Rhubarb Semifreddo and Pistachio Cream with Honey Madeleines

by thomandaimee

Was there ever a time when you watched a Masterchef episode and thought to yourself: ‘that looked really pretty, I wished I could do that’. Some desserts are plated with such detail that it almost looks like a painted portrait. Every single item is delicately placed to create a piece of art; it becomes an all-sensory immersion of sight, smell, taste and texture.

In one single plate, there lies multiple desserts that combine to become the masterpiece. There would probably be a sponge cake sitting on a shortbread or a puff pastry, topped with a sorbet, poached fruits, jelly cubes, sauces, flowers, tiny tuile bits and maybe puree. Basically, it looks and is very complicated, and everything is, in all possibilities, hand made from scratch. Then it hits you why it costs so much just to eat sweets in a fine-dining restaurant. Even the bloody sorbet is lovingly concocted in the kitchen.

We could be a little too ambitious to try our hand on such artistic masterpieces. It gave N plenty of tasks to accomplish in a short frame of time, especially since when we weren’t making any shortcuts by purchasing some of the items over-the-shelf. Yes, you read that right, whatever was on the that plate were painstakingly laid out by N, right down to the very chopped pistachio nuts.

The star of the dish was obviously the rhubarb semifreddo, a mousse-y ice-cream-like cake, that captured the tartiness of the vegetable perfectly. The quenelle of homemade pistachio cream (that is made with pistachio paste from our kitchen) might be as aesthetically pleasing as we would want it to be, but the minty green of the cream matches so well with the pastel pinks of the semifreddo. The honey madeleines gave the dessert bite, with its warm sponge and subtle sweetness. Poached rhubarb ties the dish together and brings vibrancy into the plate. A pity we accidentally dumped the juice away, that would have made for a lovely touch and perhaps bring it to completion.

Another challenge was assembling the different components on the plate. Some chefs draw out their creations on paper, while some simply have the talent. Well, we really just did what fools do – we just do it with no actual thought process. The final portrait was probably not of a Blumenthal quality, but as a start, it wasn’t really that bad.s Plus it was fun to exclaim sabayon in Raymond Blanc’s french accent at every opportunity.

Rhubarb Semifreddo and Pistachio Cream with Honey Madeleines
Adapted from Frances Atkins
Serves 6-8

For the Rhubarb Semifreddo
500g of rhubarb
220g of caster sugar
2 egg yolks
30g of honey
250ml of whipping cream

For the Pistachio Cream
2 gelatine leaves
125ml of single cream
90g of pistachio paste
225g of crème fraîche

For the Honey Madeleines
30g of caster sugar
1 tsp of Demerara sugar
1 egg
45g of butter, melted plus extra for greasing
1 tsp of honey
1/2 vanilla pod
45g of plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 tsp of baking powder


Chop the rhubarb, put in a pan along with 200g of the sugar, cover and simmer until reduced by half. Be careful not to leave your eyes off this pot now. Blend into a thick purée.

Line a 225g loaf tin with 3 or 4 layers of cling film in both directions to ensure a watertight seal

To make the sabayon, whisk the egg yolks, honey and 20g of the sugar together in a bowl over hot water until light and fluffy. It should triple in volume and thicken.

Semi-whip the cream into soft peaks.

Fold the rhubarb purée into the sabayon, followed by the semi-whipped cream. Place in the lined terrine tin, cover with more cling film and freeze for 2 hours.

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes to soften. Gently warm the cream and the pistachio paste together in a pan, add the 2 leaves of gelatine and stir until dissolved. Pour into a bowl to cool, then fold in the crème fraîche. Place in a covered container in the fridge for 1½ hours to set before use.

To make the madeleines, cream together the two sugars with the egg until fluffy and smooth. Pour in the melted butter and honey and continue to mix. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod. Mix in the flour, baking powder and vanilla seeds. Leave to rest in the fridge for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/Gas mark 6. Butter and flour a madeleine tray, then pipe or spoon the madeleines into the prepared tray. Cook for 10-12 minutes until risen and golden. Turn the tin upside down and bang the madeleines out. Allow to cool on a rack for 15 minutes before serving. Assemble all components of the dish on a plate to serve.


Never ever take off your eyes while the rhubarb is simmering over the heat with the lid on. It disintegrates really fast and the covered lid stores the heat in the pot, which may result in rhubarb exploding all over your kitchen counter. Yes, this is spoken with experience, so heed well.