450g (1lb) trimmed rhubarb
50g (2oz) caster sugar
100ml double cream
100ml custard, chilled
2 teaspoons Pernod
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F, Gas mark 6). Cut the rhubarb into roughly 5cm chunks and put into a roasting dish. Sprinkle over the sugar and put into the oven until the rhubarb is tender and just collapsing. Take care not to overcook it because you want to keep the bright colour. Drain it and chill until cold. Whip the cream to soft peaks and when the rhubarb is cold mix all together, including the cold custard and Pernod.
It’s often a close call at this time of year as to which will make the earliest appearance. Will it be the first cuckoo of spring or the first of several uninitiated Farmers’ Market customers labouring under the misapprehension that they should be asking for “spring” lamb?
Some butchers will no doubt be selling expensive cuts of lambs born around Christmas and reared in barns to meet the early market which, although tender, will have little flavour after such a short life. A mature hogget born last spring and with a full season’s grazing behind it is a much better bet, especially for a lamb tagine.
Named after the crock that it’s cooked in, this Moroccan stew with spices and herbs is deliciously warming and is best cooked the day before to allow the flavours to mature, which is handy if you are entertaining.
The asparagus season, meanwhile, is getting closer as the weather gradually gets warmer. This risotto uses all of the asparagus spear, with the stalks going into the stock to enhance the flavour, and is a quick meal that could be ready in 15 minutes.
My pudding of the month might be better described as the “rhubarb of the month”. Yes, I know I did rhubarb last month, but we love it and in terms of seasonality there is little else available at this time of year. There is something about the sourness of a “fruit” like rhubarb combined with the subtle sweetness of custard that makes a great British pudding. I prefer to mix half custard and half cream so that the fool is not too rich, and a couple of teaspoons of the aniseed flavour of Pernod brings the fool alive. The Pernod is not detectable on tasting, but it makes the fool definitely delicious – and that’s not an April fool.