One of the things that Todmorden is famous for is Incredible Edible, a group of local people who have started something of a revolution, growing food in public places in & around the town centre.
There are vegetables outside the police station and local community college, herbs along the canal tow-path and in the train station and an apothecary garden in the grounds of the health centre.
Everything is free for anyone to come along and help themselves – or even do a little weeding and clearing if the fancy takes them!
The train station is on one of our daily dog-walking routes and it’s been lovely watching the progress of the peas, red onions, chives and the like.
This week, along with the dog, I left the house with a pair of scissors and a carrier bag and cut a few stems of rhubarb – to use in a rhubarb and custard tart.
Rhubarb & custard is a classic British combination as is baked custard tart. I’ve put them together and come up with a delicious dessert.
I used the same pastry recipe as last week’s pear tart and made sure to add a tad more sugar than normal to the custard recipe… and a tablespoonful of Bird’s Custard Powder.
The sweetness of the custard and the tartness of the rhubarb worked incredibly well – I’ll be making this one again before the end of the rhubarb season.
- 200g/7oz plain flour
- 60g/2oz icing sugar
- pinch of salt
- 125g/4½oz very cold butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 400ml/14 fl oz double cream
- 100ml/3½ fl oz creamy milk
- 2 eggs, plus 2 yolks
- 100g/3½oz caster sugar
- 1tbsp custard powder
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- Put the flour, icing sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine
- Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely - you'll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that's just fine
- Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition
- When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds
- Just before your pastry reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change, so listen out
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Very lightly and sparingly - make that very, very lightly and sparingly - knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing
- Butter the tart tin and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the tin. Don't be stingy - you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it. Also, don't be too heavy-handed - you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don't want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbread-ish texture
- Freeze the pastry for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking
- Preheat the oven to 175ºC/375ºF/Gas mark 4
- Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminium foil and fit the foil tightly against the pastry
- Bake the pastry for 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil. If the pastry has puffed up, press it down gently with the back of a spoon
- Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the pastry case to a cooling rack; keeping it in its tin
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, slowly bring the cream and milk to a simmer
- In a large, heat-proof measuring jug, whisk together the eggs, yolks, sugar, custard powder and vanilla essence
- Pour the hot cream & milk mixture into the bowl, whisking continuously
- Carefully strain the custard on to the cooked pastry base (don't overfill)
- Slice the rhubarb into lengths and place into a pattern in the custard
- Carefully put the tart tin into the oven (rearrange the rhubarb lengths if they drift in the liquid during the move!)
- Bake for 40 minutes or until the top begins to brown
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle a little granulated sugar over the top and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving
We have a variety of crops to look forward to in the coming weeks.
Most of them are growing in containers as much of our garden is paved with stone cobbles. It also makes protecting them from the ubiquitous slugs & snails much easier.
We use lots of the old galvanised metal ‘dolly tubs’, buckets and bins.
The plants seem to like it!
Potatoes, beetroot, carrots, tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, broccoli, courgettes, squash, peashoots, salad leaves, a variety of herbs – and yes, those are figs.
There’s still a little room for some flowers.
Perennials like the hostas, astilbes and lupins return each year like old friends. Although this year’s harsh winter saw a few losses.
To these we add a few annuals – osteospermums, lobelia and the like.
We’ve enjoyed working in the garden this year. We don’t think self-sufficiency is here just yet – but hopefully we’ll reap some rewards!