It can be hard to gauge how sweet or tart the rhubarb is likely to be, as it varies depending on the time its harvested during its season, Whilst I prefer it when it is not overly sweetened, it definitely does require the addition of sugar, honey or the like.
At its simplest, I like to cut it into chunks into a shallow roasting tin, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of sugar on top and bake it gently in the oven for about of twenty minutes until it begins to soften and release its juices. The juices create the most beautiful syrup when they mingle with the sugar. I don’t usually add any extra fluid but my mother swears by adding the juice of half an orange. The advantage of cooking the rhubarb simply, like this, is that it retains a lot of its shape, which I find more appetising.
Rhubarb and custard is one of those clichéd food combinations – but there is good reason for this; they taste wonderful together! I mostly eat my roasted rhubarb with homemade custard. I like it warm, I like it chilled… I like it anyway that it’s given to me. They taste just perfect together.
I’ll be the first to admit that it can be easy to fall into a culinary rut, where you end up making the same things over and over again and where you are not inclined to experiment too much. I really enjoy cooking and baking and readily experiment, but I also have phases where I cook the same things over and over again.
I was keen to create a dessert cake with which my roasted rhubarb could be served. I wanted something that would go well with the rhubarb and would highlight its unique taste. I initially toyed with the idea of making a light ginger cake using fresh ginger, but then I decided that an orange cake would be delicious. I could almost imagine how the cake and the roasted rhubarb would taste together.
Semolina is often used in Middle Eastern cookery when making cakes, so I decided to take my lead from this and adapted one of my basic sponge cake recipes to include it.
I cannot describe to you how delighted I was with this cake. It was absolutely heavenly. The orange brought out the best in the accompanying roasted rhubarb, and vice versa. Because I am prone to excess in all things, not just in cookery and eating, I also served the cake and roasted rhubarb with a dollop of softly whipped cream. Everything about this combination was amazing. It was so tasty served as a dessert, but it was also fabulous as a cake in its own right.
150g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
3tblsp freshly squeezed orange juice
2 large eggs
100g natural Greek yogurt
125g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
Juice of 1 large orange
150g granulated sugar
1tsp of orange flower water or Cointreau
To finish:A little icing sugar
350-400g rhubarb, washed and cut into 3cm long chunks
3-4tblsp caster sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Line a 20cm round cake tin with removable base with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
2. Place the butter, caster sugar and orange zest in a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held mixer cream together until light and fluffy.
3. Gradually add the orange juice and the eggs and mix together until well incorporated. Next, add the yogurt and mix in thoroughly.
4. Sift the semolina, flour and baking powder together. Fold into the creamed mixture making sure not to overwork the batter. Spoon the batter into the lined cake tin, smoothing it out with a palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for an hour or until the cake is well-risen, golden brown in colour and a thin skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Check the cake after 30 minutes to ensure that it is not browning too quickly and if it is, cover the tin with a little aluminium foil. When the cake is ready, remove from the oven. Allow to cool in the cake tin for ten minutes. Using a very thin skewer prick the cake all over and then remove the cake from the tin to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Meanwhile make the glaze which need to be poured onto the cake and let soak in whilst the cake is still warm.
5. Put the orange juice and sugar into a small saucepan and place over a moderate heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat slightly and bring to the boil. Let the mixture bubble for about thirty seconds and then remove from the heat. Add the orange flower water and mix through.
6. Spoon the glaze evenly over the cake – it will soak in and allow the cake to cool completely.
7. Serve dusted with icing sugar and cut into wedges with a little roasted rhubarb as an accompaniment.
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Place the rhubarb, chunks in a single layer in a shallow roasting tin and sprinkle over the sugar. Cover the dish with aluminium foil and cook in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, removing the foil for the final 5-10 minutes.
2. Remove from the oven. The roasted rhubarb can be served immediately, allowed to cool to room temperature or chilled.