the cream mixture comes to the boil, pour it over the egg yolks and whisk until evenly distributed. Pour this mixture back into the pan and bring it to 75°C on a sugar thermometer, stirring continuously. Take off the heat and place the pan in a bowl of ice-cold water. Using a hand-held blender, blitz in the softened gelatine and continue to blend until the custard is cool. (By whisking as it cools you will add one-third more volume thanks to the air that is incorporated.)
It is important that the custard sets in the glass you are going to serve it in or you will lose all the air bubbles and ultimately the lightness of the dessert. So, take each of the desserts from the fridge, top with custard, cover and return to the fridge to set for at least 3 hours, or overnight if you have the time.
Meanwhile, for the honeycomb, line a 25 cm x 20 cm x 3 cm (18 in x 16 in x 1 in) baking tray with a silicone mat. Put 40 ml (1½ fl oz) water, and the honey, glucose and sugar in a deep, medium-sized saucepan and leave for a minute. Place the pan on high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, until you have a light golden-brown caramel.
Take off the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda. (Caution: there will be a huge amount of frothing and bubbling and it will increase in volume by about 5 times. This is caused by the bicarbonate of soda reacting with the heat of the sugar, which produces the bubbles that will eventually create a crunchy honeycomb. Beware: it is a very pretty spectacle but children shouldn’t be allowed close.) Once the frothing has stopped, stir well to ensure that the bicarbonate of soda is well mixed, then carefully pour it into the lined tray. Allow to cool before turning out and breaking into pieces. Store in an airtight container until needed.
To serve, top each dessert with some broken honeycomb, small spoonfuls of the reserved jelly, one of the rhubarb crisps and the angelica, if using, which will add a little more magic to this dish.
• If you want a very simple dessert, omit the jelly and serve the rhubarb compote with whipped cream or crème Chantilly instead of the custard.