Wednesday, September 26, 2007

September 18, 2007: Rhubarb and ginger pudding

Much as I'm excited to see spring arrive, there are a couple of wintery things that I've been meaning to do prior to gorging myself on asparagus. The main one was to cook with rhubarb. I've enjoyed the tang of rhubarb in a number of compotes and crumbles while eating out, and every time I've seen those crimson stalks at Safeway I've promised myself I'll get some nicer ones from a market. Actually, we barely ventured to any markets this winter and so rhubarb almost passed me by. In a last desperate bid to catch up, I surrendered to Safeway's convenience on the way home from work and made a weeknight pudding.

But first I had to inspect my new vegetable. Its smell reminded me very much of celery and I was surprised to see that the core of the stalk isn't pink at all, just green and even more celery-looking. It was difficult to equate this creature with the soft pink strips previously seen on my French toast at Gingerlee. I took an experimental taste and didn't like it at all: stringy with a sourness that wasn't at all fruity, and that pesky likeness to celery. (For the record I actually like celery but its place as a savoury salad vege really interfered with my appreciation of rhubarb as a "fruit".) It briefly occurred to me that I might have picked up some bitter rainbow chard by mistake.

Another blogger (I think it was Matt of MattBites but I can't find the post) waxed nostalgic about eating raw stalks of rhubarb dipped in sugar as a kid, so I tried that as phase two of Getting To Know Rhubarb. This was a bit more agreeable - the sweet and sour taste was starting to come through. A cynical little voice in my head noted that most disliked veges would probably yield the same improvement in taste if I coated them in sugar. Besides, that celery smell and texture were still lurking.... I still wasn't completely convinced that it was actually rhubarb I've been eating out all these years.

But I pushed on and followed this recipe for rhubarb and ginger pudding that appeared in the Age a few months ago. As I spread the small amount of batter over those stiff and disturbingly green sticks, I wondered if this entire exercise was a waste of time and butter. It wasn't. What emerged from the oven was what I knew rhubarb to be - soft and pink and sweet and sour. Better yet, it was encased in a pudding! This one is a fairly dense and not overly buttery cake - the firm surface reminded me very much of gingerbread. It's delicious warm or cool, with or without cream. And if the learning process isn't reward enough in itself, this dessert is the perfect pay-off for trying something new.

Rhubarb and ginger pudding

500g rhubarb
125g castor sugar
1/3 cup golden syrup
185g plain flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a shake of ground nutmeg
a pinch of salt
125g butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and grease a 1-litre casserole or pudding dish. Chop the rhubarb into 3cm lengths and arrange them on the bottom of the dish. Pour the castor sugar evenly over them.

Measure the golden syrup into a cup and stand it in hot water, so that it's liquid and pourable. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour through to salt). Cream together the butter and brown sugar. When they're pale and fluffy, introduce the syrup and continue beating. Next add the egg, beating until well combined. Fold in the dry ingredients.

Gently heat the milk and stir in the bicarbonate of soda until completely dissolved. Add them to the pudding batter and mix well. Spoon the mixture over the rhubarb and bake the pudding until it's well-browned and an inserted skewer comes out clean. The original recipe estimates 35 minutes but my pudding took 45-50 minutes to cook through in the centre.


  1. I've never thought to try rhubarb raw - very brave of you. I love rhubarb. My mum used to make rhubarb and apple pies all winter, so it has strong childhood memories for me.

    I don't buy it so often now - while I love rhubarb, I'm always horrified at how much sugar you have to use to make it palatable.

  2. I used to grow it and it was superb, actually I think it was just there in the ground from the previous owners of the house and it just kept growing... but rhubarb MUST be sweetened somehow because otherwise it aint pretty... very brave to taste it raw, worse then lemons I think!!! Vida

  3. Kathryn and Vida, I'm a bit of a late-comer to rhubarb and it's a rare excitement to really taste something new for the first time (even if I didn't like it in its raw state!).

    I was also quite horrified at the amount of sugar required, and will be keeping it in mind as I order rhubarb-based dishes in the future. I sure won't be counting it towards my daily intake of fruit and veg!

  4. It's good to be a bit excited about something new, well new to you anyway. How are you on Quince, not many people like it but I love it and together with Lilac, it just screams of childhood memories... Vida x x x

  5. Vida, I have only tried quince paste a couple of times on cheese platters and liked it very much! When it was in season a few months ago I saw some other lovely recipes on various food blogs (poached, tarts, etc) so I might keep lilac in mind when its time comes again. Perhaps I won't try it raw, though. :-)

  6. There will be NO cooking with the Lilac, just a close association with childhood, that's all... Would you believe the Chilean people eat quince RAW with SALT sprinkled on it???? We always cooked it, roasted it, paste, jam, preserved, always sweet. V x

  7. Heheh! I must have been thinking of lavender, Vida - thanks for clarifying. And raw quince with salt? We'll see if I'm brave enough to trial that when quince season returns...

  8. I've only ever eaten rhubarb in crumble type things a few times. I must try using it and baking it myself.

    The final result doesn't taste like celery does it? I hate celery for the record. ;-)

  9. Not a hint of celery in the final product, Thanh! Given your great baking record lately, I'd say trying rhubarb at home is worth a shot.

  10. Gee its been awhile since i've read your blog guys - so many great posts to go through!

    Ahem, i'd like to speak out in defence of raw quince. sure its a little astringent but the fragrance and delicate tartness of freshly cut quince is just sheer poetry imho. My mum always buys quince in autumn to make her greek-styled preserves and i'd always be scoffing the raw segments before she had a chance to start cooking them much to her annoyance ;D

  11. Well, there you go! I was led to believe that raw quince wasn't to be consumed AT ALL, but now I know better. If I do buy a quince of my own, I'll be sure to give it a hearty sniff and an experimental bite. :-)

    Thanks for sharing your controversial quince-love, SL!