How to Cook RhubarbMarch 1, 2019
Rhubarb is coming into season now, and to celebrate we sat down the rouge rogue to get the inside scoop…
Get to Know Rhubarb
What’s your name?
Rheum rhabarbarum of the family Polygonaceae. You probably know me by my short, thick rhizomes and long fleshy petioles.
Wow – that’s quite a mouthful.
Well, you can call me Rhubarb. You probably recognised my deep red stalks and spinach-like green leaves.
Gee thanks! Does this mean we’re friends?
Of course! I’m also good pals with apples, cinnamon, ginger, pears and all things sweet.
You do sound like a sweetie.
Stop it you.
But seriously, where have you been?
I admit I’ve been out of town for a while, but I always come back at around this time to lend my unique tart taste to compotes, tarts, jams and pies.
How versatile. Anything else we should know?
Well, I’m actually a bit of thespian.
You never are.
It’s true! In British theatre and early radio dramas, the words “rhubarb rhubarb” served as the perfect imitation of unintelligible background conversation. I’ve also starred in two films! Rhubarb and Rhubarb Rhubarb.
You don’t say.
It’s all true! Of course today I’m here on business, so I’ve lent my tart sharp taste to some rhubarb and apple charlottes with a hazelnut crumble.
All these films, the glamour, the excess – how do you do it?
Without my fans, I’m nothing darling!
Now that we’ve got the introductions out of the way, why not get to grips with how to cook rhubarb? It really is easier than you think.
Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
Why we love this recipe: Building your upside down cake in the pan means the presentation is already done when it comes out of the oven! Polenta gives extra texture to the cake, and almonds provide a nutty counterpoint to the sharp rhubarb.
- 3 – 4 stalks rhubarb, washed and ends trimmed
- 50g raw sugar
- 100g flaked almonds
- 250g salted butter, softened, plus a little more for greasing the baking tin
- 2 cups (300g) plain flour
- 45g fine polenta
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 290mL milk
- 1 vanilla pod, cut down its length and seeds scraped (you could also use 2 tsp vanilla extract)
- 360g white sugar
- 6 eggs, separated
- Icing sugar, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 170°C. In a small saucepan, and the milk and the scraped vanilla pod (both the seeds and the pod) and allow the milk to come to a simmer so that just a few bubbles appear at the edge of the pot. Immediately remove from the heat and allow to steep while you get on with the rest of the prep.
- Grease a large round baking tin with butter, then pour in the raw sugar and tap around to cover the inside of the pan. Pour out the excess. Roughly measure the distance from the edge to the middle of the pan and cut the rhubarb stalks to this length so you can arrange them in a star-like formation. (Or lay them in the bottom of the tin in any other pattern you fancy!) Pour in the flaked almonds over the top and set the tin aside.
- Combine the polenta, flour and baking powder in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and 330g white sugar until very pale and fluffy (this will take about 5 minutes, so be patient!). Then, add egg yolks one at a time, waiting until each one is fully incorporated before adding the next.
- Remove the vanilla pod from the milk. Add a third of the flour mixture, mix to combine, and then add half the milk. Repeat until all the flour and milk are just incorporated into the mixture.
- In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until foamy. Continue whisking, gradually adding the remaining 30g sugar until medium peaks form. The egg whites should held their shape when the beaters are lifted out, but the tip will just lean over when you hold the whisk up.
- Fold the egg whites into the batter mixture, half of the whites at a time. Spoon over the rhubarb and almonds into the baking tin and spread evenly. Bake until the cake is golden and the centre springs back when pressed, about an hour.
- After cooling in the tin, run a knife around the edges of the cake and turn out onto a serving plate. Dust with icing sugar and enjoy!
- 1 bunch rhubarb, washed, stems stripped and cut into 8cm pieces
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients. Cook on a low heat with the lid on, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender but still holds its shape, around 25 minutes.
- Allow to cool and serve with bread and good cheese.