Good old rhubarb and custard with the best crumbly shortbread
With proper homemade custard
“I get so excited about British rhubarb, and so will you when you try this rhubarb and custard recipe. I’ve used balsamic vinegar to flavour my rhubarb, which you might think a bit bonkers, but it adds a really interesting layer of sticky sweetness. Give it a go! ”
250 g unsalted butter , at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
125 g caster sugar , plus extra for sprinkling
250 g plain flour , plus extra for dusting
125 g semolina or cornflour
800 g rhubarb
1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger
4 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
500 ml organic semi-skimmed milk
568 ml single cream
5 tablespoons caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
8 free-range egg yolks
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To make the crumbly shortbread, preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas 2. Butter a 24cm-square baking tin.
Cream the butter and sugar together with a whisk or wooden spoon, until pale, light and fluffy. Sift in the plain flour and add the semolina or cornflour. Mix lightly with a wooden spoon, then use your hands to knead it into a smooth dough.
Dust a clean surface and a rolling pin with flour and roll the dough out so it’s about 2cm thick all over and big enough for the baking tin. Transfer the dough to the tin, poking it into the corners with your fingers (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Prick all over with a fork, then pop it in the oven for 50 minutes, until lightly golden on top.
Remove the shortbread from the oven and sprinkle generously with caster sugar. Let it cool slightly in the tin, then cut it into 12 chunky, finger-sized pieces and enjoy!
For the rhubarb, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.
Cut the rhubarb into 8cm pieces and put them in an ovenproof dish or tray. Peel the ginger and finely grate over the rhubarb and sprinkle over the sugar. Grate over the orange zest and squeeze in the juice, then add the balsamic vinegar. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the rhubarb has softened. Have a taste and add more sugar if it is too tart for you. Pop the foil back on top to keep the rhubarb warm while you make the custard.
To make the custard, mix the milk, cream and 3 tablespoons of caster sugar in a saucepan. Score the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds into the pan, and add the pod too. Bring just to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave for a couple of minutes to cool slightly and allow the vanilla flavour to infuse. Discard the vanilla pod.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the 2 remaining tablespoons of caster sugar until pale. Ladle a little of the hot milk mixture onto the eggs and whisk immediately. Continue to add the milk, a ladleful at a time, whisking each well before adding the next.
Pour this mixture back into the warm saucepan and cook very gently for a few minutes, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The eggs should cook just enough to thicken the custard, but not enough for it to scramble. If you start to see flecks or lumps of egg in your custard, don’t panic – just take it straight off the heat and pour into a cold saucepan to cool it down, then strain through a sieve into a clean jug.
Serve the rhubarb with a good drizzle of your delicious warm custard and some shortbread crumbled over.