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.

Blackberries in winter

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Blackberries are, for me, the most winter-y of all fruits.  There is something about their jewel-like shapes and dramatic colour that makes them particularly well suited for these darker months.  And although they are in season and most perfect, ripe for the picking, during the early autumn (when these recipes were in fact shot), they are easily found in the supermarkets right through the winter months, intended for porridge topping and jam making.  They have a sweet-tart thing going on, which makes them wonderful for desserts- they come into their own baked into cakes and crumbles.  But they can also be served with meat, in particular game and, as I’ve done here, in a simple winter salad.  The recipe for thumb cookies is a take on a traditional Swedish cookie called often made with raspberry jam called ‘hallongrottor’ which literally translates to rasbberry ‘caves.’  As a child I couldn’t resist them and always pestered my aunt to make them whenever she came to visit.  Potato flour (note, flour NOT starch!)  is super silky and adds a wonderful crumbly texture to the cookies. If you can’t find it, you can either substitute with more plain flour or try adding a little cornflour. 

All photographs here are by Faith Mason, do have a look at more of her work on her site!

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Kale, Cobnut and Blackberry Salad
Serves 4

You will need:
For the salad
2 large handfuls cobnuts (or use shelled hazelnuts if out of season)
1 bag kale- i used a mixture of green and purple
1 lime- juiced
1 punnet black berries

For the dressing
100g blackberries
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked 

Method:
1) Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6.  Crack open the cobnut and remove from their leafy and hard shells.  Place on an oven tray and toast for about 20 mins, until golden, tossing halfway through.  Allow to cool completely. 

2)  Meanwhile, tear the kale into smaller pieces, discarding any larger woody stems.  Place in a large bowl along with the lime juice and a generous pinch of salt.  Gently massage the leaves for a few minutes, until they start to break down and become more tender- you’ll notice a gradual change in colour as they go darker.  Add the blackberries and cobnuts and toss.

3)  Blitz the blackberries, balsamic and olive oil along with a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper.  Add the thyme leaves and blitz for another few seconds.  Use to dress the salad.

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double blackberryGinger, mint and blackberry fizz
Serves 2

You will need:
150g blackberries
small handfull mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 ball stem ginger, roughly choppped plus 1 tbsp of the syrup
1 tsp golden caster sugar
50 ml bourbon
ice
ginger ale
mint sprigs, to serve

Method:
1) Blitz together the blackberries, mint, ginger, syrup and sugar.  Strain through a fine mesh seive.  Add to a cocktail shaker with the bourbon and a large handful of ice.  Shake vigrously, then pour into two ice filled glasses.  Top with ginger ale and garnish with a mint sprig.

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Blackberry, vanilla and bay thumb cookies
Makes aprox 30 cookies

You will need:
150g blackberries (fresh or frozen)
4 fresh bay leaves
150g golden caster sugar
240g plain flour
80g potato flour
pinch vanilla powder
1 tsp baking powder
225g unsalted butter, cold and cubed

Method:
1) Place the blackberries, bay leaves and 50g of the sugar in a saucepan along with about 50ml of water.  Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the fruit has completely broken down and is very jammy.  Allow to cool completely. 

2)  Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and line a baking sheet with parchment.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining sugar, flours, vanilla and baking powder.  Add the cubed butter and mix together with your finger tips, working quickly to form a dough.  Alternatively, pulse in a magimix. 

3.  Roll the dough into small balls- about the size of a walnut.  Place these on the baking sheet before carefully making small indents into each with your thumb.  Don’t worry if the dough cracks a bit, the cookies will still hold together.  Fill each hole with a spoonfull of the jam.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just starting to turn golden.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

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