Friday, 28 June 2013

Peas, Cheese & Egg Salad with Creamy Garlic Scape & Parsley Dressing

The lettuce is not as good as it was; the heat and lack of rain for the last week or so is starting to show. Still, it's okay, and we are getting other vegetables like garlic scapes, radishes and PEAS! in the garden now. Add some cheese and eggs, put those scapes in a creamy dressing with parsley, and it's another great full meal salad.

Watch those scapes though; I think this dressing gets stronger as it sits. Make it fresh or maybe cut back (or use smaller ones) on the garlic scapes.

Once new potatoes show up, I think this would be an excellent dressing for potato salad, made with plenty of radishes, hard boiled eggs... peas... this is sounding kind of familiar... hmmm... 

4 servings
1 hour prep time; faster if you have ready-shelled peas

Peas, Cheese & Egg Salad with Creamy Garlic Scape & Parsley Dressing

Boil the Eggs & Make the Dressing:
6 large eggs
2 to 3 garlic scapes
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup yogurt or sour cream
2/3 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)

Put the eggs in a pot with sufficient cold water to cover them well, and bring them to a boil. Boil them for 1 minute, then remove them from the heat, but leave them, covered, in the hot water for 10 minutes. Transfer them to cold water and leave them there until completely cooled.

Chop the garlic scapes and parsley roughly, and put them in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Add the salt, pepper, celery seed, mustard, yogurt or sour cream and mayonnaise, and blend until very smooth. Transfer the dressing to a serving container, and keep chilled until ready to serve the salad. 

Make the Salad:
4 cups mixed peas
about 6 cups prepared lettuce pieces
12 radishes (1 bunch)
150 grams (5 ounces) Cheddar cheese

Use a blend of shelled peas, snap peas and snow peas. I used 1/2 shelled peas (which was about 1 quart with the shells still on) and 1/4 each snap and snow peas. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and blanch them for 1 or 2 minutes, then rinse them in cold water until cooled. Drain well and set them aside.

Wash and tear up or chop the lettuce and arrange it over salad plates or on a large platter. Arrange the mixed peas over the lettuce. Wash and trim the radishes and cut them into quarters or slice them. Arrange them over the lettuce and peas. Cut the cheese into small cubes and arrange it over the salad. Peel and chop the eggs, and arrange them over the salad.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.

Last year at this time it was the Jamaican Pattie project: I made Jamaican Curry Powder and used it in  Jamaican Patties with Beef and Jamaican Patties with Greens.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Five Garden Lettuces

Speckled lettuce (top right), Dixter MI lettuce (top left), Black Seeded Simpson lettuce (bottom left), New Red Fire MI lettuce (bottom right) and Amish Deer Tongue (centre).

This is the best year by far for lettuce in this new garden, out of the 5 seasons we have been gardening here. It helps that the weather has mostly swung between cool and only just pleasantly warm, and that there has been lots of rain. It also helps that we have been building up the soil with compost, and finally, I think the other big boost came from us deciding to add a little dolomitic lime to the leaf bed rotation beds this spring. The soil is still pretty sandy, but not quite so acidic as a result (we hope).

Lettuce in general prefers a slightly alkaline soil, with plenty of organic matter and moisture, and moderate temperatures. Prolongued hot, dry periods will lead to bolting (plants flowering) and cause them to go bitter.

Seed colour is mentioned as it one of the ways to be sure you have the true variety - lettuces are often similar and confusable, not to mention that there is a long history of seed sellers giving them different names to convince their customers that they had something new (or in fact they had their competitors' variety).

For some reason we did not grow a few of our favourite lettuces from past years this year. I guess because we had so much other seed on hand. Lettuce seed does not keep very well. It's best the next year, and you will get some germination the next year, and maybe the year after that if you store it well (cool, or better yet in the freezer) but after that, it's done.

Speckled Lettuce is, amongst other things, an old Ontario heirloom, having been grown by Waterloo area Mennonites since the 1790's. Ark of Taste describes it as originating in Holland in the 1660's; from there it went to Germany which is presumably where the Mennonites picked it up. In German, it is called Forellenschluss, meaning speckled like a trout, and you will sometimes see it sold under that name, although my impression is that in that case it is more likely to be a strain more recently from Germany. According to William Woys Weaver, there are three distinct varieties circulating under this name. One of them was the outcome of a cross between Brown Dutch and Black Seeded Tennisball, and another (Dutch Butter) is the original Dutch variety.

