Here’s a thing you should know about me. I LOVE custard, in any shape or form it may come in. Crème Anglaise; proper custard; custard slices, Portuguese custard tarts; banana’s and custard (favourite comfort food ever) or just simply a beautiful egg custard tart. Anyway it comes to me, I will happily devour. A good egg custard tart can easily be ruined by using rubbish eggs, or the wrong custard-to-pastry ratio (the pastry being incidental really, just a vehicle for holding the custard in place), and although simple it is a dessert best not rushed less you end up with lumpy custard or an overcooked tart. Not good.
You may also remember in March and April last year, I went through a phase of being fascinated with rhubarb after discovering quite how versatile this vegetable (yes, you heard me right) actually is in cooking. We even had a Supper Club event that was all about rhubarb and nothing else which was a stonking success. So much so, that I am actually really excited about looking forward to this years’ rhubarb season and decided to jump onto it a bit early just so I could offer up to you this amazing dessert recipe based on the every popular and classic flavour pairing of Rhubarb and Custard.
Orange and rhubarb are a wonderful flavour pairing. For as long as I can remember, (I can remember first doing this in my early twenties), I have always found poaching rhubarb in orange juice helps to take the edge off the sour rhubarb without having to add tonnes of sugar. Right now, blood oranges are in season and they are epic. Super sweet flavour that, in my eyes, makes them the king and queen of oranges. Plus with that wonderful colour pallet which means that the syrup you make from their juice in this recipe gives the dish a much needed pop of colour and also a sweet counter-balance to the richness of the custard tart and the sourness of the poached rhubarb.
There are two ways you can do this dessert. One way is to make you own pastry and if you do that I wholeheartedly recommend using the flavoured pastry recipe here and substituting rosemary for orange zest. Alternatively, if you are time pressed or if the thought of making pastry makes you very scared indeed then don’t fret! Use some ready-made shortcrust pastry instead. For the sake of appealing to the time-poor cooks of the world, the recipe below makes used of ready-made pastry!
- 1 sheet of ready-rolled short-crust pastry
- 1 beaten egg
- zest of 2 blood oranges (if making this outside of season, normal oranges will do)
- 3 large whole free range eggs and 2 large free range egg yolks (save the whites and freeze them for making meringues another time!)
- 550ml of fresh cream
- 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste (or extract if that’s all you have or you can split a vanilla pod and stick that in it instead)
- 55g golden caster sugar
- freshly grated nutmeg
For the Poached Rhubarb & Syrup:
- 1 bunch of rhubarb trimmed and cut into apx 5cm pieces (doesn’t matter really, not too short and apx all the same length)
- juice of 4 blood oranges
- 1 tblsp of golden caster sugar
- tiniest dab of vanilla bean paste
- 50ml water
- Set the oven to 220 degs celsius.
- Generously butter a 23cm fluted pie dish with a removable base.
- Dust the countertop lightly with some flour. Unpack the pastry and roll it out so it is only a couple of milimeters thin. Be careful not to crack it.
- Roll the pastry up onto the rolling pin and gently drape it over the pie dish. Very gently indeed push the pastry into all the knooks and crannies of the pie dish.
- Grate the zest of the oranges directly onto the pastry and gently rub it around the pastry, including the sides. Brush some of the beaten egg around it. Trim off any massive excess pastry but leave a good bit of overhang just in case it shrinks whilst baking. Place the pastry into the fridge while you make the custard.
- Beat the three eggs, 2 yolks and caster sugar together. In a heavy bottomed pan, place the cream and gently heat it to a simmer. (If you are using a vanilla pod add it in at this stage.
- As soon as the cream comes to a simmer (being careful not to boil it and/or overheat it) start pouring it over your egg mixture (take out the pod before hand).
- Very important: Do this stage very very slowly and make sure you are stirring the whole time. This is to ensure that the eggs do not scramble. Add in a small amount first and stir it vigorously to combine it. Then keep going, a little at a time until everything is fully combined. If you are using vanilla paste or extract add it in now, Mix again thoroughly to combine.
- Take the pastry case out of the fridge and place it onto a baking tray, and grab a fine sieve. Sieve the custard mix directly into the pastry case (this will keep out any lumps). Grate some fresh nutmeg over the top.
- Place into the oven for 10mins at 220 degs Celsius, and then reduce the heat to 180 degs Celsius and cook for a further 20 mins or until the custard is just set but still wobbles.
- I also recommend placing a piece of tin foil over the top of the tart when you turn the heat down to stop the tart from over-colouring and burning.
- When cooked set aside to cool slightly. This will help to further set the custard and make it easier to release the tart from the case. When ready, you should be able to gently pick off the excess pastry leaving a neat finish to the tart case. Set aside until ready to eat.
- While the tart is baking you can poach the rhubarb. Add the rhubarb, orange juice, sugar (to taste, don’t make it too sweet), the vanilla if using and a splash of water to stop it taking in the pan. Lid on, medium heat let that poach until tender which should take around 5-8 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, take out the rhubarb and set aside. Leaving all the juices in the pan, put it back on the heat, bring to the boil and then simmer gently to reduce down to a syrup. It’ll be a little bit jammy but still runny. Decant into a pouring jug.
- Now it’s time to serve! Gently take the tart out of the pie tin. Cut a slice of still warm and quivering tart. Serve up with some of the poached rhubarb, syrup and a little more grated nutmeg.