RHubarb always makes me rather happy. Not just the forced rhubarb that celebrates the start of the year – impossibly pink, when everything else is gray – but also the field rhubarb that has just come into season. It may be more understated than its bright pink cousin, but it’s still a true marker of the transition from winter to spring. Today’s recipes reflect that celebration, with the obligatory booze-filled trifle.
Mackerel, rhubarb and black pepper ceviche (top photo)
Ceviche may seem like a dish you would have at a restaurant, rather than making it at home, but give it a try. It might sound a little cheffy, but it’s not at all – the only requirement is a fresh mackerel. Feel free to use sea bass or sea bream instead.
Preperation 15 minutes
Macerate 15 minutes
To cure 25 minutes
to cook 20 mins
Serves 4 as starter
130g rhubarb (about 2 stems), trimmed and cut diagonally into 1cm wide pieces
25g caster sugar
2 lemons – 1 left whole, the other finely minced to obtain 4 strips of zest, then squeezed to obtain 1 tablespoon
1 orange – finely grated to obtain 5 strips of zest, then squeezed to obtain 2 teaspoons of juice
2 fillets of fresh mackerel (240g), skinless and boneless
15g table saltplus a supplement for macerating
1 small shallotpeeled and cut into very thin slices (30g)
5g parsley leavescoarsely chopped
60ml olive oil
2 dried hibiscus leaves, or ⅛ teaspoon of leaves from a sachet of hibiscus (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper flakes
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Put the rhubarb in a small baking dish with 20g of sugar, the citrus zest and a pinch of salt, mix gently, spread out and leave to macerate for 15 minutes .
Meanwhile, dry the mackerel and place it on a plate. In a small bowl, combine salt and remaining 5g sugar, sprinkle evenly over fish flesh, then refrigerate, uncovered, for 25 minutes to gently harden; do not leave it longer, otherwise the fish will harden too much.
Add 150 ml of water to the rhubarb, stir gently, then cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes, until the rhubarb is just cooked but still slightly crisp. Remove, uncover and let cool to room temperature. Gently lift the rhubarb pieces, leaving the liquid in the dish, then transfer them to a large bowl. Strain the liquid into a bowl or jug (you will have about 120ml), then discard the citrus zest. Mix the lemon and orange juice in the liquid bowl – this is your dressing.
Gently wash the salt-sugar mixture from the mackerel in cold water, then wipe the fish dry and cut it into ½ cm thick pieces. Put the fish in a shallow bowl, pour over 40 ml of dressing and leave to marinate for 10 minutes, and up to 20. Drain and discard the dressing.
Meanwhile, cut the remaining lemon off the head and tail, then use a small, sharp knife to remove the skin and pith. Cut between the membranes to free the individual segments, then cut them into thirds. Add the lemon chunks to the bowl of rhubarb along with the drained mackerel, shallot, parsley, an eighth teaspoon of flaked salt and a good grind of pepper, and toss gently to combine.
To serve, divide the mackerel mixture among four small rimmed plates. Drizzle two tablespoons of dressing over each serving (save any excess for another use; it goes great with tequila, by the way), then drizzle a tablespoon of oil over each serving. Finely grate the hibiscus leaves, if using, over the top and serve.
Rhubarb and apple crumble with baharat pastry cream
This custard is super special and well worth making, as it brings a welcome warmth to the crumble. If you can’t get baharat, a mixture of ground cinnamon, cardamom and mixed spices will do.
Preperation 20 mins
Macerate 20 mins
to cook 1h30
For the pastry cream
40g slivered almondsgate
380ml whole milk
190 ml fresh cream
¾ tablespoon baharat spice mix
90g egg yolks (from about 7 large eggs)
120g caster sugar
For the crumble
150g plain flour
35g ground almonds
70g caster sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
120 g cold unsalted buttercut into 1cm cubes
50g jumbo oats (or rolled oats)
For the fruit
4 medium bramley applespeeled, seeded and cut into 3-4cm pieces (650g)
3 stalks of rhubarbtrimmed and cut into 3-4cm lengths (350g)
1 lemon – finely grated zest, to obtain 1½ teaspoons, and squeezed, to obtain 1 tablespoon
220g caster sugar
Place the toasted almonds, milk, cream and baharat in a medium saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until smoking but not quite a simmer.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar to combine, then slowly stir in one-third of the hot milk. Repeat until all the milk is incorporated and the custard is smooth. Place a fine-mesh sieve over the now empty pan, then strain the pastry cream. Transfer the drained almonds to a bowl and set aside the sieve for now.
