Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ravishing Ruby

Who can resist the stunning ruby red of rhubarb? Today's dessert teams up rhubarb with strawberries, vanilla and a hint of rose water to create a gorgeous ruby coloured compote that is very versatile. I have teamed it with meringue, but you can use the compote in lots of ways - as a base for a beautiful rhubarb crumble, as a jam on scones or piklets, as a sauce on icecream, served with yoghurt for breakfast or folded through whipped cream to make an old fashioned rhubarb fool. To top it all off, the compote freezes well so you can make a batch and save some for later.

Rhubarb is usually cooked with water and sugar and then stewed, but I prefer to cook it in the oven without water. Rhubarb contains a high percentage of water to begin with and I find that the oven method gives you a much better result and avoids the rhubarb breaking down too much and turning too watery and thin. The oven method also gives a superior flavour and colour.

Things you might not know about rhubarb - Despite being used most commonly in desserts and jams, it is actually a vegetable. The word rhubarb comes from the Latin word "rhababarum" which means "root of the babarians." It originated in China and the earliest records date back to 2700BC, when it was cultivated for medicinal purposes. It was considered very precious and was traded along with opium.

About the leaves......Sometimes when you buy rhubarb, it will still have the leaves attatched. The leaves contain highly poisonous oxalic acid that you should never consume under any circumstances. When you dispose of them, make sure they are kept out of the reach of children or any pets that might get hold of them. If you are a gardener, you can use the leaves to make an environmentally friendly bug spray, by boiling the leaves in water and using the liquid. Just be sure to clean the pot very carefully afterwards and keep the liquid in a safe place, as you would any kind of poison.

You will notice that I didn't make the meringues for today's dessert, I used good quality plain store bought ones. Feel free to make your own, especially if you happen to have a lot of eggwhites that need to be used and a bit of time on your hands. Today, I had neither :)

You would know by now that I'm not a huge dessert fan, but this one? Divine.

Rhubarb and Stawberry Meringue Parfait

You will need: 8-10 stalks rhubarb sliced into pieces about 3cm long, 2 cups strawberries hulled and halved, 3/4 cup caster sugar, 1 vanilla bean, 1 teaspoon rose or orange blossom water (you will find these at middle eastern stores or continental delis), 1 large meringue per person, 300ml thick or double cream, 1 tablespoon blanched and lightly toasted almonds.

Method: Heat the oven to 200C. Lay a piece of baking paper in the bottom of a small baking dish. Split the vanilla bean in two and scrape out the seeds. Combine the rhubarb, sugar, vanilla (the bean as well as the seeds) and place in an even layer in the baking dish. Bake for 20mins.

Remove the rhubarb from the oven and add the strawberries and the rose or orange blossom water. Gently combine - you do not want to crush up the rhubarb too much. Return to the oven for another 8 mins. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. The rhubarb mixture is best served at room temperature, so if you are making it ahead, take it out of the fridge before serving.

To assemble the parfaits, first chop the meringues in 4. Put a spoon of the rhubarb mixture in the serving bowl/glass, then some meringue, then some cream. Repeat. Top with some toasted almonds and serve.


No comments:

Post a Comment