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Monday 10 February 2014

Gluten Free: Rhubarb Mess

As terribly unromantic as it sounds, I have no plans to eat out on Valentine's Day. My problem isn't with the abundance of loved up couples, it's the Set Menu for Two. I just don’t want to share my Valentine’s Day shoehorned into a restaurant eating over-priced, unimaginative food, all the while, fending off rose sellers and smiling at waiters as they ask how the ‘lovers’ are enjoying their meal. There’s no rule that says you have to do the restaurant meal thing on 14 February - there are plenty of other ways you should be spending your time. Aside from the obvious, I’d rather share a bag of chips while sitting on a wall by the sea or maybe enjoy a meal at home.

Ok, so neither rhubarb and custard nor Eton mess sound like particularly sexy Valentine’s Day desserts, but when you combine the two and put it in the shape of a heart it’s actually quite effective. There’s something quite beautiful about the blushing pink colour of forced rhubarb that makes it ideal for this dessert. If you buy good quality custard and ready made meringue nests, you can even pretend that you’re a culinary goddess without having to do much more than poach some rhubarb. Great, if this is the first meal you’re cooking for your Valentine! This is assuming, of course, that your partner also loves rhubarb. Mine doesn’t, but he’s also away on Valentine’s Night so I’m eating both portions myself.

Rhubarb Mess (serves 2)
You’ll need:
  • 150g rhubarb
  • 40g vanilla sugar
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100ml custard (you can make your own or buy a decent one from the chilled aisle)
  • 2 meringue nests (ready made are ideal, just double check they're suitable for Coeliacs)
  • 2 tsp freeze dried raspberries

Make it!
  1. Wash the rhubarb and chop into 2cm chunks. Place in a saucepan with the sugar and cover it all with water. 
  2. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender, but not falling apart. If it needs a little longer at this point, just check every 5 minutes until done. Leave to cool in the syrup.
  3. Whisk the cream until you have stiff peaks. This is a time when slightly over-whipping won’t be a problem! 
  4. Add the custard to the whipped cream and gently fold it in until smooth. 
  5. Crumble most of the meringue into the cream and custard and fold in.
  6. Arrange the cooled rhubarb on a plate. The heart shape is optional but, if you’re a big softie, then go for it. I used a cookie cutter with much success.
  7. Pile the custardy cream and meringue mixture on top of the rhubarb.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining meringue and freeze dried raspberries over the top and serve.

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