“Why are you showing us a photo of a bowlful of square turd with blood clots, Helen?”
To which I say: shut the hell up! The above foodstuff might not be photogenic, but it certainly was stomach-genic; and as rhubarb and strawberries are both currently in season, it is expedient to make use of them. Together, they are an unlikely fruit powerhouse. A rhubarb and strawberry pavlova is a marvellous pudding, but if you can’t face the double armstrain of whipping egg whites then cream, I recommend this cake. Forgive me for providing such a slapdash recipe, but I’m confident that you are sufficiently independent to cope.
Roast rhubarb and strawberry cake
Serves 6 at least
• Oven on, 180c.
• Cut up a bunch of rhubarb (sorry, I didn’t weigh it beforehand – five sticks so approximately 400g I think?) into chunks. It’s very likely to disintegrate during cooking, so don’t waste your time obsessively cutting it into perfect neat cuboids.
• Spread the rhubarb out in a non-reactive oven dish; glass or pyrex is good. Sprinkle with soft brown sugar (about two tablespoons) or honey if you prefer. Grate a bit of nutmeg over it if you can be bothered. Then add some liquid: a glass of white or rosé wine is good. I also used a glassful of elderflower cordial, which I made a couple of years ago and it has been sitting in the fridge ever since, looking like a urine sample.
• Put the rhubarb in the oven, and while it is cooking, hull a punnet of strawberries (300-400g) and halve any gigantic ones.
• After 20 minutes, see how the rhubarb is getting on. It should be soft and starting to collapse, and more importantly, not burning. Taste the syrup, then add more sugar if it’s very sour, and another glass of liquid if there’s barely a suggestion of syrup in the dish. Chuck in the strawberries, then return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until such time as the strawberries have lost a little of their pert rawness and are looking more like an illustration from Brambly Hedge.
I used a Prue Leith recipe for rich almond cake, which I think is available in this book. Next time I’ll experiment with other recipes, as I thought this one was a shade too eggy and sweet, but nonetheless it was perfectly tasty (“Of course it bloody was!” shouts the redoubtable Prue). If you have your own trusty recipe for ground almond cake, by all means do deploy it. Nut-avoiders could make a polenta cake instead.
Prue Leith’s rich almond cake, AKA Pain de Gênes:
• Oven remains at 180c. Grease and line an 8-inch cake tin.
• Melt 85g butter, and while it is melting:
• Sift together 55g plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and a good pinch of salt. Stir in 110g ground almonds.
• Whisk together 140g caster sugar and 3 eggs.
• Fold the flour and almond mixture into the eggy sugar mixture, then fold in the melted butter ‘with the minimum of stirring’ (disobey Prue at your peril!).
• Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is brown and springs back when you press it lightly with your finger.
• Cool in the tin for five minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
• Put the cooled cake on a plate, then stab it all over with a fork. This is to help it become as saturated as possible with the fruit syrup.
• Spoon the rhubarb and strawberry mixture over the cake, feeding the sponge with as much syrup as possible before piling on the fruit.
• Serve with cream, if you’re into cream.
• The cake should keep well in the fridge for four days or so. In fact you may even prefer it after it has had a day or two of soggification time. Don’t be alarmed if you have more of the fruit mixture than the cake can handle; consume it later with Greek yoghurt or vanilla ice cream, or mix with sparkling wine to make a lumpy summer cocktail, or use it in a trifle or Bakewell tart. It’s a fine problem to have.