Rhubarb shortbread with butterscotch sauce

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The challenge in a restaurant when dealing with the season’s finest fruit is to present it at Its simple best while making a dish Interesting enough to take people’s minds off the chocolate. Some fruits carry the extra burden of being loved and hated equally, and rhubarb is right up there with blackcurrants and gooseberries in that context. Given that only rhubarb lovers will order any dish with rhubarb, it is essential that it then has enough rhubarb to satisfy them, while still being pretty, Interesting, etc etc. This recipe is one of those attempts to pull off that juggling feat. The serious rhubarb person will, however, be satisfied only by a large steaming bowl of stewed rhubarb or a mountain of rhubarb crumble. The rhubarb and biscuits can be done a day or more ahead, but make sure the rhubarb is at room temperature when you serve It.

Ingredients

  • 1 large bundle of rhubarb sticks
  • 300 g caster sugar
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 150 g plain flour
  • rind of ½ orange
  • 100 g light muscovado sugar
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • 500 mls single or double cream
  • icing sugar, to serve

Method

CHOP THE RHUBARB INTO PIECES of about 15mm long. Cook these very gently with 250g of sugar and one tablespoon of water until the rhubarb is just tender - it makes the world of difference if the rhubarb pieces don’t totally disintegrate. Carefully transfer the rhubarb to a bowl to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (Gas Mark 5). Cream the butter and 50 g of sugar until fluffy, then beat in the flour and orange rind. Wrap this dough and chill it for 30 minutes, then roll it to about 5mm thickness and cut out round biscuits of about 8 cm diameter. You will need three per person. Bake the biscuits on an oven tray covered with baking parchment for 20-25 minutes. They should be pale brown but not quite crisp - they will crisp fully as they cool.

TO MAKE THE BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE, put the muscovado sugar, unsalted butter and 300 mls of the cream into a pan, bring it slowly to a boil, then boil it for two minutes. Leave the sauce to cool to room temperature before using it. Whisk the remaining 200 mls of cream until softly whipped.

Place a shortbread biscuit on each plate, spread a layer of cream on it, then pile on a generous tablespoon of rhubarb. Put another biscuit on that, then more cream and rhubarb, then a third biscuit. A light dusting of icing sugar finishes it off nicely. Pour a stream of the butterscotch sauce around the biscuits. Obviously a fork won’t pass easily through that lot, so I tend to lean the third biscuit half-off the construction to make it easy for people who are nervous about demolishing pretty plates of food. But that’s a restaurant thing and your guests won’t be like that, will they?