Colour. Sometimes a flash of vibrant colour inspires a wonderful creative moment, a mood, a story. At least it does for me – how about you? Colour and light, both so influential. There’s no getting away from it, England in February is not bathed in either glorious warm light nor rich bright colour. And I love both. But there are compensations – it’s taken me a little time to appreciate it but I do now see a quiet beauty in the subdued mood of a dull grey day. And actually, this light intensifies the vibrancy of colours – which can be all washed out under a bright sunlit sky.
So after a walk through a lonely feeling landscape, I met a glorious heap of rich red rhubarb at the farm shop. It brightened my whole day, my whole week. What a revelation. I’ve always quite liked rhubarb – without much passion – but this week, as my little boy like to say, like has turned to love.
Returning with a lovely brimming basket of produce, I set about photographing and baking. Two pleasures! How to do justice to this lovely rhubarb? I settled upon a tart of crisp puff pastry, filled with aromatic sweet almond cream and topped with rhubarb and muscovado sugar. I could hardly photograph the finished tart, so eager I was to share it and enjoy eating it! If you have a chance, do try making this – I think you’ll be very pleased.
A most delicious Rhubarb and Almond Tart
Rhubarb and Muscavado Sugar Compote
5-6 stalks of rhubarb. I’ve used the gorgeous, bright red forced rhubarb that’s currently in season. Wash and chop into 1 inch bits.
a scant cup of light brown muscovado sugar (This depends a bit on how tart the rhubarb is and how sweet you like things. Add a bit, and add more to suit.)
In a heavy pan, warm the sugar with a spoon or so of water and allow to melt into a syrup. Add the rhubarb and simmer over medium heat until it softens. Don’t overdo it, let it keep a little shape. Set aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the tart. Or just eat – it’s lovely with ice cream or custard. ( I ate the first batch this way!)
Frangipane – Almond Cream
100g butter, 100g sugar (caster or fine), 100g ground almonds, 25g plain flour, 2 eggs,1 teaspoon of vanilla. (Or a few drops of almond essence if you like an extra almond boost.)
In a bowl, mix well together the butter, well softened, with the sugar and almonds. Stir in the flour and then mix in the eggs and vanilla.
Puff Pastry and a small handful of flaked almonds
500g of puff pastry. I use a good, all butter pastry from the shop.
Heat oven to 200 degrees centigrade. Line a baking sheet (about 24-30 cms) with baking paper. Roll the pastry out to fit the size of the baking pan. Lay the pastry in the pan and brush the edges with a little beaten egg, and roll over slightly to make a border all around. Spoon the frangipane (almond cream) all over the pastry base and smooth out to an even layer. Then gently spoon the rhubarb compote over. Leave a few spaces in between the spoonfuls as the frangipane puffs up and browns around it nicely. Sprinkle with some flaked almonds. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pasty is lovely and golden. Wait a few minutes for it to cool before enjoying it.
Can you give a bunch of rhubarb for Valentines Day? I, for one, would be happy to receive such a gift.
Happy Valentine’s day all. Thanks for stopping by and please do drop me a line/comment if you wish.
The best of the Autumn hues are fading now, the reds and golds giving way to the cool grey skies of early winter. Through the window falls a steady drizzle of rain and most of the trees are bereft of their leaves. I’ve really been enjoying the past few weeks – out with my camera – and discovered some surprising colours like the delicate pinky purples in a vast bed of woodland cyclamen. As a family, we’ve spent time outside walking, cycling, picking apples, and celebrating with bonfires and pumpkins. But pumpkins are not just for carving and decorating are they? They make beautiful subjects for photography – and delicious eating too!
Pumpkin and winter squashes are particularly delicious roasted – it concentrates the sugars and intensifies the flavours. I like to use roasted pumpkin in lasagna, pasties, or Caribbean curries and rotis. I also love pumpkin in breads, muffins and cakes. Wonderful for Autumn walks and picnics.
My grandmother loves – adores – cakes, especially cakes rich with fruit and nuts. When I visit her, there is nothing I can bring that will delight her more than a home baked cake like this teacake. In fact, it was just for my lovely granny that I made this cake, and it’s twin. (The recipe makes two loaves.) Like many old folks (I can call her old, because she really is!) she doesn’t always have the appetite or energy to prepare a full meal, so a slice or two of a nourishing fruit and nut cake with a cup of tea is just right. She just rang me to say how much she is enjoying this teacake. And that makes me very happy.
Colour is a great source of inspiration, isn’t it? Sometimes just one gorgeous, vibrant hue can trigger a whole chain of ideas and creations. These beautiful red dahlias, the last of this year’s blooms from our village allotments, made me see red – in a good way! I started to think about those lovely, jewel-like sweeties known as Pates de Fruits in France. With colour in mind, I thought I would try to make some with the crimson juices of pomegranates and blood oranges.
I have a project in mind for these fruit jellies. We have a little Christmas/holiday fair coming up in the village hall next month, and I was asked to run a table. I decided that I would make some gifts and sweets to sell on my stall, and donate profits to Action Against Hunger. This organisation is committed to helping people around the world who don’t have enough to feed themselves and their children. I know that lots of people who work in the food industry give a lot, in donations as well as running fundraising projects, to help this cause and I am keen to give too.
So I have been thinking about what I might make to wrap into pretty packages and sell on my stall. I have never made fruit jelly sweeties before, and some practice seemed essential. I must say, it isn’t really as easy as it might seem to get these right. The differences in juices, concentration of fruit purees, the type of pectin, the time of cooking, all affect the result. And in jolly damp old England, the humidity is a factor too. The recipe below worked quite well for me. I made a version with mango puree and jam sugar (sugar with crystallised pectic mixed in) instead of the liquid pectin and that set very nicely too.
What do you think of my plans? Do you have any other ideas for lovely food gifts, sweet or savoury, that might go well on my stall? I plan on testing out some other ideas over the next couple of weeks, for example nougat, flavoured sugars and vin chaud spices. I’d love to hear your ideas for gifts, wrappings, ribbons, presentation – and I’ll share my experiments too.
Thanks for visiting Extra-Relish. Please do write me a comment – I really enjoy hearing from you. Px