Return the pan to medium heat and cook the custard gently, stirring constantly, for seven minutes, until it coats the back of a spoon. Place the sieve over a medium bowl, pour in the custard, cover the surface with reusable cling film to prevent a skin from forming, then let cool. (If you want to go ahead, you can cream up to this point, then refrigerate for up to two days.)
For the crumble, combine the flour, ground almonds, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and use your fingertips to rub it into the flour mixture until everything looks like breadcrumbs; work quickly so that the butter does not melt. Stir in the oats and drained almonds, then press small pieces of the mixture together to form clumps of different sizes and leave loose crumbs. Refrigerate until needed.
Now to cook the crumble. Heat the oven to 200 C (180 C fan)/375 F/Gas 4. Put the apples, rhubarb, lemon zest and juice and sugar in a 26 cm baking dish, then mix and leave to macerate for 20 minutes, so that the rhubarb releases juice. . Top evenly with the crumble lumps, bake for 40 minutes, until golden and bubbly, then remove and let stand for five minutes.
Serve the hot crumble straight from the pan with the cold (or warmed, if you prefer) custard.
Rhubarb and sweet vermouth trifle with amaretti
There’s something so silly and celebratory about a trifle: over the top, booze-filled, multi-layered, crowd-pleasing, and epic in the planning. This is my favorite desert island dessert. Plan ahead, though: the jelly should set in the fridge for at least 12 hours, and preferably overnight; it can even be made a few days in advance.
Preperation 10 minutes
to cook 70 minutes
For the jelly
550g Rhubarb (4-6 stems), trimmed and cut diagonally into 4cm pieces
2½ tablespoons dried hibiscus leavesor the contents of 1 hibiscus tea bag
1-2 lemons – zest shaved to obtain 6 strips, then squeezed to obtain 2½ tablespoons
230g caster sugar
150 ml sweet red vermouth (I used Martini Rosso)
2 sheets of gelatin
For the pastry cream
325ml whole milk
½ vanilla podscraped seeds and reserved pod, or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
60g caster sugar
60g egg yolks (from about 3 eggs)
70g biscuits or savoiardicut into cubes of about 1 cm
200ml cold fresh cream
35g crunchy amaretticoarsely crushed
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/Gas 4, then start on the jelly. Place the rhubarb, hibiscus and lemon zest in a 20cm x 20cm baking dish and sprinkle with sugar. Mix then leave to macerate for 20 minutes so that the rhubarb releases its juice. Add 300ml of water, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 15-18 minutes, until the rhubarb is just cooked but still crisp. Let cool slightly, then transfer 12 pieces of rhubarb to a bowl and set aside – this will be the garnish. Leaving the liquid in the dish, pour the remaining rhubarb pieces into a standard 20 cm trifle bowl with a capacity of 1.8 liters.
Strain the rhubarb liquid through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl and add the lemon juice and 100ml vermouth; discard the solids. Pour 450ml of this into a medium saucepan and pour the rest into the bowl of rhubarb filling and chill.
Place gelatin in a medium bowl, cover with ice water and soak for 10 minutes, until softened. Meanwhile, heat pot of rhubarb liquid over medium heat until hot but not boiling, then remove from heat. Lift the gelatin from its water, squeeze out any excess liquid, then add it to the hot rhubarb juice and stir to dissolve. Cool for 15 minutes, pour over the rhubarb in the trifle bowl and refrigerate overnight.
For the pastry cream, gently heat 275 ml of milk and the seeds and vanilla pod in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and egg yolks in a large bowl for about two minutes, until pale and fluffy. Whisking constantly, add one-third of the hot milk to the egg mixture, then repeat until all the milk is incorporated. Return the mixture to the pan and cook gently, stirring regularly to prevent sticking, for four to six minutes, until the cream thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise.
Off the heat, whisk the remaining 50ml of milk, then pour into a medium bowl, remove and discard the vanilla pod and cover the surface of the custard with cling film or reusable plastic wrap to prevent a crease forming. skin. Refrigerate for two to three hours, until set.
Once the pastry cream and jelly are both set, spread out the ladyfingers on a flat tray. Pour the remaining 50ml of vermouth over the top, covering each sponge, then soak for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks, then chill.
To assemble, evenly layer the sponge biscuits over the jelly set in the trifle bowl, sprinkle with 25g crushed amaretti and evenly distribute the custard on top. Top with whipped cream, using a spoon to create peaks on the surface, then carefully arrange the reserved rhubarb pieces on top. Sprinkle with the remaining crushed amaretti, drizzle with two tablespoons of rhubarb juice (save the rest for a cocktail) and serve.