I love rhubarb at any time, but especially at this time of year when the glorious colour and fresh taste of early forced rhubarb tell you that spring is really on the way. The season for forced rhubarb is short and I plan to take full advantage of it while I can. Usually I just poach it, either on the hob or in the oven, in a little orange juice and some honey or sugar, but this weekend I decided to branch out, and made this rhubarb, almond and ginger pudding – think rhubarb Eve’s Pudding, with a sponge made of ground almonds rather than flour.
The recipe was partly inspired by a dessert I had last week, when I went out for lunch to celebrate a friend’s birthday: a lemon and almond pudding, which was like a soft, flourless almond cake, baked in a shallow dish. I thought an almond sponge would be a great complement to the rhubarb, and the stem ginger stops the sponge being too bland. This pudding tastes indulgent, but is not too rich or heavy – perfect for a bright spring day. It is also gluten-free and can be virtually sugar-free if you use xylitol (or another sugar substitute; replace the stem ginger with ground ginger if you need to avoid sugar entirely). The weight of butter and sugar should be about the same as the weight of the eggs, with 25% more ground almonds, so if your eggs are bigger or smaller just adjust the quantities accordingly.
I made this using half quantities as I was just cooking for two, but this recipe should serve 6 generously.
180g sugar or xylitol
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 medium eggs
1 tsp baking powder
150g ground almonds
4 pieces of stem ginger finely chopped
Heat the oven to 190ºC/Gas mark 5. Wipe and trim the rhubarb, then cut into 2cm pieces – about the size of a wine cork. Put into an oven-proof dish that is big enough to take the almond sponge on top, and add the orange juice, half the zest and 60g of sugar. Cover with foil and bake in the oven until the rhubarb is just starting to soften. This will probably take about 30 mins, but the time will vary according to how sturdy or delicate your rhubarb is, so do check after 20 mins and judge how much longer it needs – you don’t want it to turn to mush, which happens all too easily. If the rhubarb has produced a lot of juice scoop some of it off to leave just a few tablespoons. Leave to cool a little.
The rhubarb can be baked at a slightly higher temperature if necessary – I had quite thick stems of Harbinger rhubarb and cooked it for 30 mins alongside the main course, which needed to be at 200ºC/Gas 6. You can also cook the rhubarb in advance if you’re entertaining and don’t want to have too many things to do on the night, though if you do this and store the rhubarb in the fridge, do remember to take it out a couple of hours in advance so that it is at room temperature when you add the sponge.
When you are ready to eat turn the oven down to 170ºC/Gas 3 and make the sponge. Cream the butter and remaining 120g of sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a spoonful of ground almonds, and beat them in. When they are incorporated add the remaining orange zest, the stem ginger, baking powder and the rest of the ground almonds, mixing well. You can loosen the mixture with a tablespoon of the syrup from the ginger jar if it seems too stiff. Spoon the sponge evenly over the top of the rhubarb and smooth the top. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until it golden brown and slightly risen. Allow to sit for 5 minutes and then serve with pouring cream.
If you’re planning to cook roast lamb for Easter Sunday, this would work perfectly for dessert – but why wait that long!