There is a similar lettuce from Aleppo, in modern-day Syria, called Spotted Aleppo, and I have to say mine looks more like it might be that. Heritage Harvest gives Spotted Aleppo a history that matches up fairly well with the Ark of Taste description. She also sells seed for Speckled, but describes it as a butterhead, which mine is definitely not, and says that it was originally known as Thorburns Orchid lettuce. William Woys Weaver also lists Golden Spotted as another name for this.

I also have other speckled lettuces in my garden; these came from a packet of Mortons' Lettuce Mix which I purchased from Prairie Garden Seeds. Some of these have a distinctive oak-leaf shape to them, but are otherwise pretty similar. So that red speckled gene plainly can get around; it seems probable that Frank Morton used one or the other of the old speckled varieties in his lettuce breeding, if not more.

Whatever these varieties are, all the speckled lettuces I have grown have all done very well, growing in our dry, acidic, sandy main beds and in our wet, acidic, clayish lower beds. The taste is good, the texture is fine, they are hardy, resilient and slow to bolt, and finally they are attractive and amusing. What more could you want in a lettuce? We expect to have speckled lettuces in our garden for many years to come.

Sixty days to maturity. I believe the seed for all these varieties has been white.

Dixter MI came from William Dam Seeds, and I can find next to no information about it other than their listing. I can't even figure out what the MI part of the name means, although I assume it refers to disease resistance. You will see it as part of the name of a number of modern lettuce varieties, and I assume this is a modern lettuce variety since I can't find it on even fairly recent variety lists.

At any rate, this is a very beautiful lettuce: an upright, strong growing red romaine with an intense colour and lovely form. It has always grown very well and vigorously for us. It suffers from the problem of many red lettuces though, and turns bitter at the slightest breath of heat. Even at its best, in cool spring weather, it isn't the best tasting lettuce, although it's reasonably good. I'm not quite sure why we keep growing it. I guess we are just seduced by the beauty of it, and the fact that it grows so well even in our difficult soil. But if I could find a better tasting red romaine that grew just as well, I would switch.

Fifty days to maturity. White seed.

Black Seeded Simpson is the ultimate workhorse lettuce. It was introduced by Peter Henderson & Company of New York in the 1870's, according to William Woys Weaver. Today it is still one of the most widely available lettuces for the home grower, a favourite for its light, sweet flavour and quick and reliable growth, and ability to hold in the garden for a while. We generally sow it thickly and fail to thin it, then pull it out in clumps when we want it. It tolerates this treatment quite well. It can be better grown though, with outer leaves picked for quite some time, until eventually the plant will bolt. Or you've eaten it; whichever.

The leaves are long and reasonably broad, in a fine light chartreuse colour and with a soft, rumpled texture. They form a good bunch, but don't head up. This has been one of our better lettuces for holding up under hot and dry conditions, although it may not hold up as well in very changeable weather. As noted, the leaves are very soft and rumpled and so the stems and cores may rot in very wet weather as the leaves hold the water for too long.

Weaver claims that this is a difficult lettuce to keep true when saving seed. This surprises me a little, given how readily available it is, but I have to admit is is so readily available that I  have yet to make the attempt.

Forty-five days to maturity. Seed is not so much black as a dark brown.

New Red Fire MI is a new lettuce to me; I received seed in a trade this winter and had not previously heard of it. However, it is carried by both William Dam and Hawthorn Seeds. This is actually a very commonly grown commercial lettuce variety; if you have bought red leafy lettuce at the grocery store the odds are good it was this one. It has done well for us. As usual, the flavour is not quite as good as the best plain green lettuces, but it is still a very good lettuce, and it has held up well in warmer (not super hot) weather. It isn't the darkest, reddest lettuce I have ever seen, but it is a very good definite red and makes a nice contrast with green lettuces. It is said to be slow to bolt and it seems that way so far... no sign yet although some of the other kinds of lettuces are definitely starting to stretch for the sky. It is said to have good disease resistance, but we have had no troubles in the lettuces yet so can't confirm that.

I can't find any history on this lettuce either, although I found a reference to it being a new introduction in 1993. If so, it has certainly become extremely popular extremely quickly.

