This is one of the most extraordinary things that can be made with rhubarb. The tangy fresh flavours, the pink hue and, most of all, the addictive gooey consistency make this pudding one of my favourite spring sweet treats. One of the rare desserts I prefer when still warm.
Probably a majority of my dear readers have never even heard of kisiel, so I will start with the explanation. Kisiel (pronounced “kishyel”) is a very popular Polish pudding, made with fruit soft drinks or whole fruits with water (and nowadays, alas, most people buy its powdered instant versions…). It is thickened with potato starch (hence the gooey consistency), served warm or cold and usually has a fresh, tangy note. Its unique texture – vaguely reminiscent of Lemon Curd - is as important for me as its flavour. It is a very light, fat-free pudding that can easily be made even lighter if you use a sweetener instead of sugar.
I have learnt only recently that similar fruit dishes exist for example in Germany, Estonia, Lithuania or Finland, but sometimes they mean slightly thickened soft drinks and not puddings. When I saw a Finnish Rhubarb Kiisseli recipe in my Moomins Cookbook (for those of you who don’t know it yet, I am particularly fond of Moomin characters; I have already mentioned this book here), this discovery gave me the idea to include the Moomin family into the photo. The beautiful tray you see above was one of the most touching presents I have ever been offered. I was completely blown away when I received it from my dear friend Charles (from Five Euro Food), who bought it during one of his trips to Sweden. This tray, my infallible mood improver, was perfect to serve kisiel, since both bring back my childhood memories. Thank you so much again, Charles, for your thoughtful kind gesture.
Since all this has put me in a happy “Moomin” mood, here is the cartoon’s theme song:
Even though the Finnish kiisseli was my inspiration for this post, I have used my own old recipe which is a bit different. I prefer to have this pudding warm, but it can also be served cold.
If you feel like playing with rhubarb, you might like this quick and easy Rhubarb Soft Drink (which by the way is the first step of this pudding’s instructions):
or this refreshing Wobbly Rhubarb Delight I made with agar agar (kanten), and which, I insist, is not a jelly, but a less dense, incredibly light dessert:
TIPS: Potato starch thickening properties can vary, so you might need to adjust its amount during the cooking process. Start with the below amount and if after 3-4 minutes of cooking, the texture is still too liquid, dissolve one more tablespoon starch in a glass with two tablespoons of cold water and add to the pan, constantly stirring (see the instructions below).
This pudding can be served both warm and cold, but I prefer it warm. Taste both to choose your favourite way.
BEWARE! Do not eat or cook rhubarb leaves! They are toxic. Only stalks are edible.
Preparation: 1about 40-50 if you need to prepare the Rhubarb Soft Drink, 15 – 20 min if you already have it
Ingredients (serves four):
500 g (about 1 lb) fresh rhubarb, leaves removed, stalks cut into 2-3 cm pieces (about 1 inch)
2 litres (4 cups) water
sugar or sweetener
4 slightly heaped tablespoons potato starch
First prepare the rhubarb soft drink (if you already have it, skip this step).
Put the rhubarb into a big pan with water.
Bring to a boil at medium heat and cook until the rhubarb completely softens.
Strain while still hot, put aside and wait until the rhubarb drink cools to the room temperature. (You can also prepare it in advance, refrigerate and follow the dessert instructions the following day or even two days afterwards).
Measure 1 liter (4 cups) rhubarb drink and pour it into a pan. (Do not throw away the remaining soft drink, which is delicious!).
Add sugar or sweetener to your taste.
Dissolve the potato starch in additional 4 tablespoons rhubarb drink (make sure it is no longer hot!).
Bring the rhubarb drink to a boil. Pour slowly the dissolved potato starch, constantly stirring.
Cook it until thickened (about 4 minutes).
If your pudding is still liquid after four minutes, put the pan aside.
Dissolve one more tablespoon in 1 tablespoon cold rhubarb drink or water and add it to the pan, stirring. Heat, constantly stirring until it thickens.
Serve warm or cold.