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Paula McIntyre’s the stalk of the town: delicious rhubarb panna cotta


Rhubarb and custard panna cotta with oaty crumble

Rhubarb and custard panna cotta with oaty crumble

Panelle with wild garlic pesto

Panelle with wild garlic pesto


Rhubarb and custard panna cotta with oaty crumble

Late May signals the end of the wild garlic season and the beginning of summer rhubarb. Use the verdant, pungent leaves of this wild growing herb as much as you can now as they don’t preserve well. In the past I’ve tried freezing and dehydrating it but it loses its vibrancy.

At the moment their white lily like flowers are on the wane and this is the perfect time to pickle their closed buds. Make up a pickle liquor by simmering equal parts cider vinegar and water with enough sugar added to take away the harshness and then salt to season. When they cool, place the heads in a clean jam jar and submerge in the liquor. Sealed, it will keep for a year, giving you a hit of wild garlic memories every time you use this natural herb.

When the flower heads turn to pellet like buds these can be preserved in the same way. Wild garlic pesto is a classic way of celebrating the prized harvest. In the recipe here I’ve paired it with panelle, fried Sicilian chick pea fritters. A Northern Ireland/ Italian culinary culture collision to enjoy with some local cider or a glass of something chilled from the Italian island.

One of the first signals of summer for me is also when my local shop starts to sell bunches of locally grown rhubarb in a well placed bucket beside the till. It heartens me to see it being snapped up in the knowledge that they’re going be whizzed into crumbles and rhubarb tarts. It has a robust tart flavour and needs a good bit of sugar added.

I still relish a childhood memory of nabbing chunks of it when my mother was making a tart and rolling them liberally in sugar to snaffle quickly. The sensation of lip puckering sourness with a sugar hit is still a vivid taste recollection. Rhubarb and custard go beautifully together and in the recipe here the custard element is a quivering panna cotta. Rhubarb can be a bit green at the start of the season so poaching it in some grenadine, a pomegranate syrup, both flavours and adds an attractive ruby tinge to the stems.

As a foil for the meltingly soft panna cotta and fruit I’ve added some crunch with an oat and honey crumble. Creamy dessert, tangy rhubarb and crumble in one fell swoop.

Rhubarb and custard panna cotta with oaty crumble

What you’ll need

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For the rhubarb and custard panna cotta

3 large egg yolks

100g castor sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

175ml whole milk

175ml whipping cream

3 leaves gelatine


Soak the gelatine in cold water. Place the milk and vanilla in saucepan and heat gently. Whisk the yolks and the sugar and then pour over the hot milk mixture. Whisk and return to the pan and cook gently over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

Pour into a clean bowl. Squeeze the gelatine to remove most of the moisture and add to the hot custard.

Leave to cool for 20 minutes.

Whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold into the custard mixture and pour into 4 metal moulds or 4 glasses.

For the ginger poached rhubarb

200g rhubarb (redder the better)

75g castor sugar

100ml water

2 tablespoons grenadine if you have it (if not add 10g of sugar instead)

1 teaspoon root ginger finely grated or 1 teaspoon finely chopped preserved ginger

Cut the rhubarb into 3cm lengths. Cut the thicker stalks to make them all the same rough size.

Simmer the water, sugar, grenadine and ginger until the sugar dissolves.

Add the rhubarb and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool and continue to cook in the liquor.

For the oaty honey crumble

100g plain flour

50g porridge oats

125g soft butter

130g castor sugar

2 teaspoons honey

Set oven to 180C.

Rub the butter into the flour and oats until coarse crumbs. Add the sugar and mix well. Dip a teaspoon into boiling water and then into the honey. Add the honey and mix.

Spread onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake in oven for 20 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool and break into crumble.

Can be stored in an airtight container for a week in a dry place.

To assemble

If using moulds dip into hot water (or heat with a blowtorch for a few seconds on the outside) for a couple of seconds and turn onto a plate.

Spoon the rhubarb on top and around. Scatter over some of the crumble and serve.

Panelle with wild garlic pesto


Panelle with wild garlic pesto

Panelle with wild garlic pesto

Panelle with wild garlic pesto

What you’ll need

200g chickpea flour

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

Oil for frying


Whisk the flour and 600ml water in a bowl to a smooth batter.

Transfer to a pan, add salt and pepper and place on medium heat. Stir continuously with a spoon and when all the water is absorbed and the mixture is creamy, add the parsley.

Spread onto lightly oiled baking trays to about 3mm thick. Cool, cut into shapes and chill.

Heat oil to 170C and deep fry in batches until golden and puffed up. Drain on kitchen paper.

For the wild garlic pesto

Handful wild garlic leaves

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

60g toasted almond flakes

25g grated parmesan

150ml good olive oil or local rapeseed oil

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Blend to a smooth puree and spoon onto the panelle. Grate a little extra parmesan over if you wish.

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