Seasonal delights………..Rhubarb

Next on my seasonal hit list is rhubarb, actually a vegetable that we treat like a fruit (the opposite of the tomato, the fruit we tend to use as a vegetable) and a part of the sorrel family, hence perhaps the sharpness of it’s stem. It is this long red/green stems that we cook down to a deliciously tart sauce, that once sweetened can be added to cream and yogurt for a fruit fool or diced and roasted in the oven with cinnamon, sugar and a hint of orange. My favourite way to cook with rhubarb though is in a crumble, and here it is combined with a simple sponge cake, strawberries and almonds to provide the most satisfying combination of dishes.

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Rhubarb, strawberry and almond crumble cake

Serves: 10

125g softened butter

125g caster sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

125g self-raising flour

500g trimmed rhubarb, sliced into 2 cm peices

150g strawberries, hulled and halved

crumble topping

150g plain flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

100g chilled butter, diced

100g caster sugar

25g porridge oats

100g nibbed or flaked almonds

icing sugar, to dust

crème fraiche or Greek yogurt, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan-forced and grease and line a 22cm cake tin with baking paper. Start by making the crumble. Sift the flour and cinnamon into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture forms crumbs. Stir the in the sugar, oats and almonds and set to one side.

Make the sponge. Place the butter, sugar, eggs and flour into a food mixer or processor and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Spoon the sponge mix into the prepared cake tin and smooth flat.

Scatter the rhubarb and the strawberries over the sponge mix and then cover with the crumble mixture so you can still see a little of the fruit. Bake for 11/4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Serve still slightly warm, dusted with icing sugar, and some crème fraiche or Greek yogurt.

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Seasonal delights……..asparagus

As the ground starts to warm after the winter chill, the garden is abloom with spring flowers and the first signs of life in the veg plot start to twist and turn their way towards the sun. It is still too early for any homegrown asparagus but as I drive around the local area I noticed several of the local producers have started to advertise their early crop and it won’t be long before bundles of vibrant green asparagus stalks are all over the markets.

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It is without doubt my first real treat of the season and I am going to pair some tender young stalks with soft poached duck eggs. For something a little different to normal I have scattered over a little dukkah, an Egyptian blend of toasted nuts and spices, which marries perfectly the soft creaminess of the egg and the sweet, almost citric flavour of the asparagus. A bed of creamy tahini yogurt and a slug of fruity olive oil makes this combination truly delicious.

Asparagus with duck eggs, tahini and dukhah

Serves: 2

4 tablespoons Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon tahini paste

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 duck eggs

1 bundle young asparagus, trimmed

2 teaspoons dukhah*

a drizzle extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Combine the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice and salt and pepper, to taste. Divide between 2 plates.

Cook the duck eggs in a small pan of boiling water for 7-8 minutes. Drain and immediately refresh under cold water to stop further cooking. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel the eggs and cut in half.

Plunge asparagus spears into a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and shake dry.

Arrange the asparagus spears over the tahini sauce, pop the egg halves on top  and scatter over the dukhah. Drizzle with a little oil and serve.

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  • dukhah is available from Middle eastern stores, delis and some supermarkets

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