My passion for all kitchen creations increased at the moment when I, 13 years ago and fully lugged, moved to London to study. In this city I came across different cultures and their gastronomy which, at that time, were unknown and soon became attractive to me.
From Europe to the Middle East, from Asia to Australasia, I started to increase my culinary repertoire by absorbing the multicultural gastronomies that one can experience in this capital city. Varied cultures fuse at the table here, many dishes are created by the symbioses of different people. Because of all of these cultures there is a varied palette of ingredients at hand which can be found daily in supermarkets, organic markets and other specialised food shops. I have always had the pleasure to tread through these food spaces and to find to my surprise inbetween tray or shelf, new fruits, vegetables or other items unknown to me at the time. One of those which initially caught my eye was the rhubarb. This edible plant originally came from Asia, and for many years it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine, By the XIII century it is introduced into the British cuisine. The United Kingdom is today the biggest producer and consumer of rhubarb.
Visually and flavour-wise, the rhubarb is a very interesting plant. It has a slightly pre-historic characteristic mainly because of its unedible large green and nicely trimmed leaves. The stalks are often crimson, long and curved like samurai swords. In the UK, the rhubarb season starts in January and ends in May. It has a tart, slightly bitter albeit perfumed flavour. Traditionally it is used in desserts such as the English crumble. This plant has gradually been introduced in other desserts because it perfectly compliments highly sweet creations like a crème brulee or a tart au flan. I have decided to pay homage to this ingredient by adding it into a dish from the rich Portuguese conventual desserts heritage: Almond cake. The marriage is perfect: the sweetness of this dish from a southern convent of Portugal is balanced by the acidity and perfume of the northern European rhubarb.
Rhubarb & Almond Cake (Serves 8-10 people)
300 gr of Rhubarb (just the stalks)
1 tbsp of almond liqueur
250 gr of sugar
200 gr of ground almonds
Rind of 1 lemon
Pre-heat the oven at 190 ºC.
Cut the rhubarb into chunks and place them into a bowl. Sprinkle the almond liqueur and mix well. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar for at least 10 minutes till it resembles a pale and fluffy paste. Add the lemon rind and with a metal spoon fold in the ground almonds.
Grease a spring form with butter and dust it with flour. Place the rhubarb chunks inside the spring form and on top pour the cake mix. Place in the oven for 25 minutes.
The cake will be ready once you prick it with a toothpick which should come out dry. Remove it from the oven and let it cool down completely. Transfer it to a serving dish and turn it upside down. The top of the cake will be covered with lovely pink pieces of rhubarb. Dust it with icing sugar and serve it with a spoon of cream.