Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A Rhubard Curd Tart...that wasn't tart at all!

I'm a few years in to growing rhubarb in one of my raised veg patches...to the point where things are growing so well my freezer is stuffed to the rafters with rhubarb and I'm basically giving it away left right and centre to any neighbour, relative and friend who'll eat it. I'm also becoming obsessed with finding new and different ways to cook and eat it...from savoury to sweet you name it, I'm googling for it and slowly working my way through a list....with the help of Pinterest of course, and my vast collection of cookery books.

We English are rather fond of our puddings...and a rhubarb crumble is a staple in our house...but there's only so much crumble a gal can eat...and where as it makes a welcome comforting dish during cold winter days (and where the pieces carefully frozen and stored in the freezer come into play)...during the early summer, when it's warm and the rhubarb is fresh and tender you find yourself wanting to make the most of it at it's best and freshest...but need something summery and lighter perhaps...

(although not necessarily lighter calorie wise...sigh)

After previous years experimenting in various preserving recipes for chutneys (photo above), I was looking at perhaps making a jam....(any way to store and preserve it is good by me) but most websites and my books suggest that this really only works well when using early tender and forced rhubarb stems...so this being the beginning of August with my plants mature, fat and ready to start wilting back, that didn't bode well on the jam front...

...and then, during a evening 'Pinteresting' I came across Rhubarb curd!

Hmmmm? Rhubarb Curd? Now that was something new for me. I was keen to give it a go.

The problem however, when searching for recipes on places like Pinterest, is that you can quite literally get bogged down with so many variations you aren't sure which way to turn and which one to try out so I pinned a few and took a closer look into them at what to do. I'm quite familiar with making lemon and lime curds...but wasn't sure how to prep the rhubarb (turns out there is more than one way). Firstly I settled on using a recipe from the good old tried and tested website BBCGoodFood, with a nice easy safe recipe to follow with little outlay and effort and a small yield of just two jars (so no mass of stuff to dispose of if all goes horribly wrong...oh me of little faith lol!) here's the link -

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2955676/rhubarb-curd

but one thing however did bother me. Their instructions called for the raw rhubarb to be run in a blender to create a pulp/juice...and I was not willing to do this and then have to deal with cleaning my blender (yes I was being a tad lazy that day) PLUS my rhubarb was mature and probably tougher than the usual forced stems (that they use) so I wasn't sure my blender was up to the task. So another scan of the pin board and I noticed another recipe by American food page The Kitchn -

http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-rhubarb-curdrecipes-from-the-kitchn-172075

Here, the instructions said to stew the rhubarb in a little water...and suggested this makes it sweeter...so that got me thinking....

Stew the rhubarb, but keep to the BBCGF recipe ingredients....and despite the fact the stewing would in effect have extra water in it, this would be counterbalanced by the added cornflour (in fact if you read the comments and ratings below, someone even advises adding extra cornflour to make the curd even thicker).

(As it turned out, I think stewing the rhubarb then giving it a further going over with my Bamix hand blender, pulverised the rhubarb very well and I extracted far more juice than was needed. I'm not convinced my food Blender would have done the job as well).

So, that was sorted and I set about my curd making. Here's the combo of the two above recipes -

RHUBARB CURD - (makes two jars)

  • 600g forced rhubarb, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped (yes it does call for forced rhubarb....but as it turned out my more mature stems were perfectly fine and I just chopped them up smaller so they'd break down quicker)
  •  a little water for stewing
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200g butter, diced
  • 4 tsp cornflour
  • 175g caster sugar (I used vanilla pod infused unrefined golden castor sugar
  •  
    First prep/sterilise two regular sized jam jars.
     
    Place the rhubarb in a pan, barely cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer until the stems become soft and pulpy. This might take approx. 20mins but depends on the size and thickness of the pieces. Remove from heat. If possible, use a hand blender to break the rhubarb down further (to enable you to extract as much juice as possible...then strain through a sieve, keeping the juice to make the curd. I use a plastic fine sieve over a bowl for sieving fruits, and push it through with a wooden spoon....I think using a metal sieve and utensils can often taint the fruit with a metallic taste. Set juice aside to cool.
     
    You can use the left over pulp for something else (it's great stirred into some yoghurt). After hitting my stewed rhubarb with my Bamix hand blender I managed to sieve out much more juice than is probably usually expected and only had 2 tablespoons of pulp left.
     
