Some of my most favourite recipes are born as much from opportunity as they are from any sort of creative 'process'. This one for instance began life as trifle ingredients remaining after what can only be described as a jelly calamity. Vexed as to what to do with the bounty of ingredients remaining I thought I'd try out my own recipe for a rhubarb and custard tart. The result is not only a beautiful combination of creamy, fragrant custard, tart rhubarb and crumbly, biscuity pastry, but a fantastic opportunity to practice an array of enjoyable techniques, from roasting, to pastry, to custard making. In fact I would even go as far as to say this recipe is the perfect introduction to some relatively simple skills that will stand you in very good stead for the future...
Prep time: Err well... best to give yourself the afternoon!
Baking time: 30 Mins (Rhubarb), 15 + 30-35 Mins (Tart)
For the Roast Rhubarb
400g Fresh Rhubarb (Cleaned and trimmed)
4tbsp Caster Sugar
The juice of half a juicy Lemon
For the Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
115g Unsalted Butter (Cubed and at room temperature)
200g Plain Flour
20g Icing Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
2-4tsp Cold Water
For the Custard
400ml Whipping Cream
A large, sticky Vanilla Pod
4 Egg Yolks
2 Large Eggs
50g Caster Sugar
The first task is to prepare the rhubarb, so preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas
5. Chop the rhubarb into little nuggets, no more than 2cm thick and in a clean bowl mix together with the caster sugar and lemon juice. Place the coasted rhubarb spaced out into a large glass, oven proof dish, then spoon over any leftover sugary syrup. Loosely cover with foil (Don't let the foil touch the rhubarb), then roast in the centre of the oven for around 30 mins, until the rhubarb is a light pink and soft to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave in the dish until warm.
For the pastry, rub the butter into the flour, then add the icing sugar and egg yolk. Add 2tsp of cold water, then bring the ingredients together to a loose dough. You can add a little more water if necessary. Tip the loose dough out onto a clean dry surface, then work together for a minute until smooth and soft. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 30 mins to chill.
When the dough has had time the fun can really begin. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 5, place a flat baking tray in the oven and lightly grease a 20cm sandwich cake tin. I prefer using one of the these to a tart tin as it allows for a nice deep filling. Remove the dough from the fridge, leave for 10 minutes to warm up, then on a lightly floured surface roll out to a large circle, big enough to fill the tin with a border around the edge. Carefully transfer the dough to the tin and gently press to edges. As I mentioned before you want to leave a small border around the lip of the tin just in case you experience unexpected shrinkage. You may have some pastry leftover, which is absolutely fine as you can use it if any cracks appear during blind baking. Speaking of which, line the the pastry with some crumpled baking paper, fill with baking beans, place on the hot tray and blind bake in the centre of the oven for around 13-15 minutes, before removing the beans and paper and returning to the oven for a further 2 minutes to dry out. Remove from the oven and set to one side. You can repair any cracks with the dough you have left over. Incidentally I use a hot tray as I think it helps cook the base thoroughly, as well as makes it easier to remove the tin from the oven.
Reduce the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Pour the cream into a medium saucepan, then split a vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and add the lot to the cream. Turn the heat on low and warm through until just starting to steam. You don't want it to boil. Whilst this is slowly warming, remove the rhubarb from the syrupy juice it will be steeping in (you can use a fork for this) and place on the cooked based. You can pour the leftover syrup into a jar for later. In a clean bowl whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar. When the vanilla cream is hot tip it over the eggs, keep whisking, then pour into the pastry case (You can remove the vanilla pod at this stage). Keeping it on the baking tray, return to the oven for around 30-35 mins until just set to a wobble and browning on top, then remove and leave to cool to room temperature. Using a sharp knife carefully trim any excess pastry from the edge of the tart, then place in a sealed container and leave to chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
To finish, carefully remove from the tin, slice and serve with a little drizzle of the leftover rhubarb syrup. This one may take a bit of time but I assure you, it is well worth the effort.