Fifty to sixty days to maturity. Seed is white (buff).

Amish Deer Tongue - (you didn't know deer had a religion, did you?) - is an older lettuce with a better recorded history. Deer Tongue lettuce dates back to the 1740's, according to Ark of Taste, although Amish Deer Tongue only goes back to the 1840's. I assume this means that it is a strain developed in the U.S.A, amongst the Amish. The name comes from the long, narrow, triangular and presumably deer tongue shaped leaves, which grow in a bunch and don't form a head.

I was interested to see a suggestion that this is a lettuce that can be cooked like spinach. It certainly has a very unusual texture for a lettuce, much thicker and firmer than usual. I find I don't love it in salad because of that texture, but who knows? You might. It is also supposed to be both heat and cold tolerant, and slow to bolt. Also, it should be good for picking over a period of time, with good regrowth. It gets recommended as a lettuce for sandwiches.

Fifty days to maturity; seed is black (dark brown).

Monday, 24 June 2013

Strawberry-Poppy Seed Salad Dressing

"Whoa", said Mr. Ferdzy. "This is good." 

I do always like to hear that. I kind of liked it myself, I must say. Still, I wish I had thought to add some more whole or sliced strawberries to the salad, because I think that would have made it even better, although a simple combination of lettuces from our garden along with a few of our first snowpeas and radishes was just fine. There's some left over, so I will have a chance to try it again.

You could omit the poppy seeds if you don't care for them, but anything made of raw puréed strawberries is going to have a little seedy thing going on; I figured I might as well make it official.

6 to 8 servings
15 minutes prep time

Strawberry-Poppy Seed Salad Dressing

1 cup fresh hulled strawberries
1/4 cup sunflower or nut (almond or hazelnut) oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
a good grind of black pepper
the juice of 1 small lime

Wash and hull the strawberries, and put them in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add the remaining ingredients, and process until smoothly blended. Pour it into an attractive serving container, using a spatula to scrape it all out. Apply it ad lib to the green salad of your choice... eat... enjoy! That's all there is to it. 

Friday, 21 June 2013

Unbaked Ginger-Lime Cheese Pie (with Berry Sauce)

Strawberries are here! And they are delicious as a sauce to this cool, creamy, tart pie. Later you can use blueberries, blackberries or pitted cherries to make the sauce, and eat it all summer long. Not that you couldn't make this in the winter too, with frozen berries, but this seems very summery to me.

It's very easy, too; almost no-bake, just the crust. Just remember to allow time for it to set and chill. You could omit the ginger if you don't care for it (or have it), but I have to say I love the combo of lime and ginger.

8 servings
30 minutes prep time; add 15 minutes for Berry Sauce
2 hours or more chill time

Make the Graham Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Crush the crackers to fine crumbs. Melt the butter. If you are using a glass pie plate, the butter can be put right into the plate and melted in the microwave. Add the crumbs to the butter and mix well, until there are no dry crumbs left. Press them against the edges and bottom of the pie plate to form a crust.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes.

Make the Filling:
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon plain gelatine
400 grams cream cheese
the zest of 2 medium limes
2 tablespoons chopped preserved ginger
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup lime juice (the juice of 4 to 6 medium-large)

Put the water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatine over it. Let soak for 5 minutes.

Put the cream cheese, lime zest, ginger, sugar and lime juice into a food processor and process until fairly well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the water and gelatine, and process again, until very well blended.

Scrape the filling into the cooled, baked crust, and chill until set; about 2 hours.

Make the Berry Sauce:
3 cups fresh berries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch

Wash and hull the berries, and put them in a pot with the sugar. Don't drain them too well; a little moisture ill help get them going. Bring them to a boil, and simmer  until they soften and exude enough juice to constitute a sauce. Mix the  arrowroot or cornstarch with the cold water, and pour it slowly into the strawberries, stirring constantly as you pour. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Let cool before ladling over slices of the pie.

Last year at this time I made Strawberry Gelatine.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Squash Blossom Fritters

This week the zucchinis all put out a flush of blossoms. Close examination showed that they were all male blossoms. This is pretty typical; plants with monoecious flowers often do this. Since there weren't any female flowers to be fertilized, I felt free to pick them and eat them. They were a little tattier when I got them than was ideal for leaving them whole and stuffing them, so I chopped them up and put them in fritters. Mmm, delicious!

