As much as I love this time of year when you suddenly have an abundance of fresh spring produce, I get a bit stressed by it too because they all come at the same time. For me, choosing between rhubarb and strawberries or asparagus and broad beans, would be a bit like choosing between your children. I love them all and want to cook as much with them all without forsaking the others. Sadly, that’s impossible.
But when I have time to cook I try and make the most of it, and last Saturday I invited my friend Maria over for a supper consisting of wild garlic soup (I’m obsessed with wild garlic, I admit it), squid and chorizo with beans and spinach followed by this pannacotta with rhubarb.
In Sweden we call the rhubarb prepared this way for melted rhubarb, which indeed it is. The rhubarb releases juice because of the heat which mixes with the sugar and creates the most wonderful rhubarb syrup full of soft rhubarb bits. It is wonderful served warm on vanilla icecream or with just some cold pouring cream, but I must say it was wonderful in this pannacotta too.
Make sure you don’t use an aluminium pan as the oxalic acid in the rhubarb will free the aluminium and you will end up with rhubarb with aluminium which is poisonous.
Vanilla pannacotta, serves 4
500 ml single cream
1 vanilla pod
50 ml caster sugar
2 gelatin leaves
Cover the gelatin leaves with cold water in a bowl. Make a cut lengthways in the vanilla pod (too free the seeds) and add to a saucepan. Add sugar and cream. Bring to the boil and let it simmer for a few minutes while stirring. Remove from heat. Squeeze the excess water out of the gelatin and add to the pan. Stir to dissolve. Divide between four small bowls or glasses. Leave to cool then let them set in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
Melted rhubarb (or rhubarb compote)
300 g rhubarb, washed and trimmed
80-120 g caster sugar
1/4 lemon, the juice
Slice the rhubarb coarsely and place in an ovenproof dish (not aluminium, see above). Scatter the sugar on top (start with the smaller amount if you like) and place in 180C oven. Stir after 10 minutes and taste. Add more sugar if needed. Leave in the over for 30-40 minutes more until the syrup has thickened. Add the lemon juice and stir. Leave to cool.
Top the pannacottas with a few spoonfuls of the melted rhubarb and serve.
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