Sunday, 24 February 2013

Petals and Berries and Stalks- Oh My!

Pasticini di Filo con Rabarbaro e Mirtillo
Rhubarb & Blueberry Filo Pastries

Rhubarb stalks, blueberries and leaves of Filo pastry are the simple ingredients that make these little open parcels so wonderful. The colors remind me of a Springtime that surely can not be so far away- even though you wouldn't know it here in snowy Frankfurt! But sure enough, this is the first rhubarb of the season and who am I to resist when I see such tender and fresh pinkness on the market? No- it had to be bought- and yes, the finished product was as delicious as it looked... and then some!

The thing I love about preparing rhubarb, is that as long as you can plan ahead, it really takes care of itself. I always use the same fool-proof method and always have perfect results... not for me that squishy, stringy mess that so often gets concocted and served up, cooked to death and sugared beyond the grave. Nope- there can be only one way! Let me just remind you of it again...

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the way to prepare your rhubarb is as follows. First, very carefully, strip away the outer skin as thinly as possible. Sadly, as beautifully colored as it is, it is also extremely fibrous and inedible- so it has to go! The best way to do it is to cut the rhubarb into more manageable lengths of 4-5" first and then to pinch it art the edge of with a small, sharp knife and pull it way- much as you would remove the sinews from a celery stalk... fiddly- but doable! 

Next- turn on your oven to the highest setting- the oven needs to be really hot as the rhubarb is going to spend a long time in there... over night in fact! But fear not- the oven will then be switched off and the rhubarb will gently cook in the remaining heat as the oven cools down again- that is why you need a good amount of heat at the get-go. It is also the reason that this method is so effortless and why the rhubarb remains magically intact and does not fall apart as it would in a saucepan or frying pan if you stir it. But I digress! Let's get back to our preparation...

Cut the rhubarb into bite-sized chunks and pop it into a bowl with some other berry- strawberry, raspberry, or in this case, blueberry. This will help to maintain the nice color we lost due to peeling and also to add some sweetness to compliment the tangy sourness of the rhubarb. Sprinkle with sugar and dust with cinnamon, add a stick of vanilla pod and then trickle a little water on them, mix them together and pop them into the oven- simple as that! Leave the oven turned on for the first 10 minutes... go brush your teeth... fold back the covers, pop back into the kitchen, turn off the oven and snuggle down to a good night's sleep!

Next morning you will be greeted by lovely, tender rhubarb and plenty of rich syrupy juices... and a lovely sweet perfume in the air! You will be delighted with the result- there really is no better way to prepare rhubarb! You could use this compote as a side to some ice-cream say, or enjoy it with vanilla custard as they do in England.. but in this case I decided to fill some simple Filo pastry shells with it. I added a couple of fresh blueberries for the sake of the color, and for a mild, fresh touch- but let me tell you how simple those shelly were to make whilst we are chatting away...

I cut the pastry into squares and lightly brushed the paper-thin sheets with melted butter. I then laid them on top of each other, each time taking 2 sheets per layer and having 6 layers in all. I revolved the layers as I went to create a star-shaped arrangement. The pastry was now more pliable die to the butter and I was able to gently drop it into a muffin tray and press it down into shape. On went the heat- around 350°F and as soon as the oven was hot, in went the pastry shells for 10 minutes or so until they were crispy and golden brown.
I dusted the pastry cases off with powdered sugar before filling them, because I prefer the fruits to look shiny in contrast to the snowy outsides- but that is a matter of taste. In to the pastry the fruit went and plenty of those good juices went over the top... delicious!  I added a scoop of plain yogurt to mine, but custard, cream, ice-cream or just so they are a lovely tangy treat you really need to try! I really recommend it!

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