“Step away from the Rhubarb.”
I could honestly write page after page about how beautiful Rhubarb is. It stands proud, shining with its blushed skin; a mirage covering its pale, sharp centre. It’s leafy green head of hair dancing around as you transport it from the garden to your warm kitchen.
Rhubarb needs coaxing into edible sweetness. A bit of sugar, maybe some ginger, some orange zest? My favourite way of cooking Rhubarb is definitely roasting. I find that poaching or stewing just breaks it down into mushy, stringy, nothingness. However, it still tastes pretty good. The only use for this though is for topping your yoghurt at breakfast. Roasting keeps the charming crimson colour, the baton shape and gives you control over how soft you want the Rhubarb.
Ever since Rhubarb has come around this year, I’ve put it on the menu at work almost every week. I strongly believe that if you’re going to use Rhubarb in a dish, it should be the main shining component.
I was craving home-made ice cream recently and thought semifreddo was something different. After craving Eton Mess but knowing that strawberries aren’t at their best yet, I opted to create a Rhubarb Eton Mess. Crisp meringue kisses, roasted rhubarb batons and mascarpone semifreddo speckled with vanilla.
I know that some people are put off by Rhubarb from past childhood experiences of overcooked watery crumble, but I urge you to try simply roasting your Rhubarb with some Demerara sugar and eating it with a large helping of honey and ice cream.
When I was making this semifreddo, I knew it was going to be successful. Lets just say many spoonfuls were tasted. The sweet ice cream is off set by the tart Rhubarb and crunchy meringue. Slice the ice cream loaf into portions and leave it to thaw in bowls for 10 minutes so that you can eat it in its soft velvet prime.
For the meringue kisses
- 3 egg whites
- 240g caster sugar
- a pinch of cream of tartar
For the roasted rhubarb
- 4 rhubarb stalks
- a couple of handfuls of demerara sugar
For the mascarpone semifreddo
- 370g double cream
- 150g mascarpone cream
- pinch of salt
- seeds from 1 vanilla pod
- 6 egg yolks
- 200g caster sugar
Pre-heat your oven to 100°C for the meringue, and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Place your egg whites into a stand mixer and whisk until soft peaks form. Combine the sugar and cream of tartar. Gradually add in the caster sugar and continue to whisk until the meringue forms firm peaks. Place a small star nozzle into a piping bag and fill it with the meringue. Place small blobs of the mixture on each corner of the baking tray to stick the baking parchment down. Pipe meringue kisses onto the tray until all of the mixture is finished. (Or alternatively, you can just make small mounds of the meringue using a spoon.)
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until crisp. Leave to cool completely. Set some kisses aside for garnishing.
Turn the oven up to 160°C. Trim the top and bottom of the rhubarb and cut it into 3-4cm long pieces. If any pieces of rhubarb are very wide, cut them in half. Place the rhubarb into a baking dish and sprinkle on a couple of handfuls of demerara sugar. Add a few tbsp of water into the dish and bake for 15 minutes; or until the rhubarb is soft. (It should break if you press it with the back of a spoon.) Once out of the oven, using the back of a spoon, break the rhubarb up into small pieces. (If the rhubarb is left too big then it will become icy when frozen.) Leave to cool completely.
Now lets start with the semifreddo! Line a loaf tin with cling film leaving some hanging over the sides.
Whisk together the mascarpone, double cream, pinch of salt and vanilla pod seeds until they form very soft peaks.
Boil some water in a medium-sized pan. Place the egg yolks and caster sugar into a heatproof bowl and whisk together. Put this bowl over the top of the boiling saucepan to create a bain marie. Using an electric whisk, whisk the egg yolk mixture for 10 minutes to create a sabayon. Your egg yolks should be pale and fluffy. The mixture should form a ribbon when drizzled off a spoon.
Take the bowl off of the heat and continue to whisk for 5-10 minutes until cool. Once cool, fold the sabayon and cream mixture together gently. Crush the meringue into the semifreddo (you may not need all of it) and add in the rhubarb. Fold these together and pour into the loaf tin. Level off and freeze overnight.
When you come to serve your creation: fill a large bowl with hot water. Dip the bottom of your loaf tin into the water to release the semifreddo. Tip the tin upside down onto your desired serving plate and peel off the cling film. Slice into portions and leave to thaw for 10-15 minutes to soften the ice cream. Enjoy!