Today I see a few female blossoms are opening up; plenty more male blossoms coming along too.  Zucchini are on the horizon!

2 to 4 servings  (6 to 8 fritters)
20 minutes prep time

1/4 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, parsley or basil
16 large zucchini or squash blossoms
1 large egg

1/4 cup cottage cheese
1 or 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup mild vegetable oil to fry

Mix the flour, salt, pepper and baking powder in a small mixing bowl.

Wash and pick over the chives, and mince them. Wash the zucchini blossoms. Remove the stamens and discard them, as well as pinching off any stem ends. Chop them roughly.

Mix together the egg and the cheeses, and mix them into the flour along with the chives and chopped zucchini blossoms.

Heat the oil in a heavy medium sized skillet, and spoon out little rounds of the batter. Cook like pancakes until nicely browned on each side. Serve at once.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Stir-Fried Radishes with Their Greens

I always look at all the greens attached to radishes and think, I really should use them. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. I do have a few other uses (soup and gumbo) and here's another one. This has a definite Chinese flair to it, and would be best served with rice and other Chinese style dishes. If it's the only vegetable, it will serve 2; if there is another vegetable dish it would stretch to 4 people.

Radish greens don't keep super well. Buy (or pull!) the radishes the day you intend to make this. If they must keep for a day, cut the greens off and store them separately from the radishes. But use them as quickly as you can!

2 to 4 servings
20 minutes prep time

1 bunch radishes(12 medium)
2 or 3 green onions
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
2 to 4 slices fresh ginger (size of a quarter)
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Cut the greens from the radishes. Trim the radishes, and slice them about 1/4" thick. Wash and pick over the greens, and chop them coarsely. Drain them well. Trim and chop the green onions. Peel and mince the garlic, and the ginger.

Heat the oil in a medium sized skillet over high heat, and add the ginger and sliced radishes. Stir them  around for about 2 minutes, until the ginger is fragrant and the radishes lose a bit of their bright colour. Add the garlic and stir it in, then add the chopped radish greens and green onions. Add the soy sauce and cook until the greens are well wilted and the soy sauce is mostly absorbed. Serve at once.

Lasst year at this time I made Radish, Snow Pea & Goat Cheese Canapés, and Rhubarb & Lemon Balm Punch.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Seedy Chicken Salad with Sweet Sesame Dressing

Between the fairly cool and moist spring we  have been having so far, and the fact that we treated our lettuce bed with lime before planting, we are actually getting decent lettuce in large quantities this year. I think we are also starting to learn which varieties do well in our sandy, acidic soil.  The spinach, as usual, is bolting, but there is enough to still throw some into salads.

Since we are still doing lots of heavy digging in the garden we want our lunch time salad to have a lot of food value to it, hence the use of chicken, quinoa AND pumpkin and sunflower seeds. This is definitely a main course salad; nothing else need be served unless you want a dinner roll or something like that. If you wanted to tone it down and incorporate it into a meal with other dishes, there is no reason not to omit the chicken and do so.

4 servings
30 minutes advance prep
PLUS 15 minutes assembly time

Advance Cooking:
1 cup quinoa
1 2/3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
450 grams skinless boneless chicken breast (OPTIONAL)

Put the quinoa, water and salt in the rice cooker and turn it on. Cook and let cool. Alternately, put it in a covered pot, bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool.

Put the chicken, if  using, into a pot with about 1 cup of water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes  until cooked. Let cool.

It's a good idea to make the dressing in advance while these two items cook, but it could be done just before you assemble the salad. Allow another 15 minutes if you do it then.

Make the Dressing:
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 to 1 teaspoon very finely minced fresh ginger
1 clove of garlic, peeled and very finely minced
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
the juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons water

Put the oil, sesame oil, tahini and honey in a jar or small bowl, and mix well until the tahini and honey in particular are well-dissolved. Then add in the remaining ingredients and mix well.

The ginger and garlic should be in approximately equal quantities. Use the higher quantities if the dressing is to be used at once, the lower quantities if you are making it in advance as they will get stronger as the dressing sits.

Finish the Salad:
8 cups mixed salad greens; lettuce, spinach, arugula, etc.
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

I used a mixture of several different kinds of lettuce, with about 1/3 of greens being spinach, and thought it was a good combination, but use whatever greens you like and have. It is a good idea to toast the pumpkin and sunflower seeds until slightly browned in a dry skillet before adding them to the salad. Turn them out onto a plate to be spread out and cool once done.

