Marjoram-scented crème caramel with chilled rhubarb crumble

This stylish make-ahead dessert by Great British Menu’s Glynn Purnell is the perfect way to end a sophisticated dinner party

  • Prep:35 mins
    Cook:1 hrs
  • Serves 4
  • More effort

Nutrition per serving

  • kcal 555
  • fat 12g
  • saturates 6g
  • carbs 110g
  • sugars 100g
  • fibre 2g
  • protein 9g
  • salt 0.31g


  • 300ml full-fat milk
  • 2-3 marjoram or oregano sprigs (leaves on), plus extra small leaves to decorate
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • about 6 long sticks rhubarb, cut into 7cm lengths (you need 5 lengths per serving)
  • red food colouring, optional
  • 50g plain flour
  • 25g butter, cut in pieces
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar


It’s easy to get confused between marjoram and oregano. Marjoram is more aromatic with greener, plumper leaves – but either can be used to flavour the custard. You could also use rosemary, basil or lavender.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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