Orange-Rhubarb Compote With Cardamom Custard

Rhubarb is a strange fruit. It has one of those love/hate followings. Honestly, I'd never given it much thought until I had to start slicing it for our raspberry-rhubarb muffins at the bakery. I quickly learned how to pare away the outermost layer of the stalk to make the rhubarb less tough and that the leaves are poisonous (don't eat them!).

But that was the extent of my rhubarb knowledge until we recently did an "Iron Chef" challenge -- just for fun, not the real thing -- at the bakery, and rhubarb was chosen as the secret ingredient. As I normally do, I checked out a bunch of recipes and looked up information about rhubarb so I would have something to go off of when determining what dish I would make.

I finally decided, with great advice from The Flavor Bible, that I wanted to use oranges and cardamom to complement the rhubarb. Rhubarb, which resembles celery in appearance, is rather bitter, so to make it more palatable, it's often paired with something sweet, like the sugar and orange juice in this recipe. And I thought the creamy custard on top, spiked with a smidgen of cardamom, would tie the whole dish together. Cardamom is also something I've never used before in my home cooking or baking, but I've certainly tasted it in dishes and desserts I've had elsewhere. I knew a little would go a long way.

I was quite happy with the outcome, considering I'd never made anything with rhubarb at home before. I wasn't the challenge winner -- I definitely had some stiff competition -- but that's okay because it was a great learning experience for me and a push to try to be more creative in the kitchen.

I think you'll want to give this recipe a try if you're already a confirmed rhubarb lover, if you've never had it before, and maybe even if you despise rhubarb. You never know -- it could change your mind. Oh, and make it soon because the best time for rhubarb is spring to early summer. And summer is coming!

Orange-Rhubarb Compote With Cardamom Custard
(Print this recipe)
Adapted from Market Vegetarian by Ross Dobson
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 shooters plus extra for sampling


5 ounces rhubarb, cut in small chunks
2 ½ tablespoons superfine sugar, divided
1 teaspoon Valencia orange zest (plus extra for garnish if desired)
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed Valencia orange juice
1 cup whipping cream
½ vanilla bean
⅛ teaspoon cardamom
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon toasted slivered almonds (for garnish, if desired)


Combine rhubarb, 1 ½ tablespoons superfine sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and 1 tablespoon of water in small saucepan, and set over high heat.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture boils. Then reduce heat and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, until rhubarb is soft. Divide rhubarb among serving dishes, and set aside to cool.

Heat cream in small saucepan over low heat, and add the vanilla bean. When cream boils, remove the vanilla bean, and scrape the seeds into the cream. Stir in the cardamom, and remove cream from heat.

Whisk egg yolks and sugar in medium bowl for 1 minute. Slowly whisk the cream into the egg mixture. Pour mixture into a clean saucepan, and set over medium-low heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often with rubber spatula, until mixture thickens.

Spoon the custard over the rhubarb, and chill desserts for 3 hours or overnight.

Garnish with orange zest and slivered almonds, if desired.

Have you ever made anything with rhubarb? Have you ever eaten anything with rhubarb in it?

Related Reading

Market Vegetarian
(I randomly came across this book while shopping at Crate & Barrel. It gives you so many ideas of what to make with fruits and veggies from the farmers' market. I highly recommend it -- especially with the markets starting up soon!)
Starting with Ingredients
The Flavor Bible