Wash and drain the greens well, and tear or chop them a little on the small side. Toss them with the cold quinoa, the dried cranberries and the seeds.  Dice the cold chicken breasts and divide the pieces of chicken over the salad, either in a large flat serving dish or individual plates with the salad divided amongst them. Drizzle with the salad dressing.

Last year at this time I made Asparagus Ham & Cheese "Danish".

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Last Week of the Big Spring Push. I Hope.

As usual, we hoped to be planting the last main crops in the garden during the first week of June. As usual, we are probably at least a week behind. I'm not feeling too badly about it, though. We've not felt too pressured and have been working at an easy pace compared to last year. Most of our being behind can be attributed to the amount of rain we have had, and holding back on planting some things because the nights have been too cool to make hot-weather crops like melons, tomatoes, etcetera happy. On the other hand much of our not feeling pressured for time can also be attributed to not having to water constantly, as we did last year.

Peas are starting to flower, so we are looking forward to peas within a week or two. That will be nice; this is still the time of year when we have the least from the garden. Last years onions, leeks, parsnips, carrots, etcetera are gone, as is the overwintered spinach. Asparagus has already come and gone for us. The rhubarb is still holding out. *winces a little.*

Lettuce is the main thing available right now, along with arugula and some Chinese greens (Baby Bok Choy and mustard). We put some lime (calcium) on the leaf rotation beds last fall, and the lettuce does seem to be doing a better this spring than we've ever seen it before. Of course, the cool rainy weather helps too.

These are some new experimental crops for us.

The leafier ones are chick peas. I probably put them in too late. I keep thinking of them as beans, which need to go in late (i.e. around right now) but they are much more like actual peas, which need to go in as soon as you can find some soil  under the snow. Alright, it's a good idea if the soil is actually thawed out too. Still, they are looking not too bad. We shall see.

The other one is a cow-pea relative from Italy, called Fagiolina del Trasimeno. It's a quite tiny bean, used in its dry form although apparently it can be eaten fresh as well. The advantage to being tiny - not a quality I would have sought out myself - is that it cooks in 45 minutes without soaking. I got these trading with a friend, and I'm quite excited about trying them. I was also impressed that they were pretty much all up within 3 days.

There's the asparagus, quickly turning to a forest of ferns. The asparagus beetles, both striped and spotted are busy gnawing away, and laying eggs. The rhubarb is next to then, then some new beds which will ultimately be other perennial fruit and vegetable beds, but which will hold melons and some items we would like to go to seed, for saving purposes.

The wet bed area is living up to the name this year. It's been very squelchy and hard to get in to do the work. Peas went in early here, but are not looking great. I think it is finally too wet for them, and also a rabbit has been eating them. Mr. Ferdzy put out the live trap, and we took it for a drive in the country. One way. No doubt another will be along shortly but so far so good.

Speaking of pests, I think we have finally solved the riddle of the deer. This is also thanks to the wet spring we have had - we followed the footprints around through the trail of destruction and found one by this gate. Closer inspection showed that the netting between the posts was hanging loose. It looked okay at first glance, which is why we had missed it. Mr. Ferdzy attached it back, and added a few cross posts for good measure. The deer has not been back since. Co-incidence? We sincerely hope not.

We are using a somewhat disturbing quantity of petroleum based products in the garden this year, but I can't say I care much. They are helping so much. Row covers are the latest addition, and I think they will be required to make squash, melon and cucumber growing possible. The squash bugs and cucumber beetles are BAAAAACCCKKK! Not nearly as bad as last year so far, we hope, but enough to concern us. We've planted our cucumbers and zucchini, covered them with row covers, then set an extra plant still in a starter pot out next to them. These are easier for the bugs to get at, so most of them have gone for them, allowing us to check them several times a day and remove then into the famous Jar of Death (water with a drop of dish soap).

The other thing we are starting to do is cover all the paths between beds with landscape cloth, which we will then cover with fine gravel. The hope is that this will save me from spending almost half my time in the garden cutting the grass surrounding the beds.

These are the leaf beds, looking very sparse. We are mostly planting brassicas for the fall in them, and we got a late start on getting them going. Oh well. There is always something that gets lost in the shuffle.

