I adapted this from Nigella’s recipe that’s loaded with sugar and based on dairy cream, which many people with dairy sensitivity don’t tolerate very well. If you are one of these check out my dairy-free rhubarb food recipe. I’ve been working for some time on a dairy-free version of cream and now I think I’ve cracked it – the result has that lovely “mouth-feel” you get from cream and is pretty good for you too. Use the rosiest, pinkest rhubarb you can find for your rhubarb food. Or (if you can be bothered) use cochineal, a natural pink food colouring, or some beetroot powder (health stores), to achieve the desired effect. See “larder & shopping” for more info on unusual ingredients like cochineal.
1 kg rhubarb, washed, trimmed and coaresly sliced
4 heaped tbs xylitol* or 30 drops of pure stevia
1 teasp vanilla extract*
500ml whipping cream
Optional: 4 sprigs of mint to decorate
Optional colouring: cochineal extract or beetroot powder (from health shops)
*Check out my “larder & shopping” section for where to buy all unusual ingredients
- Preheat the oven to 190C. Mix the rhubarb and the xylitol together in an ovenproof dish.
- If the rhubarb is wet don’t add water, otherwise add a few tablespoons (45ml). Cover with foil or a tight fitting lid and bake for 45-60 minutes until the fruit is completely soft. Allow to cool slightly before straining off the juice if there is a lot. [If you like, you can use this juice to add to a glass of prosecco or champagne, or for drizzling over natural yoghurt or porridge].
- Puree the rhubarb with 1 tsp vanilla extract and process until smooth. Ajust the sweetness if its too sour for you, and, if you like, the natural colouring to make everything pink. I recently used green rhubarb and needed about 30 drops of cochineal to get the pink colour I wanted. If you don’t own a liquidiser or food processor you could simply beat it with a spoon for a rustic effect. Chill this mixture. Put a large bowl (for whipping your cream) in the fridge as you get a better effect if everything is very cold.
- Whisk the cream in the chilled bowl till thick but not stiff. Carefully swirl in the chilled rhubarb puree and pile into 4 glasses. If you have some mint, place a sprig on each. Refrigerate until needed.
To make this recipe even healthier, use stevia drops instead of xylitol. Note: if you use stevia, take the dessert out of the fridge half an hour before you want to eat. You will taste the stevia’s sweetness better if the food is not too cold.
Why this recipe is better for you
Using xylitol (or stevia) instead of sugar means you are not releasing vast amounts of sugar into your bloodstream by eating this dessert. Xylitol is safe for diabetics for this reason. Amazingly, sugar is much more harmful for your heart then cream! It is not cholesterol per se, but the oxidisation (damage) of cholesterol and the inflammatory process, that damages arteries. There are two types of LDL (so-called “bad” cholesterol) – one type is large and fluffy and harmless and essential for your brain function, the other has tiny sticky particles that are problematic in excess. Only private labs test for these important cholesterol subfractions. The total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol figures you get from your doctor are not really very useful in predicting cardiac risk. Ferritin levels, trigluceride and GGT levels are much much better predictors. Unfortunately it takes average 20-25 years for scientific research to become common in medical practice. Sugar increases oxidation of cholesterol and cell damage. So if you want a healthy heart, reducing sugar is one of the keys. We now eat much less saturated fat than 50 years ago and yet heart disease has skyrocketted. Sugar also depletes B vitamins. B vitamins are needed to keep artery-damaging homocysteine at low levels. If you decide to use stevia instead of xylitol, this zero-calorie sweetener is even healthier. See “larder & shopping” for details.