One of the ‘jobs-in-progress’ in the garden is moving our rhubarb plants to their new location. We have many (25? 30?) rhubarb plants but since our new garden is 5 times bigger, I want to keep them all and possibly even divide some to make more plants. Not that we can manage to eat that much rhubarb (though we try) but because rhubarb can fulfil other functions in the garden. It is one of the plants I like to add to any fruit tree guild I am creating. (Guilds are a permaculture term for a group of plants that beneficially influence each other). Rhubarb with its large leaves makes a good ground cover that conserves moisture in the soil and when I harvest the stalks, I use the inedible leaves as mulch in between other plants.
But the strikingly red and strikingly tart stalks remain rhubarb’s main attraction. This year, the first dessert I made with rhubarb was this tart. I made it last week when my parents were visiting to compensate them for the horrible weather we were having. It was cold and raining almost permanently. Because they are tough, they just carried an umbrella everywhere and did not complain. They also took a trip to the beautiful city of Den Bosch and somehow managed to procure tickets to the officially hopelessly sold out exhibition ‘Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of Genius’ which was touted as the ‘most exciting exhibition of 2016’. So that and the rhubarb tart were the highlights of their visit. (Though maybe if you asked my mother she would add spending time with her grandchildren to the list, too).
The tart is basically sweet pastry case filled with vanilla scented custard in which pieces of refreshingly sharp rhubarb are drowning. Meaning: it looks pretty and tastes delicious.
Rhubarb vanilla custard tart
Adapted from Monty and Sarah Don: Fork to Fork
Sweet pastry dough:
110 g (1 stick) butter
25 g (2 tbsp) sugar
225g (1 ¾ cup) flour
pinch of salt
½ vanilla pod
150 ml (1/2 cup + 1 tbsp) milk
150 ml (1/2 cup + 1 tbsp) double cream
60 g (1/3 cup) demerara sugar
2 tablespoons flour
450 g (1 pound) rhubarb (trimmed weight about 300 g)
Make the dough:
Cream the butter with sugar (either by hand or in a food processor), then add the egg and mix well. Add the flour and salt and mix everything well but do not overwork the dough. The dough should be fairly stiff. If it is too soft to roll out, put it in the fridge for about 20 min – not much longer or it will be difficult to roll out. Otherwise, you can roll it out immediately (I did) to about 3 mm thick. Line a 24 cm removable bottom tart pan with the dough and put it back to the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight if that is more convenient.
Meanwhile, infuse the vanilla pod in the warmed milk and cream for about 20 min. Remove the pod, split it open lenghtways and scrape out the seeds. Return the seeds to the milk and cream. Add the eggs, sugar and flour and whisk together.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Prick the bottom of the tart several times with a fork, line it with baking parchment and fill with beans. Bake the tart for about 15 minutes.
Remove the beans and the parchment and pour in the custard. Cut the rhubarb into 2,5 cm pieces and add it to the custard. Bake for about 20 to 25 min, until the custard is set. Serve warm (though it does not taste bad the next day either).