Early planted potatoes are looking very good. The ones at the end were the ones we planted last fall and they do look like they are still at least 2 weeks ahead of the early spring planted potatoes.

Hoops are over the next bed which is going to contain sweet potatoes and peanuts as soon as it warms up enough to plant them. We expect to need to keep them under plastic a lot this year, if the weather keeps on as it has started.

This is where the last of the regular potatoes are planted. They just went in, as these are the Russet Burbanks that we will keep as our main winter storage potato. As such, the later we can take them out, the better. Slowly we are learning how to stagger our crops. A few straggling self-seeded lettuces have been left in place to be pulled as needed.

Tomatoes were planted almost 2 weeks ago, and we have had to keep them covered with the hoop-houses quite a bit, as night temperatures have gone down as low as 3°C. They are looking okay though. Eggplants and peppers on the other hand are seriously pathetic looking. Something went wrong with our potting soil this spring, and things did not grow well at all. Real dirt will cure them, but no doubt our harvest will also be pretty diminished.

Next door, the cucumbers and a few assorted other cucurbits (melons, squash) are hiding under row cover cloth from the bugs. If you look closely, you can see the decoy plant sitting on a piece of paving stone by the tomatoes. Last years irrigation experiment still needs to be cleaned up (pulled out).

And oh! Those weedy onions in the foreground. Yes, there are some in there. I think they are doing okay, but it's hard to tell with all those weeds. I hope I can get to them in the next day or so.

The garlic is looking good. Soon we will have garlic scapes. Holy cow, already?! Oh man, we are so behind... better get back to work. Beds to weed, seeds and seedlings to plant and water, trellises to put up, grass to cut...

Monday, 3 June 2013

Rhubarb Meringue Trifle

We're not selling any rhubarb this year, so we are awash in it. I'm eating it regularly stewed, and also freezing it for the winter. But every so often I feel the need to get a little fancier with it. How about trifle?

I didn't have any whipping cream, and I didn't particularly want to have any whipping cream, but trifle generally has whipping cream. On the other hand, I figured once I made the custard I'd have leftover egg whites, so meringue supplies that note of fluffiness instead.

I made this in a pie plate, because it was convenient. The meringue also makes it look more pie-like than most trifles, but use a spoon to serve it and to eat it - it's far too gloopy to actually be pie.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour prep time - allow time to cool

Stew the Rhubarb:
3 cups chopped rhubarb
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Wash, trim and chop the rhubarb, and put it in a pot with the sugar and water. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb has completely disintegrated. Set aside to cool. This can be made up to a day ahead, and stored, covered, in the fridge.

Make the Custard:
1/4 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons arrowroot, cornstarch OR flour
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups rich milk or light cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 Put an inch or so of water in the bottom of a double boiler, and get it started. Whisk together the sugar, salt, arrowroot (or etcetera), and egg yolks. Whisk the milk or cream in slowly, a little at a time to make a smooth, lump-free mixture. Put it in top of the simmering water, and whisk  until thickened.

Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat at once, and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Let cool for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Make the Meringue:
3 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar

Whisk the eggs until frothy with the cream of tartar, adding the sugar slowly, then  beat them until very stiff.

Assemble the Trifle:
200 grams (1/2 pound) ladyfingers, sponge cake OR angel food cake
1/4 cup sherry OR rum

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Slice or cube the cake and arrange the pieces in the bottom of a large pie dish (10") or 2 quart (litre) glass bowl, or individual serving bowls for that matter. (However, they MUST be oven-proof - they are going in there; that's why you turned it on.) Sprinkle them with the sherry or rum.

Spread the stewed rhubarb over the cake pieces as evenly as you can. Poke the cake pieces with a fork, to  help them absorb the juice. Slowly pour or spoon the custard over the rhubarb, again spreading it as evenly as possible.

Gently scoop the meringue onto the top of the trifle, using a spatula to spread it evenly over the trifle, and arranging it in artistic peaks and swirls assuming it is willing to co-operate. When the oven is hot, but the trifle in, and bake for 6 to 8 minutes until the meringue is nicely browned. Remove and let cool before serving.

Meringue does not refrigerate particularly well, but if the trifle is not all eaten on the first occasion upon which it is served, into the refrigerator it must go. Better soggy meringue than food poisoning.