Summer Rhubarb

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When I was younger we had rhubarb growing in our garden.  It was a seemingly magical plant, with massive leaves and bright stalks and I was always amazed that this almost tropical-looking beast could be eaten.  We put it in crumbles and pies mostly, normally picking the stalks on rainy days when baking seemed like a good activity for two bored and restless little girls.  I was incredibly sad when it was cut down a few years ago by an over-enthusiastic lawn-mowing family member.  Still searching for forgiveness for that one and that particular patch of the garden seems strangely empty now.

We’re right at the end of the rhubarb season – you may still be able to get a few pink stalks in the supermarket.  For me, it’s a summer fruit rather than a spring one, as the season is a bit later on in Sweden than in the UK (as with all fruits and veg due to our northerly location).  Rhubarb is not just for puddings, it goes exceptionally well with oily fish like mackerel and can be made into sharp cocktails and cordials.  Perfect for sipping on a hot summer’s day.  The tart flavour may not be to everyone’s taste – my husband hates the stuff even when it has been doused in sugar- but I urge you to give one or two of the easy recipes below a go and see if you aren’t converted. 

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Rhubarb and Ginger Custard Crumb Cake
Makes16 to 18 slices

You will need:

For the crumble
100g unsalted butter, melted, plus a little extra
125g golden caster sugar
140g plain flour

For the cake:
400g rhubarb, quartered lengthways then cut into 3cm bars
2 tbsp light brown sugar
2 balls stem ginger, finely chopped and 2tbsp stem ginger syrup
200g plain flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
175g  unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g icing sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
250ml good quality custard

Metod:

1. Preheat oven to 175C. Butter a 22cm square cake tin and line with baking parchment.  To make the crumble, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Add flour and mix with a fork until large crumbs form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Toss the rhubarb with the brown sugar, 1 chopped stem ginger ball and 40g of the flour. Combine the remaining flour, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt in a small bowl.  Beat butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy.  Slowly add the eggs and vanilla, beating well after each addition.  Finally, add the flour mixture a little at a time, alternating with the custard.  Stir in the remaining stem ginger and the ginger syrup. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin and then spread with the rhubarb mixture.  Finally top with the crumble.

3. Top with rhubarb mixture, then top with prepared streusel.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until golden and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the cake (beware that the custard will still be a little moist, however).  Allow to cool completely then cut into slices.  

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Rhubarb and Vanilla Cream Soda

You will need:

200g rhubarb, cut into 1 cm chunks
75g golden caster sugar
1 split vanilla pod, seeds scraped
soda water or fizzy water and ice, to serve

Method:

Put the rhubarb chunks, sugar, vanilla pod and seeds into a saucepan along with 100ml of water.  Slowly simmer until the rhubarb is soft and completely collapsed, adding more water if necessary.  Allow to cool a little then strain in batches through a fine mesh sieve to get all the lovely pink syrup out.  It may help to add more cold water to the mixture. Allow to cool completely. Pour the syrup into a bottle and chill until needed.  When ready to serve, pour over ice into tumblers and top with soda water.

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Rhubarb and Cardamom Compote

You will need:

400g rhubarb, cut into 1 cm chunks
juice and zest of 1 orange
2 cardamom pods, crushed and ground in a pestle and mortar
3 tbsp golden caster sugar

Method:

Place all of the ingredients in a medium sized pan and simmer over a low heat for about 20 mins, until the rhubarb starts to collapse and is soft and spreadable.  Add a splash or two of water if starting to look dry.  Serve with yoghurt for breakfast or over ice cream for a simple pudding.   Keeps in the fridge for up to 4 days.

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