“It’s Spring. Why Can’t I Find Rhubarb!?”
I know we’re a week after Easter but I wanted to get one more eggy recipe out and here it is. A dessert variation of British egg and soldiers. For those who don’t know, egg and soldiers are simply strips of toast served with a runny boiled egg you can dunk your toast into. In this sweet version, my toast is replaced with shortbread and my egg with a crème anglaise. I’ve also added a homemade rhubarb jam to complete my breakfast setting as well as imitate another classic combination, rhubarb and custard. It took a long time to find rhubarb but I hope this recipe was worth the wait.
There really aren’t many ingredients considering we’re making three separate elements. Of course, I’ve used basic flavourings to keep with my “rhubarb and custard meets egg and soldiers”, but you can always flavour the shortbread, crème anglaise, or jam.
The first element to make is the jam which of course can be done in advance. The process is simple; dissolve the sugar with the rhubarb, skim the scum off, boil until it reaches 105C then transfer to sterilised jars till cool. With all the added sugar, the rhubarb loses some of its strong sour taste and develops into a sweet/tart flavour.
Shortbread is one of the easiest biscuits to make, where the only common error I would say is overworking the mix. Hence be sure to simply rub the butter into the flour/sugar with your fingers and not a machine. Scoring it prior to cooking and after cooking (before it cools) allows for easy shapes to be cut.
Similiar to my quiche, the crème anglaise process involves adding flavoured heated milk to the eggs gradually until they combine. But rather than thickening it in the oven, the creme anglais is placed back into the pan and reheated while stirring constantly.
Where this can go wrong is that when reheating, if the temperature rises too high, the eggs will scramble and you’ll end up with a lumpy mess. FEAR NOT though! For this very thing happened to me during this attempt. All that needs to be done is to transfer the mixture to a food processor and blitz for 60 seconds then pass this through a sieve. It will be back to its smooth glory. There’s something reassuring seeing vanilla seeds in your custard that lets you know it’s going to be good.
If faced with no lumpy issues, the custard needs to be reheated until a stable line can be drawn on a spoon. The mixture should not drip down on to the line drawn.
The custard can then be cooled over ice until needed (or reheated if served warm). With that finished all three elements will be complete. All that needs to be done is assemble the pieces anyway you like.
However you decide to plate the elements, remember it is still “eggs and soldiers” and as such there is a requirement…
You gotta dunk it!
- 400g rhubarb – trimmed, cut 3cm pieces ~£3.00
- 400g jam sugar -£0.84
- 1 tbsp lemon juice -£0.15
- 150g plain flour -£0.12
- 40g caster sugar (plus extra to sprinkle) -£0.09
- 95g butter – room temperature -£0.45
- 500ml full fat milk -£0.45
- 1 vanilla pod -£1.50
- 6 egg yolks -£1.25
- 75g caster sugar -£0.17
Total Cost for 4 servings ~ £8.02 (£2.01 each)*
*of course keep in mind this does not include the leftover jam (and maybe custard) you’ll have. I feel custard and jam should be made it larger quantities especially with the cost of vanilla pods and its shelf life respectively.
- Place the rhubarb and jam sugar into a large saucepan. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves.
- Add the lemon juice. Bring to the boil for approximately 10 minutes until it reaches 105C. Skim off the scum from the surface during this stage.
- Leave to cool for about 15 minutes then transfer to sterilised jars and seal.
- Preheat oven to 170C fan. Line an A5 baking tray with baking paper.
- Mix together the plain flour and caster sugar.
- Using your hands, rub the butter into the flour/sugar until a breadcrumb texture. Take care not to overwork at this stage.
- Transfer to the baking tray and compress the mixture into the tray.
- Score the dough into desired shapes, sprinkle with additional caster sugar then place into the oven for 24 minutes until it achieves a light golden colour.
- Score over the previous marks made and leave to cool completely.
- Seperate the biscuits via the marks.
- Place the milk into a saucepan with one tablespoon of sugar (prevents milk from boiling over).
- Split the vanilla pod length ways and scrape the seeds into the milk. Add the empty pods into the milk as well. Slowly bring the milk to the boil.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks with the remaining caster sugar until pale.
- At boiling point, remove from the heat and remove the vanilla pods.
- Gradually pour the milk onto the eggs while stirring constantly.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook on a low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.
- Run a finger over the back of the covered spoon to check if an impression is maintained.
- When thickened, remove form the heat and strain the custard through a sieve into a chilled bowl to prevent further cooking. Chill until required or serve warm.