It's rhubarb time in the UK! Early varieties, pale and slim, are in the markets. When fresh fruit - yes, I know this isn't really a fruit but for this purpose it is - was hard to come by in winter months, this arrival was celebrated with festivals. The county of Yorkshire in the North of England is famous for producing the first rhubarb, grown in large sheds in the dim light that keeps the stems rose coloured and delicate of flavour.
I don't think rhubarb is held in such affection in France, but I was delighted when Mme Cotat, an excellent cook in Chavignol, gave me this recipe. It is unusual and makes an impact!
FOR 6 PEOPLE
110 gr plain flour 60 gr caster sugar 3 tablespoons milk 2 tablespoons cooking oil (a light olive or sun ower oil is suitable) 1 egg 1 teaspoon baking powder
750g - 1 kg (11⁄2 - 2 lb) rhubarb, trimmed and cut into short equal lengths
FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE:
125 g (4 oz) sugar
90 g (3 oz) butter
Preheat the oven to gas mark 8, 450°F, 230°C.
Mix all the ingredients, except the fruit, together in a bowl to make quite a soft, almost runny, dough. Butter a 23 cm (9 in) round sponge tin. Sprinkle with flour. Spread the mixture into it. Place the rhubarb pieces on top of the mixture.
It is a little dif cult to be accurate about the amount of rhubarb which can give off a lot of liquid – but bear in mind it is a very soft cake. The sharpness of the rhubarb will be offset by the caramel.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until golden. (It will rise a little.)
Meanwhile, prepare the caramel sauce. Melt the sugar and butter together in a small pan. Remove from the heat, cool a little, then stir in the egg. When you take the cake out of the oven, pour this sauce over it. Put it under a hot grill for two minutes or until the sauce has caramelised. Watch it carefully, as it burns easily. Leave the cake to cool. It may be eaten warm or cold.