Monday, 18 February 2013

"Roobarb" and Custard (RIP Richard Briers)

Vanilla rhubarb with custard panna cotta

Have you ever played that game where you have to pick a collection of famous people you'd like to invite over for Sunday lunch? It's usually the game you find yourself playing at a party which wound down an hour ago, but there's still 45 minutes before your cab's arriving. It's the kind of game that reignites the fun into a tired evening, without being in the least bit taxing. It's entirely uncompetitive, but everyone really wants to get it right. 

What I like best is that it genuinely celebrates people and the reasons we adore them. Humour, intelligence and talent win over money and power every time. I've never come across a player who would choose a Kardashion sister over Judi Dench, or Donald Trump over Spike Milligan. For my table, I sometimes include Christopher Biggins, but never leave out Richard Briers.


Rhubarb and custard panna cotta

Richard Briers died today at the age of 79. Best known to most as Tom from The Good Life, he was first known to me as the voice behind my favourite childhood programme, Roobarb and Custard.

Richard Briers

Although Roobarb and Custard was a 1970s show, it was still regularly on the telly when I was a child in the 80s and still holds up today. My nephews (aged 6 and 9) love it and I'm looking forward to my one year old niece being old enough to be converted, so I can have an excuse to giggle through the series all over again. It really is that good. In fact, the title music has been my ringtone for as long as I can remember.

So, here's my little tribute to the very wonderful, funny and talented, Richard Briers: a lovely pudding of rhubarb and custard for a much loved actor.


Rhubarb and custard pannacotta with ginger crumble

"Roobarb" and Custard

This is a light and refreshing take on the classic British combination of forced 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 I 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 new toy, 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. 

If you are as much of a custard lover as me, you'll find other delicious custardy recipes over on Domestic Sluttery. Their Just Desserts club is all about custard this month, so do check them out.


Serves 6

"Roobarb"

150g forced rhubarb - the pinker the better
35g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
35g water or the same weight in ice cubes if sous vide-ing

Vacuum pack all the ingredients 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.

Custard Panna cotta

4 large egg yolks
100g caster sugar or, better still, vanilla caster sugar
350ml single cream
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
3 leaves of gelatine, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes

Place the cream/milk 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.

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. 


Rhubarb and custard panna cotta with ginger crumble

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