Rhubarb and custard pavlova

When I got back from a month in the Philippines a couple of weeks ago, I was craving something typically English to eat. Not a Sunday roast or fish and chips (which, frankly, leave me unmoved). No. What I wanted – needed – after weeks of rice three times a day was something light and fresh and redolent of Spring (even if it was still trying to snow outside).

Finding an Easter rhubarb and custard pavlova recipe in our Abel and Cole veg box felt like some kind of a sign from above. This may have had more to do with my addled state after 30 hours of travel with next to no sleep than with divine intervention, but nevertheless I resolved to give it a go.

I’d never tackled meringue before, even though I love its crispy chewy crunchy texture (seriously, is there anything better than crispy AND chewy in the same bite?). I’d always believed that meringue-making required great amounts of skill or some kind of alchemy to come out properly – and so I’d never tried.

20130416-214851.jpgBut, as so often, I was wrong. It turns out that, so long as you have an electric egg beater, making meringues is surprisingly painless. This recipe is my take on the Abel and Cole one. My lovely friend Cassie said it was the best pavlova she’d ever tried. I think she was just being polite but I’m not going to pass over that kind of praise. The recipe was so simple that I’m dying to try it again, maybe with something else on top.

Time needed: 30 mins prep, 1 hr cooking

What you need

5 egg whites

300g caster sugar

200g rhubarb, washed and cut into small pieces

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp sugar

300ml whipping cream

150g sugar

200ml serving of vanilla custard (this is a bit of a cheat, as I didn’t have time to make my own!)

How to make it

  1. Preheat the oven to 120˚C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. In a metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Then add the sugar a spoon at a time, beating until completely combined after each spoonful. Once all the sugar is added, the meringue peaks should be glossy and still stiff.
  3. Now pile the mixture onto the prepared baking tray in a big shiny mound. Smooth into a rough circle, but don’t flatten completely. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour. After an hour, turn off the oven and leave to set for 30 minutes.
  4. While the meringue is cooling, prepare the rhubarb compote. In a small saucepan, heat the water and sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Now add the rhubarb pieces, bring to the boil and simmer until the rhubarb is collapsing. Set aside to cool.
  5. The next step is to prepare the cream. Whisk together with the sugar to form soft peaks.
  6. Once each of the component parts is ready, you can assemble them. Carefully transfer the meringue to a serving plate. Dollop on the cream and spread out. Drizzle with the custard, then pile on the rhubarb compote.
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