Rhubarb Rhubarb...Part 1
Updated: Jun 6, 2018
Nope, I'm not going to talk about the Eric Sykes film of the same name in which the word 'rhubarb' is the only one muttered, but something much more delicious (and equally exotic and mysterious).
Rhubarb is fruit that's actually a vegetable, native to Siberia, but eaten across the world. In the UK, its heyday came in between the 1st and 2nd World Wars as a result of increased crops of more palatable varieties and cheaper sugar supplies.
The shading of the stalks is dependent on the variety (I'm always rather jealous when I see someone cooking with an intensely red crop), while the leaves themselves are actually poisonous (due to the same chemical that gives the vegetable its acidity. Cooking time and quantity of liquid added in a recipe should be minimised in order to preserve the colour.
It's rhubarb season in the UK now and I love the slightly sour, but aromatic floral notes of this vegetable that seem to withstand cooking and retain their juicy fruitiness. You probably know most of the classic pairings already - almond, ginger, strawberry, vanilla - but there are other more curious combinations such as with cucumber, tossed together with salt, and eaten with rocket, lemon juice and mint; lamb, with the rhubarb cutting through the fattiness of the meat (the same goes for mackerel); and saffron, as suggested by New York Times writer Mark Bittman
My first bake of the new rhubarb season is a really simple one, but totally cakey, moist and delicious! However, the only rhubarb I could find in the urban sprawl that I live in was sadly a little too green, so as you can see from the photos, the end result was a little beige and not as pick as I was hoping. Fingers crossed for next time!
200g golden caster sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
50ml whole milk
180g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
300g rhubarb cut in to 3.5" long strips
8" deep springform
Heat oven to 180c (or 165c for fan) and grease and line the base of the cake tin.
Cream together the butter and sugar for several minutes until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and milk. Don't worry if the mixture curdles
Sift in the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt, and fold in.
Pour the mixture in to the prepared tin and lay the strips of rhubarb on top in any pattern you fancy.
Bake in the oven for 10 mins, then turn the temperature down to 150c and cook for a further 40 mins. Test to see if the cake is done with a skewer and cook for a little longer if it needs it (the skewer will be a little moist, especially if the rhubarb sinks down).
Take out and leave to cool, although I like to eat this while it's still slightly warm, which contrasts with cold ice cream or cream...boom!