Forced rhubarb and custard tart

In the grim, monotonous depths of winter, bright, shockingly pink forced rhubarb comes as quite a relief. Its sharp, bright flavors come as a welcome respite from all the stodgy gluttony of the  festive season. Its sharp flavor works well with other zingy ingredients such as orange, and ginger, but also with more mellow, floral and spicy ingredients such as vanilla, cardamom and  strawberry.

Forced rhubarb and custard tart

Forced rhubarb can be fairly expensive and so its precious stems are perhaps best enjoyed simply stewed along with a little sugar and just the scantest dribble of water, served with thick Greek yoghurt. After photographing, I had a 1 stick of rhubarb left, and to lazy tired to make anything with simply dipped it into a bag of sugar and ate like a possibly-slightly healthier sherbet sweet. Rhubarb's also work wonderfully with more savory ingredients, particularly with mackerel, where rhubarb's sharp flavor cuts through the oily  mackerel.

Forced rhubarb

For the tart I wanted to show off the rhubarb, so it is simply baked with some orange and ginger, (which is delicious eaten as is), to top the custard. The tart shell recipe here is really more like a shortbread, and so needs careful handling and chilling to keep it from disintegrating in your hands while rolling.

Makes 1 30cm long rectangular tart

Pâte sucrée -
200g flour
125g butter
50g icing sugar
1 egg yolk

Pastry cream -
250 ml milk
Zest of an orange
3 egg yolks
25g sugar
15g flour
10g corn flour

Baked rhubarb-
4 stems of rhubarb
Juice of an orange
A small knob of ginger, roughly grated
50g golden caster sugar

1. For the pastry, rub together the flour, sugar and butter until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.

Add the egg yolk and work lightly to form into a ball. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for an hour.

2. Roll the pastry out into a 30 cm long rectangular tart tin. Chill for a further 30 minutes.

3. While the pastry chills, make the pastry cream. Bring the milk and orange zest to the boil (be careful not to let it boil over). Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and flours then pour over the milk, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook until thickened (it will become very thick). Strain into a bowl and leave to cool.

4. Prick the pastry and blind bake (line the tart shell with parchment paper and fill with baking beans) in an oven preheated to 190C for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and paper and bake for a further 5 minutes or until golden brown.

5. For the roasted rhubarb, chop the rhubarb in1/2 inch batons and place in a baking tray. Pour the orange juice over the rhubarb and sprinkle on the ginger and sugar. Bake in an oven preheated to 150C for 30 minutes.

6. To assemble the tart, pipe the pastry cream into the tart shell then arrange the rhubarb on top.

Forced rhubarb and custard tart

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