About this recipe:A tart compote of rhubarb makes a nice contrast to the rich custard here. While there is no way to completely streamline a crème brûlée, this special occasion treat is lightened by the fruit and has reduced amounts of cream and egg yolk, yet still retains its rich indulgent nature.
250 g (9 oz) rhubarb, chopped
juice of ½ orange
75 g (2½ oz) caster sugar, or to taste
250 ml (8½ fl oz) semi-skimmed milk
2 pinches of saffron threads
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
3 tbsp double cream
4 tbsp demerara sugar
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Method Prep:1hr25min › Cook:35min › Ready in:2hr
Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F, gas mark 3).
Put the rhubarb in a heavy-based saucepan with the orange juice and 3 tbsp of the caster sugar. Poach on a moderately low heat for 5–7 minutes or until the fruit is tender and juicy, but still keeps its shape. Leave to cool.
In another heavy saucepan, heat the milk with the remaining caster sugar and the saffron until bubbles appear round the edge. Beat together the egg yolks, whole egg and double cream. Slowly add the hot sweetened saffron milk to the egg mixture, stirring to mix.
Divide the rhubarb compote among 6 ramekin dishes, or spread over the bottom of a 1 litre (1 3/4 pint) shallow baking dish. To ladle the custard mixture over the fruit, place the base of the ladle on top of the fruit and turn it slowly to ease in the custard (if you pour it in, it will mix with the rhubarb and not form two separate layers).
Place the ramekins or baking dish in a large roasting tin. Pour boiling water into the tin to come about two-thirds up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 25 minutes for the ramekins or 35 minutes for the large dish, or until set.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Then chill for at least 1 hour or until quite cold.
Preheat the grill to high. Sprinkle the demerara sugar on top of the custard (2 tsp for each ramekin) and smooth it with your finger so that it forms an even layer. Grill close to the heat for just a moment or two until the sugar melts and bubbles, keeping a close watch on it so that it does not burn. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes or until the sugar has hardened to a crust. Serve.
Some more ideas
Replace the rhubarb with cooking gooseberries, topped and tailed, and the orange juice with 2 tbsp elderflower cordial. * Instead of rhubarb, use 1 large cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped, and 75 g (2½ oz) redcurrants.
Rhubarb is 94% water, and compared with soft fruit and citrus fruit contains very little vitamin C. However, it does provide vitamin A – the same amount as peaches – which is essential for healthy skin and good vision. * Apart from providing protein, eggs also contain useful amounts of vitamins A, B2, B12, niacin and E.