Friday, October 23, 2009

Rhubarb & King Alfred

Some folks are scared of rhubarb. Silly really. It is the easiest thing in the garden to cook. This week I made a rhubarb and cranberry pie. It took 5 minutes from the vegie patch to the oven. Dinkum! King Alfred? I'll explain.

We have had rhubarb growing in the garden for years but it never looked right to eat. It was a dodgy green colour with a few red stalks, some green and some speckled in between. Then someone told us that it was just the variety, that it always looked like that and was fine to eat anytime.

Even so, many home cooks tend to think that rhubarb is tricky to cook. It isn't, it's the easiest thing in the world and it stews in its own juice as the saying goes. Just add sugar and off you go.

Anyway on the Show Day holiday this week I felt the urge for a rhubarb pie. Mary was in the vegie patch so I shouted out the kitchen window and she brought me a couple of handfuls of stalks down and passed them through to me.

In 5 minutes, quite literally, I thawed two sheets of shortcrust pastry, chopped 500g of the rhubarb in a bowl and mixed it with 100g of brown sugar and a small handful of dried cranberries. I splashed a little framboise eau de vie over it but that's quite unnecessary really.

I buttered the pie dish, trimmed one sheet of pastry into the bottom and tipped the rhubarb mix in (all of it), and trimmed the lid on. I cut a vent in and brushed the top with milk, sprinkled it with a tablespoon of caster sugar and put in a 200C oven. 5 minutes flat - no water, no syrup, no eggs - nothing but rhubarb, sugar and cranberries.

Now, this is where King Alfred and his burnt cakes come in. I like to get a good brown on my pastry and so cooked the pie for about 25 minutes but when brushing with milk and crimping the pastry edge you create a burn trap for the milk. I don't care but if you do then just press seal the pastry lid and don't use a fork on it.

The shortcrust pastry cooks up a treat with the caster sugar and gives a good crisp crunchy sweet result. Mum's old Pyrex pie dish gives a good crusty base too. If you like you can brush the base with egg white to seal it but the rhubarb melts down and gives a juicy wet filling which I don't mind seeping in to the bottom a bit.

Serve with a big dollop of creme fraiche which cuts the sweet tartness of the pie and wash it down with a glass of muscat de beaumes de venice.


  1. Love rhubarb Stephen. We get ours from Gerard Cochon's organic food farm. His always seems to be the brightest of red & nice thin stalks as well, none of that woody stuff.
    I find a squeeze of lemon improves the colour as it brings out the crimson. I'm serving it at present with a hazelnut & honey semi freddo, a riot of flavours. In fact Gerard came in last night for dinner just to see that I was using his rhubard properly!

  2. Wow. Sounds wonderful. Thanks for the tip with the lemon Steve!

  3. Great combination with the cranberries!

  4. I didn't know about the lemon either...will try immediately. Made a rhubarb & lavender honey crostata for the caf on the weekend. My mum makes our shortcrust & lets me raid her rhubarb when I've pillaged ours out of existance...aren't I lucky!


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