Slice the rhubarb thinly and put it, the brown sugar, water, & spices in a saucepan on lowest heat for about an hour, with the lid on, until the rhubarb has totally collapsed. Strain the liquid into a bowl or jug. Remove the cinnamon & star anise & then set the rhubarb aside to cool.
Create a batch of sweet shortcrust pastry (see link for recipe). Once you’ve mixed it all up, put it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
Roll out your pastry & place in your tart or pie dish. Cover with parchment paper & fill with rice or baking weights & bake for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool while melting chocolate.
Melt 375g (about 13.2 oz) of semi-sweet good quality chocolate. When the chocolate is melted, pour it into the base of the tart. Don’t fill it too much, you want just a thin layer. Refrigerate until chocolate sets.
Make custard. You could do this from scratch, or use 1 box of custard powder & make according to the directions on the package.
Once your chocolate/pastry has hardened, put a layer of the cooled rhubarb on top of the chocolate. Pour the custard over the rhubarb & put in the refrigerator to set. You need the custard to set to about the firmness of Jell-O before you top with strawberries.
Decorate the top with strawberries. It’s hard to say exactly how many you will need, but about three baskets should do it. Once the custard has set, layer the strawberries, halved, on top of the custard in a circle starting from the outer edge until right in the middle. Make a second layer on top to cover any visible gaps where you can see the custard.
Sprinkle with fine white sugar & put back in the refrigerator. The strawberries will absorb the sugar & turn into a sort of glaze. If you want to get fancy, you can use a dessert torch to heat the sugar & caramelize it into a nice crust. Serve with vanilla ice cream on the side.
Chef’s Note: You can omit the rhubarb and use more strawberries to turn this into just a strawberry tart.
Cream the shortening, water & sugar together until light & fluffy. Add the molasses & egg yolk & mix until well blended.
In a separate bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. If using a stand mixer, use stir. The dough will be sticky.
DO NOT ADD MORE FLOUR REGARDLESS OF HOW TEMPTED YOU MAY BE!!! Too much flour will make the cookies tough. Form into 2 flat disks & put in the freezer for at least an hour or more.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
When the dough is cold enough to handle, roll it to about ¼” thick between 2 pieces of wax paper (the wax paper keeps you from having to use more flour). I roll mine a little thinner because I like a little crispness on the edges.
Gently press together the scraps into another disk & put back in the freezer until ready for use. Bake for 8-10 minutes on parchment lined cookie sheets. Cool on pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cool completely before decorating.
Chef’s Note: I use shortening instead of butter or margarine because shortening is flavorless and doesn’t impact the spices. I think butter is best served in sugar cookies. If you decide to substitute butter or margarine for the shortening, omit the water from the recipe.