Monday, 13 May 2013

Rhubarb and Aperol Trifle

"...don't overcook the rhubarb so it turns to complete mush - like a politician, you want the stems to maintain their integrity!"

I do love rhubarb: I love the lipstick pink, spindly stems born in the forcing sheds of Yorkshire's famous rhubarb triangle; I love the freshly picked stems straight from my Dad's magnificent rhubarb plant; and I even love the pre-cut stuff you buy in cellophane wrappers from the supermarket. Consequently, there are already a few rhubarb recipes already on the blog. But to my reckoning you can never have enough, so here's another one to whet the appetite!

The famous rhubarb plant!

There are plenty of ways, both sweet and savoury, to consume this magnificent plant. The sharpness of rhubarb contrasts very well with rich, fatty meat, so you can happily serve stewed rhubarb in place of stewed apple with your roast loin of pork; or it pairs very nicely with cold cuts, especially a proper hand-raised pork pie (rather like the recipe for porchetta pork pies here on the blog!).

However, it really comes into its own at the end of the meal. Admittedly you do need a decent amount of sugar to make those pink stems suitable for dessert, but unless you're on the watch list at your local dentist I wouldn't worry about that. Instead, invite someone round you want to impress and make them this sophisticated take on a rhubarb fool. Like the SAS, it's guaranteed to get the job done!

Rhubarb and Aperol Trifle

Aperol is an in vogue Italian aperitif, which resembles Campari, but is sweeter, less alcoholic and usually drunk in a spritz with prosecco and soda. Tiresome though it might be to say, I was an advocate of Aperol and its big brother Campari years ago, and remember getting laughed at by friends for ordering a Campari soda. But now that the demigod of the London restaurant scene, Russell Norman, has declared them cool and is stuffing his diners full of pre-dinner Campari sodas and Aperol spritzs, I guess the joke's on them!

Fashion aside, Aperol and rhubarb are natural bedfellows. For a start Aperol is actually made from rhubarb and probably its dominant flavour is orange, one of rhubarb's best friends (along with me!). So the notion of a rhubarb and Aperol trifle isn't too queer. Chuck in some ginger too and you've got a winner.

Makes 2 individual trifles

Two slices of ginger cake, crumbled
Approx. 150g stewed rhubarb (see below for instructions if required)
Couple of piece of stem ginger in syrup, chopped (optional)
100ml whipping cream
Large pot of Greek yoghurt
Couple of splashes of Aperol
1 orange

You'll need a couple of elegant tumblers to serve the trifle in too.
  1. Start off by putting the crumbled ginger cake and stem ginger (if using) into your serving glasses, then add about a tablespoon of Aperol to each one, give it a quick mix and set aside.
  2. Now whip the cream to soft peaks, taking care not to over-whip and turn the whole lot into butter. Then carefully fold in a couple of spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt. If you're a real trencherman you could double the amount of cream and leave the yoghurt out, but I like the lightness and slight lactic acidity it adds to proceedings. 
  3. Now grate the zest of an orange into the cream and yoghurt, add another splash of Aperol (approx. 1 dessert spoon) and mix gently.
  4. All that is left to do is assemble the trifles, so divide the stewed rhubarb between the glasses, top with the cream and yoghurt mix and place in the fridge to chill for at least an hour.
  5. Take the trifles out of the fridge five minutes before serving, top with either toasted flaked almonds, some more preserved ginger or just a few crumbs of the ginger cake, and take to the table in triumph.

p.s. long term readers might note that there is a similarish recipe already posted on the blog from about two years ago. I thought this version was a real improvement on that one and therefore worth sharing with you lot.

Stewing rhubarb

The first step is to trim the rhubarb at both ends, getting rid of the rooty bit and also the woody green stuff at the top of the stem. Now, if you're a bit of a cheffy tosser, or the rhubarb is the really gnarly, late season stuff, you can take a vegetable peeler and get ride of the outer layer of stem, just leaving the tender innards. In any case, whether you skip this step or not, now give the rhubarb a brief rinse in a colander, shake dry and put into an ovenproof baking dish. Then sprinkle with caster sugar and put in the oven a 180 degrees (gas 4-5) for ten to fifteen minutes.

It is difficult to be too prescriptive regarding both cooking times and the amount of sugar, both of which will vary depending upon the rhubarb: the younger, forced stuff will require less sugar and less cooking than the older outdoor reared stems. However, there are two key points to remember. You can add but you can't take away, so don't add too much sugar at the start - I find a couple of dessert-spoonfuls enough for five or six stems of young rhubarb. And don't overcook the rhubarb so it turns to complete mush - like a politician, you want the stems to maintain their integrity!

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