Eunice Power - Outside Catering Company, Waterford, Ireland.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Rhubarb Pavlova

As I look out my window I can see the pink rhubarb shoots coming above ground, I have to summon all my will power to stop myself plucking them from the plant as soon as they are a couple of  inches high, instead of allowing them to mature. I have several varieties of Rhubarb the earliest ones tend to be sweeter and pinker in colour that the later varieties. Delicate sticks of early rhubarb ought to be treated with care to maintain their shape and colour. The following recipe does just that.

The creamy whiteness of Pavlova provides a stunning background for the pink rhubarb; I have sprinkled some crushed pistachio nuts on top to add a little texture.

Serves 6/8

For the Pavlova

6 free range egg whites
A pinch of salt
350g Caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp vinegar
Seeds from half a vanilla pod

For the Rhubarb

400 mls water
400 g sugar
1 dessert spoon of orange flower water
6/8 thinish stems of rhubarb

250 mls softly whipped cream
Shredded mint leaves or a tablespoon of crushed pistachio nuts

Preheat the oven to 180C
Put the egg whites in a large clean bowl, stainless steel is preferable, add a pinch of salt and whisk until they hold stiff peaks. Gradually add in the sugar, whisking all the time, continue whishing until the eggs whites are stiff and glossy. Last of all fold in the vanilla seeds, vinegar and cornflour. Pile the mixture on a baking tray lined with parchment and spread into a 23cm/9inch circle, smoothing the tops and sides with a spatula. Bake for 5 minutes at 180C then reduce the temperature to 120 and cook for another hour and 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

In a wide based saucepan simmer the sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved, then add the orange flower water. Cut the rhubarb stems into 2.5cm/1 inch pieces. Bring the syrup to the boil, drop in the rhubarb pieces and take off the heat. Allow the rhubarb to soften in the syrup as the syrup cools. When you are happy that the rhubarb is cooked, gently remove the rhubarb from the syrup. Put the saucepan containing the syrup, whisk will now be infused with the delicious flavour of rhubarb and reduce by half, and allow to cool.

To assemble, transfer the Pavlova to a pretty plate, spread the cream onto the Pavlova, plate the rhubarb pieces on the cream and drizzle with the syrup. Sprinkle crushed pistachio nuts or shredded mint on top and enjoys your first taste of spring.