Monday, 29 October 2012

Rhubarb-hazelnut meringue cake

Rhubarb-hazelnut meringue cake
I wanted a drop-dead rhubarb dessert to use up the rhubarb left over from making that lovely Persian stew. I was imagining something nutty; something autumnal, and found just the thing at this lovely baking blog. 

The Berry Lovely recipe is for a 26-cm cake, which would be serious overkill for two people, even if I had a cake tin big enough! Luckily, the Young Man owed me one and agreed to scale it down to fit our equipment. With his graphic calculator. Knew it would come in handy someday : )

The cake was everything I hoped it would be: tart, but sweet and fabulously nutty--it even stood up to being prized out of a regular cake tin after I failed to heed the instructions about using a springform tin! The only teensy little problem is that it really doesn't keep well. Next time, I'll have enough friends over to make sure there are no leftovers.

Rhubarb-hazelnut meringue cake

Makes one 19 cm cake

For the cake layer
96 g butter
60 g castor sugar
2.5 egg yolks
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
120 g flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
90 ml milk

For the meringue layer
2.5 egg whites
160 g castor sugar
50 g ground hazelnut
300 g rhubarb
2 tbsp hazelnut slices

1 Preheat the oven to 180° C. Line a 19-cm  springform cake tin with grease-proof paper.

2 In a bowl beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and mix until incorporated. Add the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder, and add to the mixture, alternating with the milk.

3 Pour the mixture into the prepared springform tin and bake for about 20-25 min. Take out of the oven and let cool slightly. Lower the oven temperature to 160°C.

4 Clean the rhubarb and cut into small pieces. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually add the castor sugar and beat until stiff. Fold in the ground hazelnuts and the rhubarb pieces. Spread the meringue on the cake base and sprinkle with the sliced hazelnuts.

5 Put the cake back in the oven and bake for another 35-40 min. Cool the cake on a wire rack before removing it from the tin.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Khoresht-e rivas: Persian stew with rhubarb, mint and lemon

Persian stew with rhubarb, mint and lemon
When I was a little girl in Scotland, we lived in a big sandstone house with a huuuge back garden (or so it seemed then). Growing in the garden were such things as grow readily in that mostly-dismal climate: gooseberries, potatoes and... rhubarb! As a sneaky treat, we kids would pull off a stalk and "dook it in a poke of sugar". Knowing me, though, I probably ditched the bag of sugar and ate my share au naturel. My passion for sour things goes way back!

Rhubarb is not readily available in Japan and it was years since I'd had it. It has been in the back of my mind, though, as it seems to have been enjoying a surge of popularity in the UK the last few years and my favourite foodie haunts are full of rhubarb recipes. When a translator friend posted pictures on Facebook of rhubarb dishes his wife had made and, better yet, let it be known that she actually has it for sale, I knew my time had come!

And what better reintroduction to rhubarb than this Persian stew, adapted from one in Pomegranates and Roses: My Persian Family Recipes by Ariana Bundy. I bought the book as soon as it came out and it is fast becoming one of my favourite Persian cookbooks. The spicier "Gulf" dishes are especially welcome, as many similar books on Persian cooking tend to focus on the dominant cuisine and skip the regional delights. Better yet, quite a few of the recipes, including this one, are doable on a weeknight!

The khoresh is tart but not too tart, and wonderfully fresh-tasting with all that lovely mint. I prefer to kepps some for garnishing with before serving, but in Iran, they would all be cooked with stew. Watch the rhubarb carefully for doneness. You want the pieces to stay whole and not disintegrate. Mine were ready in less than five minutes after hitting the pot!
Khoresht-e rivas: Persian stew with rhubarb, mint and lemon

Serves 6

1 large onion, chopped into small dice
1 stalk celery, chopped into small dice
1 kg chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp brown sugar, or to taste
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
1-1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
25 g fresh mint, finely chopped
150 g flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
650 ml unsalted chicken stock
1 tsp dried mint
750 g rhubarb, cut into 5 cm pieces on the diagonal
1/2 tsp saffron threads ground in a small mortar and dissolved in 2-3 tbsp hot water

1. In a heavy pot over a medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and brown the onion, celery and chicken until the vegetables are golden and the meat is seared--about 10 minutes. Stirring frequently, add the garlic cloves, butter, turmeric, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Stir in 2/3 of the fresh herbs. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the stock and dried mint. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.

2. Add the rhubarb, lemon juice and saffron liquid and bring to the boil, without stirring too much to avoid breaking up the rhubarb. The stew is cooked when the rhubarb is cooked, but not falling apart.

3. Check the seasoning: if it is too tart, add more sugar and if not tart enough, balance it with a little more lemon juice. Scatter over the remaining fresh herbs and serve immediately.