Roasted Rhubarb and Vanilla Crumble with Vanilla Bean Custard

Roasted Rhubarb and Vanilla Crumble with Vanilla Bean Custard
Roasted Rhubarb and Vanilla Crumble with Vanilla Bean Custard

Okay, so if you are watching Stage 1 you will have noticed that we are kicking off in Leeds.  This beautiful part of the English countryside is part of the area known as the Rhubarb Triangle. It is from the Rhubarb Triangle we get Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb –  the 41st British product to be awarded the Protected Designation of Origin, meaning that its name is protected for the use of growers operating in this area only – exactly the same way as the term Champagne is reserved for those producers in the western regions of France.

Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb is unique in that it is grown in sheds, deprived of sunlight and tricked (forced) into throwing out its ruby red stalks, shooting upwards in search of light.  Rhubarb grown in this way is said to be slender, sweeter and more tender than its more robust market garden grown counterpart.

So, what better way to make use of such a tender offering than in an outstanding warm Rhubarb and Vanilla Crumble!  The recipe is easy, and infinitely rewarding in its warm enveloping hug.  Just what was needed on such a chilly Melbourne evening!  This recipe is based on Elaine Lemm’s recipe at with a few of my own tweaks.  It calls for oven roasting the rhubarb with orange juice rather than the more traditional stewing.  This helps the rhubarb to retain its shape and gorgeous rosey hue while bringing out its natural sweetness.  Definitely a winner in our household!


For the Crumble:

  • 450g rhubarb (about 2 bunches)
  • 2 tbsp  brown sugar
  • Juice of one orange
  • Seeds from one vanilla pod

For the topping:

  • 115g cold unsalted butter
  • 170g all purpose/ plain flour
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • Sprinkling of flaked almonds

For the pouring custard:

  • 200ml milk
  • 200ml heavy/double cream
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds removed

How to do it

Rosey red hue – not forced though!

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees celsius (165 fan forced).  Rinse your rhubarb well and discard the leaves (these are poisonous!) but cutting off at the stem.  Cut your rhubarb stems in to 3cm lengths and arrange in a generously sized baking dish (should fit snugly and come about half way up the sides of the dish).



Ready for the oven...
Ready for the oven…

Sprinkle your rhubarb with the brown sugar, scrape out the vanilla bean seeds and squeeze over the orange juice.  Give it a little mix to distribute and then place it in the oven for 30 minutes or so.  You want the rhubarb to soften, but not lose its shape.  It needs to just slightly yield to the touch.



Meantime, to make your topping roughly chop the chilled butter in to cubes and add these in a mixing bowl to your brown sugar and flour.  Roughly mash together with a fork, or get stuck into with the fingers to rub the mixture together.  Luckily it is not too tedious – it’s the rustic look we’re going for here!


Almonds to add crunch and toasty, nutty flavour…

When the rhubarb is done, pull it out of the oven and give it a little jiggle around.  Spoon over the butter mixture and sprinkle the almonds over the top.




Dazzling reds and warm toasty golds ... goodness on a plate!
Dazzling reds and warm toasty golds…

Then put the whole lot back in the oven for another 30-35 minutes or until nicely browned on top –  and you get this!!




While this is happening you can get started on your custard.  Don’t be scared of custard and don’t let all the cheffy talk of splitting the cream, and juggling pots and sinks of cold water put you off.  I used to worry about it, but then just decided one day to just make it simple –  it worked – and I’ve never used a packet custard again.

Milk, cream and vanilla bean ...
Milk, cream and vanilla bean …

Gently heat your milk and cream in a saucepan over a medium heat with a split vanilla bean and seeds.  Keep an eye on it as you don’t want it to come to the boil, just heat gently through.

While the milk and cream is heating, separate your eggs, add the castor sugar to the 6 yolks and give it a whisk.


This is what 'coating the back of a spoon' looks like!
This is what ‘coating the back of a spoon’ looks like!

When the cream is beginning to steam, take the saucepan off the heat, pull out the vanilla bean and grab your whisk.  Tip in your egg yolk mixture in a steady stream, whisking the cream/milk as you go.  I don’t have a photo of this (needed both my hands!) but you want to do it quickly and efficiently so you don’t cook your egg yolks before they are incorporated into the mixture. Put the saucepan back on a gentle heat and stir gently until it thickens enough to coat the back of your spoon.

Mmm delicious!
Mmm delicious!

Then you are done!  Pour generously over a bowl of your Rhubarb and Vanilla Crumble and bask in the glow of a job well done!

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