Rhubarb and custard panna cotta

Rhubarb and custard panna cotta


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Grown in the dark, this vegetable masquerading as a fruit is the perfect pick me up on a winter’s day. With a little sprinkling of sugar, this tart veg is transformed into the perfect compote to pair with a splodge of natural yoghurt or to serve with oily fish or fatty meats. In fact, a side of rhubarb with pork belly is one of my favourite winter roasts. There really are no limits to this versatile, jewel bright crop.

This pudding is a light and refreshing take on the classic British combination of rhubarb and custard. I've made a custard panna cotta - which essentially means that I've set it with gelatine instead of baking it - and served it with rhubarb which has been cooked with vanilla and sugar in the sous vide. You can just as easily bake it, but if there's any excuse to play with my sous vide machine, I'll take it. I made my custard with single cream, but you can use double cream if you're after something richer or whole milk for something less so. But please don't do anything as perverse as trying this with skimmed. If you're unfortunate enough to have skimmed milk in your fridge, my advice would be to simply pour it down the sink. It will be better for everyone that way.

  • Rhubarb and custard panna cotta

  • 150g of forced rhubarb, the pinker the better
  • 35g of caster sugar
  • 35g of water, or the same weight in ice cubes if using a sous vide bag
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 100g of caster sugar, or vanilla sugar if possible
  • 350ml of single cream
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
  • 3 gelatine leaves, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
For the rhubarb, vacuum pack the rhubarb with the sugar and water in a single layer (it's best to use two bags) and drop them into the water bath at 61°C for 45 minutes. Fish out the bags and plunge them into ice water and then into the fridge until you want it
Alternatively you can bake the rhubarb with the water and sugar at 180°C for about half an hour or until soft, but not squidgy. Leave to cool.
Place the cream (or milk if using) in a saucepan with the vanilla pod and gently bring to the boil. In the meantime, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy and pop a sieve over the bowl ready
Once the cream has come to the boil, pour it through the sieve over the eggs to strain off the vanilla pod and any woody bits that have come off it in the cream
Whisk it all together and pour back into the saucepan. Place the saucepan over a gentle heat and whisk constantly until the custard thickens enough so that it can coat the back of a spoon and if you draw a line through the custard with your finger, the line remains
Transfer to a jug. Squeeze any excess water out of the gelatine and whisk into the hot custard until it has completely melted
I poured my custard into oiled ring moulds with their bases covered tightly with cling film to set, but you can use ramekins or just set it in glasses. Whatever your chosen vessels, once cool, pop them into the fridge for at least 6 hours - overnight is easiest
If using ring moulds, remove the cling film before placing one on a serving plate and blasting round the edges with a blowtorch to make sliding off the mould easy. A hairdryer will do the same job, or you can simply run a knife round the inside edge. For ramekins, dunk them quickly in boiling water to release and upturn on to a plate
Top the panna cottas with the cooked rhubarb. I served mine with a scattering of cold ginger-spiced crumble topping, cooked simply spread on a baking tray for ten minutes at 180°C before cooling
Served with cold ginger-spiced crumble
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