Rhubarb is the first fruit* to be harvested in spring. It usually appears around April, conveniently just after the last of the stored apples have gone. It can be used in many of the same recipes as cooking apples, such as pies, tarts and crumbles. Rhubarb goes particularly well with a hint of ginger, which adds a warm spicy note to the rhubarb’s tart flavour.
Rhubarb pie is easy to make, and can be served either hot or cold. Here’s the recipe.
Rhubarb pie (serves 4-6)
1 lb (approx 450 g) rhubarb
2 oz (approx 50 g) granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons (2 x 15 ml spoons) syrup from a jar of preserved stem ginger (optional)
5 oz (approx 150 g) plain flour
1 Tablespoon (1 x 15 ml spoon) golden icing sugar
2.5 oz (approx 70 g) butter
1.5 oz (approx 40 g) lard
Grease a shallow heatproof pie dish. I use an oval dish about 7” by 9” (about 18 cm by about 22 cm).
Wash the rhubarb stalks and trim off the ends. Slice the stalks into pieces approximately 1 inch (approx 2.5 cm) long.
Put the rhubarb pieces in the pie dish. Sprinkle the granulated sugar over the rhubarb. Add the ginger syrup if using, and stir to mix.
Rub the butter and lard into the icing sugar and flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add 1 Tablespoon (1 x 15 ml spoon) cold water and stir to mix. The pastry should form a soft dough. If the pastry is floury, add a little more water. If it is sticky, add a little more flour.
Roll out the pastry thickly on a floured work surface until it is about the same size as the top of the pie dish.
Cover the fruit with the pastry. Trim the edges. Roll out the trimmings and cut into pastry leaves to decorate the top of the pie, if wished.
Brush the pie with milk and sprinkle with a pinch of granulated sugar.
Stand the pie dish on a baking tray, in case any juice bubbles out of the pie during cooking.
Bake in a moderately hot oven at about 180 C for about 35 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
Serve hot or cold, with custard, cream or ice cream.
*I think rhubarb may technically be classed as a vegetable, since it’s the stalks that are eaten. ‘Fruit’ typically refers to a fleshy casing surrounding the seeds of a plant. However, in the kitchen rhubarb can be used in many of the same recipes as cooking apples or other sharp-flavoured stewing fruits, so from a culinary perspective it behaves like a fruit.