Custard tarts with rhubarb and pink peppercorn compote

Ask any good double act and they’ll tell you that the secret to their success lies in the blending of opposites; a subtle mix that both elevates and tames their individual traits that on their own can be, well, just that little bit too much. For me, a rich, velvety custard tart needs a serious side of tang to cut the creaminess down to size, and this rhubarb compote has that in spades. On top of the rhubarb’s natural sharpness, the pink peppercorns give a hint of smoky warmth as well as adding to the Pretty in Pink vibe – always a good thing in my book.

Custard tart with rhubarb and pink peppercorn compote recipe

The compote can be made in advance as it keeps for up to week, and to be honest, this quantity of rhubarb does make quite a large amount. I love having a bowl of this in the fridge to spoon over yoghurt, cereal and ice cream but should you want a smaller amount just to serve with the tarts, then feel free to halve the recipe. I bow down to the wisdom of Marcus Wareing when it comes to custard, it’s good enough for the Queen after all!

ingredients

for the compote…

  • 500g rhubarb stems
  • 1 orange, juice and zest
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 heaped tbsp crushed pink peppercorns

for the pastry…

  • 200g plain flour
  • 125g softened, unsalted butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 50g caster sugar
  • ½ lemon, zest
  • 2g salt

for the custard…

  • 500ml whipping cream
  • 9 egg yolks
  • 75g caster sugar
  • ground nutmeg, enough to sprinkle on top

you will need – a 12 hole muffin tray and an 11cm cutter, fluted or plain.

  1. To make the compote, preheat the oven to 160ºC / Gas Mark 3, cut the rhubarb stems into 2/3cm pieces and place them in a large baking tray. Drizzle over the honey, orange juice and zest, and then sprinkle in the crushed, pink peppercorns. Cover with foil and bake for around 45mins. You want the rhubarb to be soft but to still hold some of its shape. Allow to cool and then pass the compote through a sieve, being careful to remove the peppercorns, and then mix the fruit and juice back together again. Cover and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
  2. OK, pastry. Cream together the butter and the sugar and then slowly beat in the egg. Remember, it is meant to look awful at this stage, carry on. Add the flour, salt and lemon zest and bring the pastry together in the bowl. When it comes together in a rough ball, turn it out onto the work surface and begin to work it. Using the heel of your hand push the pastry away from you then bring it back together using a dough scraper. Repeat this 5 times, cling film the pastry and pop it in the fridge for 30mins to chill. Preheat the oven to 180ºC / Gas Mark 4.
  3. While the pastry is in the fridge chilling you can make the custard filling. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks and bring the cream to the boil in a small saucepan. Add the hot cream to the egg mixture in three stages, stirring as you go, and then pass the custard through a sieve into a measuring jug.
  4. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to about 3-4mm thick and cut out your tart cases. Line each of the muffin tray holes with a pastry disc (there’s no need to grease the tray as the pastry contains a lot of butter) and then pour in the custard. I fill each tart to just below the top of the case. Finally, sprinkle each tart with a pinch of nutmeg and pop them in the oven for 25mins. The filling will dome up as the tarts cook but will sink back down as they cool. Leave them to cool in the tin for 30mins after baking to firm up and then serve with a generous spoonful of compote. Tangtastic!
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