Apple Sauce With Rhubarb Compote And Soured Cream

This is a very simple dessert that will surprise you. The beauty of this dish is that, like so many great culinary inventions, the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. The chunky apple sauce is served hot, alongside chilled rhubarb compote, with the soured cream third component at room temperature. The result is an elegant balance of temperatures, textures and flavours, with the tartness of the apple offset by the sweetness of the rhubarb, and a strong sour note constantly refreshing and surprising the palate. The difficult thing here is judging the amount of sugar to use, so taste and adjust as you cook. You want the rhubarb to be sweet and the apple to be tart.

Ingredients (6 portions)

4 medium cooking apples*
4 large stalks of rhubarb
1 lemon
300 ml soured cream
½ quill of cinnamon**
3 cloves
150 gm sugar
knob of butter

* I used Bramley apples for this dish, but you could substitute Granny Smiths or other cooking apples.
** Sri Lankan cinnamon is recommended.


We start with the rhubarb, as this part of the dish is served chilled and thus requires more time than the apple sauce.
Cut the leaf end off. If the stalk is green at this end then cut down further.

The other end of the stalk will probably be dried out (like asparagus spears). If so, cut a few mm off until you expose moist flesh.

Wash the trimmed stalks, cut into manageable lengths and split them in half lengthways as shown.
Now chop the split stalks into a Macédoine (1cm dice).

Repeat this with all of the rhubarb, placing the diced pieces in a bowl.
Now melt a generous knob of butter (about 20gm) in a large pan.

Add the rhubarb and allow it to "sweat" for a few minutes, stirring regularly. Make sure the flame is not too high as you do not want to brown the rhubarb.
Now add two thirds of the brown sugar and a very small amount of water (2 or 3 tablespoons).

Turn the heat down very low.

The rhubarb will slowly break down to form a sauce.
When the rhubarb looks like this, remove it from the heat, put into a dish and chill. You should leave it uncovered at this stage, applying clingfilm to the dish when cool.

The photo shows the texture you want in your compote. This texture adds importantly to the taste experience when you eat it. You don't want to make a purée!

Now for the apple. This will discolour rapidly when peeled and cored, so you want to have the lemon ready first.

For those who don't know, it's not the citric acid in the lemon that inhibits oxidisation of the apple flesh, but the ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

Start by zesting a lemon with a zester or a grater as shown, setting the zest aside for use in a minute.
Now squeeze the lemon, removing the pips. There are modern devices for this, but I've got a classical lemon squeezer that dates from the 1950s.

Now for the apples. Don't they just look fantastic?
There are many ways to core an apple, but a peeler like this inserted concave face inwards and dragged around the core works very well.

You need to repeat the process on the other side, extract the core and scrape any residual core and pips from the tunnel.

Now quickly peel the apples.
Cut each apple into quarters, place in a large pan and add the lemon juice and zest.

Now add the remaining brown sugar.
Grind the cinnamon and cloves, preferably using a mortar and pestle but otherwise using a mechanical or electrical grinder. You may find that you need to give the ground spice a quick chop after grinding to ensure that all pieces are small.

Now add the ground spice to the pan.

The best result comes from fruit reduced in its own liquid, but you may need to add a very small amount of boiling water.

Bring to the boil, cover the pan, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Check for sweetness and adjust with brown sugar. The sauce should not be too sweet.
When cooked, the apple sauce should have plenty of texture and a golden colour as shown in the photo.

Turn the hot apple sauce into a bowl.

Now our fruit ingredients are ready to serve. Note how the rhubarb has darkened substantially during the chilling phase.
Serve the cold rhubarb compote alongside the hot apple sauce, with soured cream at room temperature. You can design your own arrangement.

The important point about the presentation is that each mouthful should create experiences of different temperatures, different textures (the rhubarb stringy and the apple chunky) and flavours.

If you get it right, you will be amazed!