My brother in law has been planting a number of vegetables in the back garden of the family home for several years, ever since my father became unwell and wasn’t able to do much gardening. Vegetables papà and mamma didn’t like or know much about started appearing in the garden – corn, rhubarb and hot chili. The rhubarb (rabarbaro in italian) in particular was quite baffling – mamma loved the corn, they both started adding chilli to everything but they never really warmed to the idea of rhubarb. My father is no longer with us but I think I have found a way to bring my mother around.
I love rhubarb – it seems to be available most of the year and is delicious stewed with sugar and water and eaten with yoghurt for breakfast. I don’t use it much when I make cakes though. Mamma had bought me a rectangular cake tin with a removable base several months ago when we were shopping and I had yet to use it. I had wanted the tin for some time as I thought would be ideal for baking with slices of peaches, pear or rhubarb, all lined up. I also wanted to bake something I could take to mamma, since the tin had been a gift from her. And it was about time she ate a cake with rhubarb. Whilst looking for a suitable recipe, I found this recipe from SBS – a rhubarb, pistachio and orange blossom frangipane tart. It was essentially a Middle Eastern cake – not ideal to take to my mother who at 86 is not likely to warm to ingredients like orange blossom water. So I substituted the orange blossom water for orange zest and kept the rest the same. It is moist, not too sweet and looks so pretty with the green pistachio nuts throughout and the pieces of rhubarb on top. I made the thick sweet syrup and I served it with mascarpone on the side – and you know what? When I took a piece of the cake to mamma, she just *loved* it, rhubarb and all.
Rhubarb, pistachio and orange tart
150 g (2/3 cup) unsalted butter, softened
150 g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
2 large eggs
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ lemon (small), rind finely grated
1 orange (small), rind finely grated
150 g (2/3 cup) almond meal
35 g (¼ cup) plain flour
70 g (½ cup) pistachios
130 g rhubarb (1 and 1/4 cups), cut into 5 cm (2 inch) lengths
icing sugar, to dust
mascarpone, to serve
1 cup caster sugar
330 g (3 cups) rhubarb, chopped into small pieces
Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar and until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. Add vanilla, orange and lemon zests and beat until combined. Add the almond meal and flour and fold into the mixture. Fold in the pistachios.
Line the base of a lightly greased rectangular tart tin with baking paper. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth surface with a spatula. Arrange pieces of rhubarb on top and press in gently. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden and the cake feels firm to touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
To make the rhubarb syrup, combine the sugar, rhubarb, and 250 ml (1 cup) water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve. Allow to cool then dust with icing sugar.
To serve, drizzle with rhubarb syrup and serve with mascarpone.