Winter has well and truly set in now, which means it’s a perfect time to take advantage of winter produce. I’m very passionate about buying local and about supporting the small fruit and veg shops. On one hand, I hate to put money in the hands of supermarket chains that pay a pittance for produce then raise the prices sky high. I’d much rather support small businesses. But I also love cooking with seasonal produce. It makes you really think about where the food is coming from and understand the growing process. It’s cheaper, tastier, and most importantly for me it has a much lower environmental impact. It’s a win all round.
Rhubarb is one of those winter staples we all tend to turn to for dessert in lieu of all those wonderful summer berries. A staple I’d oddly not cooked with before. I grew up in a household of plain eaters, afraid to try anything outside the box they’d made for themselves. Rhubarb was well outside that box. In my adulthood I’m now trying to make up for that by trying all the different things I never got to as a kid. It was high time I knocked this one off the list. I bought a bunch with my weekly shop and settled for making a crumble. Then Cameron’s mum gave him a tart recipe to bring over on the weekend and I was sold.
The secret to a good tart is getting the pastry right. This shortcrust pastry isn’t hard, but it does need caution and patience. It’s very easy to overwork the dough, so take it slow and it will be fine. A food processor makes this a much quicker process. If you don’t have a food processor, you can rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips. It’s a much slower way to go, though much harder to get wrong that way.
In a food processor, pulse the butter, flour and sugar just enough for the butter to get chopped up and disappear into the mixture.
Your flour will look like fine sand and you won’t have any chunks of butter left. It’s then time to add your yolk and half the water. You don’t want to add too much moisture to the dough so it’s best to do it gradually: it’s much easier to add more liquid than it is to try and repair a soggy dough.
You’ll know the dough is ready when it looks like this. This mixture will still look like coarse crumbs, but if you smoosh a little of it together between you fingers it will clump together.
Turn it out onto your work surface and press it together. All those loose crumbs will form a smooth dough before your very eyes. It doesn’t take much moisture to get it to this stage.
After a little nap in the fridge you can press it into a tart case. The dough will likely crack in places as you move it into place but that’s absolutely fine. That’s the nature of this dough, and in part the beauty of it. Tears in shortcrust pastry aren’t an issue, just press it together with your fingertips and the crack will seamlessly disappear.
Once it’s baked and cooked you can throw in some rhubarb.
Cover with the chocolate mixture the throw on some more rhubarb.
Don’t worry about trying to press it in or how high you stack it or trying to make it especially pretty. As it bakes the rhubarb will disappear into the filling giving you a nice, rustic look.
The pastry for this tart ended up so perfect I could have eaten nothing but that and been quite content.
But I wouldn’t say no to the chocolatey filling either. Unlike the last couple of tarts I’ve made, this isn’t indulgently rich or sweet. It’s more of a typical, comforting winter warmer. It’s light, refreshing and delicious. Served warm with a little raspberry swirled icecream on the side, it’s far too easy to fit in a second slice. Which is exactly what Cameron did after tasting this baby.
Here’s how to make your very own.
|Rhubarb and Nutella Tart|
1 1/2 cups (225g/8 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
1/3 cup (60g/2oz) icing (confectioners) sugar
125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, chilled & chopped
1 free range egg yolk
1-2 tbsp (20-40ml/7-14 fl oz) cold water
6 stalks of rhubarb, trimmed into sections and sliced diagonally
1 tbsp (17g/6oz) brown sugar
1 tbsp (20ml/7 fl oz) boiling water
150g (5.3 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (115g/3.8 oz) caster sugar
2 free range eggs
1/4 cup (80g/2.8 oz) nutella or other hazelnut spread
1 cup (120g/4.2 oz) almond meal
2 tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour
icing sugar, to dust
ice cream, to serve (optional)