LONG SEASON Early varieties of rhubarb are usually available from February-March until late summer too.
Two years ago we set a rhubarb plant and then kind of forgot about it. I’m an impatient gardener and yearn for quick results. The amount of times I’ve thought about planting asparagus, but put off by the two-year wait for yield – same as rhubarb – have done nothing. Now that the forgotten rhubarb is flourishing I’m going to revisit the asparagus idea. If you are an asparagus fan, what could be as good as asparagus straight from your garden to your mouth?
The other day, I had a sneaky solo lunch at Savoir Fare in Westport. I got out early from a dental appointment – starving – and had a small window before my first school pickup. I’d been peeking in the window at Alain’s menu while rushing around Bridge Street other days and spotted a lunch special of poached egg, chard stalks and wild garlic mayonnaise. This had stuck in my mind and was addling me.
With forty minutes to spare before school out, I nipped in and had perfection on a plate. A poached free-range Mayo egg. On a part-crunchy, part-soft bed of chard stalks and leaves – ‘poor man’s asparagus’, as Alain described it – and homemade wild garlic mayo.
There were slices of the owner’s own sourdough baguette for mopping. I’ve already said the word perfection, but then Alain asked if I might have time for a slice of chocolate almond cake. I didn’t really but I couldn’t say no. A choice I didn’t regret. It was stonking.
Alain’s cooking is based on French cuisine using the best of Irish ingredients. What’s not to like? Which brings me back to my rhubarb bush. The pastry below is neither French nor Irish but has undertones of both – a cheaty sort of French rhubarb tart – and is easy enough to make but manages to be one of those moreish things.
A word of warning – rhubarb can be sour, so you may need more or less sugar. Also, it can be a bit hard, so it may need more or less blanching. Taste and see what works for you.
Rhubarb, cream cheese and vanilla tart
What you need
- 1 pack of 320g ready-rolled puff pastry
- Rhubarb stalks, two to four depending on size
- Six tbps of quince or apple jelly
- 200g full-fat cream cheese
- 50g ground almonds
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract or one vanilla pod
- 3 tbsp caster sugar
What you do
Cut the top and tail off your rhubarb stalks. Using a potato peeler, remove the sinewy outer skin. Cut the rhubarb into thinish rounds, pop into a pot of boiling water with two tbps of caster sugar, bring to the boil again then simmer for about four-five minutes.
Line a baking tin with greaseproof paper. Roll the pastry to about 35cm by 22cm. Take a sharp knife to the pastry 1cm from the edge, score and double over to form a crust. Chill for 40 minutes in the fridge.
Preheat your oven to 220ºC for about ten minutes as your prepare your tart topping, put the baking tin in the oven, it will help crisp the pastry. Place the pastry on the tin for 10-15 minutes till golden. In a large bowl, place the cream cheese, ground almonds, the scraped-out seeds from your vanilla pod or the vanilla extract, and the caster sugar, and mix gently.
Spread the mix over the pastry, top with the drained rhubarb circles and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes. You will smell when they are done!
In the meantime, over a very gentle heat, melt the quince or apple jelly in a heavy-bottomed pan. Brush over the tarts when you take them from the oven.
Cool, cut into six rectangles and serve with whipped cream.
The Cabot family live and work in Lanmore, outside Westport. Fresh, seasonal foods are their passion, from country markets to growing, making and selling. They love cooking and eating at the kitchen table, while Redmond and Sandra are kept on their toes with children Penny and Louis. Here they share their favourite recipes.