For the crème caramel, put the milk
and marjoram sprigs into a saucepan,
then bring the milk just to the boil.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool
and infuse. Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/
gas 1. Put 4 x 125-150ml ramekin dishes
in a small roasting tin.
Meanwhile, make the caramel. Tip
100g of the sugar and 2 tbsp of water
into a medium, heavy-based saucepan.
Heat over a very low heat until the sugar
has dissolved – about 7-8 mins, then turn
the heat to high and boil, without stirring,
until the syrup turns a deep golden caramel
colour, 4-5 mins. Remove from the heat,
let the bubbles briefly subside, then
carefully pour the hot caramel into
ramekins. Leave to set, 5 mins. Whisk
together (using a wire whisk or fork) the
eggs and the remaining 50g of sugar for
the crème caramel. Pour the cooled milk
over the eggs and sugar, then whisk again.
Strain the milk mixture into a jug, then
pour into the ramekins. Pour enough
hot water into the roasting tin to come
halfway up the ramekins. Bake for 30 mins,
or until set with a slight wobble in the
middle. Carefully remove from the water,
leave to cool, then refrigerate for a few
hrs or overnight. Meanwhile, increase the
oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.
For the rhubarb, pour 200ml water into
a wide shallow pan. Tip in the sugar, the
star anise, scrape out the seeds from the
vanilla pod into the pan, then drop in the
pod. Heat very slowly until the sugar has
dissolved. Bring to the boil, then boil to
reduce by a third (takes about 6-8 mins).
Lay the rhubarb in the pan in a single
layer then simmer very gently for about
2-3 mins for young, thin pieces or up to
5 mins for thicker pieces, until just soft
but still holding its shape. Stir in a tiny bit
of red food colouring if you want to make
the syrup a shade pinker. Leave rhubarb
to marinate in the syrup until cold.
To make the crumble, rub the flour,
butter and sugar through your fingers to
make fine crumbs. Scatter onto a small
baking tray in an even layer and bake
about 12-15 mins, or until pale golden
brown. Remove and cool. All can be
prepared a day ahead to this stage.
To serve, drain the rhubarb, reserving
the syrup. If this is very thin, reduce in
a small pan to a thick-ish syrup. Turn
out each crème caramel onto a small
plate, then, using a wide palette knife
or spatula, carefully lift each one onto
a larger serving plate, placing it to one
side. Spoon a little of the drained caramel
on top. Arrange a small, neat pile of
5 rhubarb pieces per serving next to each
crème caramel. Scatter a little crumble
and a few marjoram leaves over the
rhubarb. (Any leftover crumble can be
used to sprinkle over other desserts.)
Finish with a drizzle of syrup around the
rhubarb and serve the rest separately.