Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb

Rhubarb tart with frangipane topping.
Rhubarb tart with frangipane topping.

Eating out-of-season fruit is nothing new. My generation bottled fruit ferociously to vary the winter diet. Then came the advent of the home freezer, which added another dimension to preservation.

Enter the vacuum pack. We are all familiar with vacuum-packed meat but today's recipe uses vacuum-packed rhubarb. Full marks to the marketers. I'm a sceptic when it comes to new products, so hooking me was something of a triumph for them. I found the rhubarb to be young and tender with very little aftertaste.

If you have frozen your own rhubarb and find the aftertaste bitter, simply soak the uncooked fruit in orange juice for an hour or so before cooking.

The secret of cooking rhubarb is to dissolve the sugar in the cooking liquid before adding the fruit. (Yes, I know that rhubarb is really a vegetable.) Bring gently to a simmer and then remove from heat and allow to stand. This way the pieces remain whole instead of becoming a mush of stringy bits.

Tarts on the whole tend to be labour intensive but today's version is fail-safe and quick. I made my pastry in the processor and cooked the rhubarb ahead of time so it was cool. The topping can be whisked together by hand in a small bowl.


For rhubarb filling

juice and zest of 1 orange

4 cups chopped rhubarb

cup sugar (or to taste)

1 heaped tsp cornflour

For pastry
1 1/2 cups flour

125g diced cold butter

1/4 cup icing sugar

1 egg yolk

iced water

For topping

125g softened butter

125g caster sugar

2 eggs

125g ground almonds

2 Tbsp flour

For rhubarb filling

1. Soak rhubarb in orange juice for an hour.

2. Toss occasionally.

3. Drain juice into a small saucepan then add zest and sugar.

4. Bring to a simmer.

5. Add fruit and bring back to boiling point.

6. Liquid should barely cover fruit, so add a little water if necessary.

7. Mix cornflour with a little water then add to pan.

8. Stir gently and bring back to a simmer.

9. Remove pan from heat and allow mixture to cool.

For pastry

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.

2. Put flour and butter in a processor.

3. Blitz until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

4. Add icing sugar and egg yolk and pulse.

5. Add 1-2 Tbsp iced water and process until mixture clumps.

6. Turn out and roll to fit a 21cm tart tin with loose base.

7. Prick base with a fork.

8. Bake tart shell until golden - about 25 minutes.

For topping

1. Beat butter and sugar until creamy.

2. Add eggs one by one, beating well after each addition.

3. Stir in almonds and flour.

To assemble

1. Spoon cooled rhubarb evenly into baked case.

2. Spoon topping evenly over fruit and return to oven.

3. Bake until centre is firm to touch - about 25-30 minutes.

4. Briefly cool in tin, than place tart on a cooling rack.

5. Serve with cream.

The Southland Times