Now who can resist this beautifully pink delicate rhubarb with its chartreuse frilly hat…not me..I couldn’t walk past my local green grocers without buying this precious delight. It has a very short season, blink and you have missed it. It also comes from Yorkshire so what more could a Yorkshire girl want. It is mysteriously grown in the dark and cut by candlelight-the lack of light ‘forcing’ it to produce the slim, pink wands. A special ingredient needs delicate handling and a special recipe. So here is my rhubarb and almond tart just for you. It was inspired by a similar tart I had at a very special hotel the AltnaHarrie Inn (now closed) near Ullapool in Wester Ross, Scotland. When you arrived on the quay side you had to telephone (from the red telephone box of course-younger readers -that is how we used to make phone calls) and they would send a small boat to pick you up. Very romantic. I made some scribbles on a napkin and from these wrote this recipe 20 years later.
RHUBARB & ALMOND TART
Use a 23 cm, loose bottomed tart tin This sweet rich shortcut pastry is best made in a processor.
225g plain flour
150g unsalted, good quality butter-at room temp
4 tbsp. sifted icing sugar
1 egg yolk from lge egg
1 teasp lemon juice (from bottle is fine))
2 tbsp. very cold water
For the filling:
200g early, forced rhubarb (i.e. very pink and delicate)
175g caster sugar
50g soft butter
2 lge beaten eggs
175g ground almonds
A little milk
A little icing sugar
1. Place the flour, butter (roughly chopped up), and icing sugar in a processor and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Mix the yolk with the lemon juice and the water and with the motor running add through the funnel until the dough comes together. Just do this very briefly- If necessary you can add a little more water if it looks too dry.
3. Turn out onto a floured board and very gently bring together with your fingertips. Put into a plastic bag and leave to rest for 20 minutes somewhere cool.
4. Grease tin well using a pastry brush to get into the fluted edge.
5. When the pastry is rested roll pastry into a rough circle allowing enough to cover the sides and a bit more. Try not to over stretch it as this will make the pastry shrink more when you cook it You will need to flour the surface you are working on to stop it sticking. Carefully lift the pastry into the case – you can use your rolling pin to move it if you think this is easier. If it breaks up you can easily patch it up with a small piece of spare pastry. Push the pastry gently into the base and then, using your thumb go around the edge and push down a little. This makes the sides a little thicker which will avoid them breaking up with the weight of the filling. Take a fork and then prick the base lightly all over. Set in the fridge to firm up for 20 mins. This helps to reduce shrinkage.
6. To bake the case ‘blind’ (i.e. empty) set a baking tray in the oven and heat to 200C, Gas 6. Put a piece of foil over the case (with enough to cover over the sides) and gently press into the shape of the tart. Fill with baking beans-the ceramic ones work very well. Set the pastry case on the hot tray-this helps to cook the bottom. Cook for about 20 mins. until lightly brown-it should feel slightly ‘rough’ when cooked.
To make the filling:
Put a metal tray into the oven and pre-heat to 190C, Gas 5
1. Cut the rhubarb into 1 cm pieces. Toss in half the sugar and leave on one side.
2. Cream the butter with the rest of the sugar. Beat in the eggs and then add the ground almonds. If the mixture looks too stiff add a splash of milk. Gently stir in the rhubarb pieces-if you think the rhubarb is very tart add a little more sugar.
3. Pour into the tart case and smooth out to make contact with the sides and make level.
4. Bake in the oven until the top is golden and it is firm to touch. If you think it is burning cover it lightly with foil.
5. Leave it to cool. Serve warm dusted with icing sugar with whipped cream or crème fraiche.