Rhubarb is classified as a vegetable, although I have never been able to regard it as such.
It was greatly valued in my childhood as the first edible that sprang from the early spring garden, when preserves were running low and summer fruit was months away.
Most folk had a rhubarb clump in their section, usually in a corner, away from the main vegetable garden.
Black and lumpy in winter, the first signs of growth on the plant's crown is fattening red buds that give way to fresh tender green leaves.
It's an amazing transformation and one that has never ceased to fascinate me.
Rhubarb has enjoyed something of a revival in the past few years, thanks in no small part to television chefs' voracious appetite for novelty, but also to the release of new varieties that promise ruby red stalks.
Even at its ripest rhubarb is sour, so sweetening is essential.
Incidentally, marinating chopped stalks in citrus juice prevents pulping and shredding.
Why this works I can't tell you, but I do know it is the most effective method of keeping rhubarb whole.
RHUBARB CAKE WITH FRUIT GLAZE (serves 6)
400g chopped ripe rhubarb
1/2 cup orange juice
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup sugar
Put rhubarb in a glass or china bowl.
Pour juices over and sprinkle with sugar.
Cover with cling film and swirl ingredients until combined. Set aside.
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
75g cold cubed butter
Set oven at 180 degrees Celsius.
Put first 5 ingredients in a food processor and blitz until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Whisk egg, add to mixture and process until it resembles dough.
Press into a greased 21cm cake tin with removable base. Push dough up the sides until you have a hollow in the centre.
Drain rhubarb and save juice for the glaze.
Fill the hollow with the drained rhubarb.
Bake for 45 minutes.
50g melted butter
1 tsp ground cardamom
Beat ingredients together until creamy.
Remove cake from oven and pour topping over. Return to oven and bake for a further 20 minutes.
Allow cake to cool in tin then place on a serving plate.
To make glaze
Put saved fruit juice in a small pan and bring to a simmer.
Add 3Tbsp apricot jam and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Brush cake with hot glaze.
Serve with custard or cream.
- The Southland Times