Red alert: baking with rhubarb
Rhubarb is thought to have originated in Asia where it was valued for its medicinal properties — as it was in classical Greece and Rome then later in England. It wasn’t until 1800 that rhubarb appeared in recipes in English cookbooks — sweetened in desserts.
However, botanically rhubarb is a vegetable: in Poland it is eaten with potatoes; and in Afghanistan it is added to spinach. Both the stalks and leaves contain oxalic acid that gives rhubarb its zing. The stalks contain no more oxalic acid than found in spinach or kale. The leaves contain considerably more and should never be eaten.
Spring’s early rhubarb stalks are tender and colourful but as the season progresses the stalks become more astringent and stringy. Once rhubarb is cooked and the true flavours revealed, its tartness marries well with strawberries, tamarillos, raspberries and a host of other fruits.
The first local strawberries appear in spring. Those grown in hothouses tend to be flavoursome but more delicate. So they are great for snacking on or puréeing and drizzling over cheesecakes, pavs and icecream. Choose the firmer outdoor-grown strawberries for tarts and bakes.
Strawberries and rhubarb are a match made in heaven especially in desserts and preserves.
Enjoy the last month or so of red tamarillos. Again rhubarb combines extremely well with tams, although both being tart, they require a little extra sweetening.
No need to serve these with jam — just whipped cream. Get the recipe
Rhubarb provides a tasty sauce for chicken. Get the recipe
Delicious served with whipped cream or sweetened yoghurt. Get the recipe
Simple strawberry shortcake
Made in the microwave. Serves 6-8.
½ cup icing sugar, sifted
⅛ teaspoon almond essence
1½ cups plain flour
50g ground almonds
1 small pottle (250g) strawberries, hulled & sliced
300ml cream, whipped
Icing sugar for dusting
- Cream the butter, icing sugar and almond essence together, until light. Gradually work in the flour and ground almonds, until the mixture clings together.
- Divide the dough in half. Press each into a 20cm diameter disc on a piece of baking paper. Prick each one with a fork.
- Microwave each one separately on low power for about 5 minutes. Stand for 2 minutes.
- Gently place a 20cm cake pan over each disc and neaten the edges. Cut one disc into 8 wedges.
- When cool, place the whole disc on a serving plate. Cover with half the strawberries, the whipped cream then the remaining strawberries. Arrange the shortbread wedges on top and dust with icing sugar.