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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

'What's for Pud?'...Rhubarb & apple cornmeal cake

This is my belated entry into the St George's day celebration of English puddings, hosted by Becks & Posh and Monkey Face. I did hope to be a bit more organised, but hey, I'll play on the whole Australia is a day ahead thing.
My immediate thought when faced with the challenge of an English pudding is a treacle tart, straight out of my favourite Enid Blyton books. HURRAH! Let's find us some deserted cave and watch out for smugglers...and who's got the potted meat?? I don't think I've ever had treacle tart, and was a bit disappointed to discover it doesn't even contain treacle!! (it uses Golden Syrup!!)

But basically, it's a public holiday today and I'm lazy and couldn't be arsed making my own pastry. Also, I had a dish of stewed rhubarb from my grandmother's garden up in the country. Is there anything that is more British-sounding than rhubarb? I know Nigella's books are chock-full of the stuff. I flicked through my favourite British books - poring over Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver, Simon Hopkinson, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and some god-awful blue hardcover thing we have from the 60s that wants suet and lard in everything, but it was back to Nigella where I found a veritable abundance of choice. If I'm going to bake something I wanto someplace to take it, because believe it or not from the content of this blog, I'm actually on a low-carb diet (!). Things I bake I generally take to rehearsals for my friends to eat. Only Nigella had something other than crumbles and jellies, which aren't really easily portable!
Now, I've always though of rhubarb as a winter thing. My mum would make apple and rhubarb crumble on cold winter's nights, but I've noticed British foodbloggers get very excited about its short season around their springtime. Hmmm - I guess an English springtime is about equivalent to a Melbourne winter, eh? ;-) But, acording to Stephanie Alexander, Australian rhubarb is a year-round crop and is always pink and non-stringy. Rhubarb all year 'round for us!

I was very tempted by Nigella's rhubarb kuchen (being the dab hand with yeast I now am...) but kuchen really isn't very trad English, is it? Plus the rhubarb had to be in pieces, not in slush.
So, I discovered her rhubarb cornmeal cake. It used cornmeal and yoghurt -both of which I had available, and it didn't seem to matter if the rhubarb was in sludge form, so that was my choice.

I didn't have quite enough rhubarb slush, so I added an apple which I chopped into little pieces and zapped in the microwave. The point of the cornmeal is to absorb the excess liquid the rhubarb will give off, which is does well. It also gives a nice texture and crunch. If I were being truly English, I would have made up a nice custard to go with this; the combination would work really well. Nigella suggests a muscat-mascarpone cream, which I'd love to try one day. But for today I've just gone the double cream option.

This is a pleasant, tea-time sort of cake. It's not intense in flavour, but so many British puddings are not. I think it was Bill Bryson who commented about the British fondness for such "cautiously-flavoured treats", as though too much flavour was some kind of extravagent indulgence. I think he was referring to British sweet biscuits at the time, but it never fails to make me laugh.
Read on for the recipe:

Rhubarb & Apple cornmeal cake
Adapted from Nigella's "How to be a Domestic Goddess"

~250g cooked rhubarb (stewed with some sugar)
1 apple, chopped into small pieces and cooked until softish
150g plain flour
200g caster sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
155g fine cornmeal (polenta)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125 soft butter
250g (note: not mls) natural yoghurt

23 cm springform cake tin, greased.
Preheat oven to 180c

Mix the flour, bicarb, salt, cinnamon and cornmeal together. Beat the eggs with the vanilla in a small jug or bowl.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar, then gradually add the egg mixture, beating all the while.
Add the flour-cornmeal mixture alternately with the yoghurt. Don't overmix.
Add the rhubarb and apple and fold through. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 1 hour. Check to make sure it is not browining too quickly; it may need to be covered with some tinfoil. Let cook in its tin before turning out.
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  • This sounds wonderful, Niki! I have some gorgeous local rhubarb, and apples, yogurt, cornmeal... too bad I have to go to work soon!

    And I love the description of a treat as being "cautiously-flavoured."

    By Anonymous Kimberly, at 4/26/2006 01:11:00 am  

  • You are laughing at us:(
    At least we are a nation who can take being laughed at ;D !

    By Blogger Sam, at 4/26/2006 04:09:00 pm  

  • Kimberley - It's a good combination, but maybe up the rhubarb and apple in the recipe; it didn't pack a whole lotta flavour, really. It was nice, but only that

    Sam - not laughing at, but laughing with. I'm very openly Anglophile, and still have plans to live there in the future :-)

    By Blogger Niki, at 4/26/2006 06:42:00 pm  

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