    Place the eggs, butter, cornflour, sugar, and 250ml of the rhubarb juice into a pan over a very low heat and whisk continuously until the butter has all melted and the ingredients have all incorporated. Then switch to using a wooden spoon and stir, again continuously over the very low heat until the curd thickens to about the consistency of custard. This may take some time....do not be tempted to turn up the heat, this will only curdle the eggs and turn it into a scrambled mess. Also keep an eye out to prevent it catching on the bottom and sides of the pan. Remove from the heat.
     
    Sieve a second time, into a clean bowl, to remove any lumps, stir in a further 100ml more of the reserved juice (optional)...and fill your prepped jam jars. Seal, cool and store in the fridge (for up to one week)
    So, here's my effort! Firstly, you can see the jug of left over juice in the background, over 100ml so that was jarred up to be used for a lemonade spritzer drink. But back to the curd...as you can see, the colour changed rather dramatically (and disappointingly) which I think is due to the lovely deep yellow free range eggs I used. So the deep salmon pink of the pulp dissipated into the egg sugar mix to became a rather insipid flesh colour...but hey ho...
     
    It was the taste that was important to me...
     
    Had to be good and patient to allow it to cool and with an overnighter in the fridge to thicken it up some more....then it was dive in with a spoon and give a verdict...
    ...and boy did it taste good!
     
    Not what I expected at all, the curd was creamy, smooth, velvety...not tart at all (real surprise considering it is rhubarb!) but not too sweet either and with a subtle buttery vanilla background. The consistency was soft, unlike the curds I'm used to making...and certainly no where near the gelatinous stuff they sell in the supermarkets. In my opinion, it's was very close to that of crème pat (only obviously rhubarb tasting)....
     
    divine...totally divine!
     
    If you like rhubarb, and you like making preserves and curds etc, then you really need to make some. Yes it has a short shelf life...but to be honest, once you taste it, that jar will empty quicker than you think lol!
     
    So, asides from just diving in and eating it straight of the spoon....I started to ponder over ways in which to use it. BBCGF page suggests slathering it on toast and crumpets...which I'm rather partial too with my lemon curds...
     
    ...but there was something about this one that seemed far too creamy and decadent to be partnered up with bread.
     
    It was crying out to be used in a dessert.
     
    So I thought, lets try a little pastry tart, filled with the curd, topped with some more rhubarb (roasted pieces this time) to put some of the bite and tang back in...
    First things - I made a shortcrust pastry. Very easy and quick to do...just a plain one. I don't bother with making sweet enriched pastry for sweet tarts because I like to balance the sweeter contents with a plain base. I use a good old tried and trusted recipe from BBC Food site -
     
     
    Just click on the link and follow their instructions...I'm not going to type it all out again because it's just straight up as it is written, no tweaking or alterations by me.
     
    I rolled out very thin (I like really thin crispy delicate bases to my dessert tarts) and blind baked in a small loose bottomed tartlet pan.
    Look...no soggy bottoms!
     
    While this was set aside to cool, I then went and got myself a nice young tender stem of rhubarb, fresh from the garden.
    Washed and trimmed into small pieces, I places the rhubarb onto a baking tray and roasted in the oven for a couple of minutes...a couple was all it took as it was quite a thin stem.
     
    Now roasting is an ideal way to cook rhubarb if you want to soften but retain it's shape (stewing obviously breaks down the fibres). Some cooks suggest you sprinkle with sugar and a spoonful of water, but I didn't bother...I wanted a bit of bite and to keep the rhubarb as tangy as possible.
    While the roasted rhubarb pieces cooled, I set about filling the tart pastry case with my rhubarb curd. Because I intended on eating straight away, I didn't bother with sealing the pastry case with an egg wash (and some people brush melted chocolate in) but if the tart had to sit around for awhile (say if I was making for a party or dinner) then I probably would because the liquid in the curd will probably soften and seep into the pastry...so after all that hard work cooking to ensure no soggy bottoms...you don't want to go ruining it with the filling putting one right back in there do you!
    The tart got decorated with the roasted rhubarb....which I had a dilemma over - go all rustic and scatter or be more civilised and posh and make a symmetrical pattern....
     
    civilised and posh won!
    ...and then a dusting of icing sugar....awe...look...it's all pretty!
     
    Done!
    Crispy pastry, soft creamy filling, tangy bites of rhubarb...
     
    Oh my did THAT taste good!
     
    I think we can safely say this curd recipe and tart will be made quite a few more times in this kitchen :)
     
    Hope you enjoyed reading this....and that it inspires you to have a go at making your own curd.
     
    xxx Ange xxx

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