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Rhubarb and Almond tart with Rhubarb and Gin Sauce

The end of winter is marked for me by the appearance of two fruits – rhubarb and blood oranges. Recently, winter seems not to have taken the hint and has been hanging around beyond the forced rhubarb season. This tart however, is delicious whatever the weather. And yes, I know that rhubarb is botanically not a fruit, but I would hope you agree that in the kitchen, it tends to be used as if it were. When the first forced rhubarb appears, delicate and elusively fragrant, I like to do as little as possible to it. I poach it gently with the juice of a blood orange and a tablespoon of honey. It is my absolutely favourite breakfast with a good yogurt, the zest of the orange and walnuts. And in a Moka full of Illy coffee and I can face whatever the day decides to lob at me.

Once the forced rhubarb is over and we have the sturdy maincrop stalks, I do like to experiment rather more. Although I have to say that for me, baked mackerel with rhubarb sauce was an experiment too far. More perhaps, I have to say, because I really can’t cope with mackerel and should not have tried (yet again) to get past my dislike. In my defence, at least I do regularly revisit my few dislikes to see if I’ve changed my mind. Still hate sweetcorn, though, in any and all of its manifestations.

A much more successful experiment was when I pottered about with almonds, which I think complement so many fruits, and arrived at this tart. It is an absolute breeze to make and works warm or cold as a dessert and has been consumed here with yogurt for breakfast. No, I am not saying who did that…

Don’t feel you have to make the pastry yourself here; there are excellent ready made, all-butter pastries on the market and resist those people who think using ready made is the eighth sin. I do not, regrettably have my late mother’s gift as a pastry cook and if it weren’t for my Magimix, I would never willingly make pastry. For sweet dishes I now use exclusively the Italian method of Pasta Frotta and so far, it hasn’t let me down; however, feel free to use your favourite sweet pastry recipe here. Should pastry making not be your thing, and if you have access to the French brand “Marie” (available on Ocado) then use that without a second thought.


Print Recipe
Serves: 6 Cooking Time: 1.5 hours


  • Pastry
  • 250g plain flour or Italian Tipo 00
  • 125g unsalted butter, very cold from the fridge and cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium free range egg, lightly beaten
  • 100g icing sugar
  • finely grated zest of half an unwaxed lemon
  • tiny pinch of sea salt
  • Filling
  • 125g softened unsalted butter, plus extra to grease the tin
  • 125g golden caster sugar plus 2 tbsp
  • 1 medium free range egg
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 250g rhubarb, cut into 3cm chunks
  • Poached Rhubarb
  • 150g rhubarb, cut into 1cm chunks
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar (or more if you prefer)
  • 2 tbsp gin
  • A buttered 23cm loose bottom flan tin
  • Baking parchment
  • Baking beans



Set the oven to 170C fan


To make the pastry, place the flour and butter in a food processor and whizz until fine breadcrumb stage


Add the sugar, mix briefly and add the egg, salt and lemon zest


Whizz until a soft dough is achieved; tip out of the processor and form into a flattened ball, wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes


When time is up, roll out to fit the flan tin and press the dough gently into the tin


Prick the base with a fork, line with baking parchment then tip the baking beans on top


Put in the oven for 20 minutes, after which remove the paper and cook for another 5 minutes until the tart shell is crisp and golden


It’s really important to get the shell crisp as otherwise the moist almond mixture will result in the dreaded “soggy bottom”


While the shell is baking, prepare the almond filling


Beat the softened butter and golden caster sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg


Fold in the ground almonds and ginger


When the shell is ready, spread the almond mixture and press the rhubarb pieces into the mixture in a cartwheel pattern, or whatever pleases you


Sprinkle over the 2 tbsp of sugar


Put the tart in the oven and bake for 35 - 40 minutes until the tart is golden and puffy


Now make the poached rhubarb:


Put the second lot of rhubarb in a saucepan with a good heat conducting base, add the sugar and the gin


Heat until bubbling and then simmer gently until the rhubarb disintegrates - this doesn’t take long so don’t wander off and start the ironing


Bubble more fiercely until reduced by about one third


Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly


If you want the final dish to be more refined, you can at this point, press the mixture through a sieve; I was a bit up against the clock when I made the tart pictured so this sauce isn’t sieved


Serve slices with either ice cream or creme frâiche and then drizzle over the gin sauce


You can change this round a bit too, by putting orange zest in the pastry and orange juice in the sauce - or Grand Marnier, perhaps. The tart can be re-heated and also freezes well for up to about a month.


Autumn/ Breakfasts & Brunches/ Desserts & Savouries/ Spring/ Summer/ Winter


If you were to ask me, I think the first fruit I can remember eating is an apple. I also seem to think of them as always having been around all year, whereas when I was a child, fruit definitely had its season. Strawberries are irretrievably linked to tennis for me and their fragrance reminds me of my mother being glued to the (black and white!) TV during Wimbledon. Tangerines, as they were then, were Christmas, although we seem to see every variation on small citrus now.

Is there, however, more of a workhorse of the fruit bowl than an apple? Admittedly bananas work hard for their living too, but it terms of sheer versatility, the humble apple wins out every time for me.

Sadly, this very versatility led to this unsung hero being bred for volume, size and keeping qualities. We went through a very low period in the seventies and eighties when, unless you grew your own, eating apples were frankly pretty grim. The average supermarkets offered Golden Delicious, Macintosh Red and Granny Smith. Personally I find all of these unpleasant as raw eaters, either because of flavour or texture, but Golden Delicious and Granny Smith do cook well.

Many of the old British, French and Italian species became at risk as producers grubbed up old orchards to plant more profitable types. Mercifully, and largely because of the efforts of Slow Food and in the UK, the Royal Horticultural Society and its members, some enlightened retailers (take a bow, Waitrose) and a general increase in the public’s demand for flavour, many breeds were brought back from the brink.

It is now relatively easy to find scrumptious seasonal apples such as Discovery, although until I started to do some research around this lovely apple, I didn’t realise it is in fact a modern fruit. It was found in the late 1940’s in Langham, Essex and is a child of the luscious Worcester Pearmain. I absolutely adore the fragrant crispness and almost strawberry-like flavour of the Discovery, BUT it is a seasonal being and in fact becomes flabby in both texture and flavour if stored for too long. They tend also to be a tad inconsistent in size but frankly this doesn’t bother me and I actually enjoy the process of selecting the individual apples that appeal to me.

Another fragrant apple that I love is Pink Lady; it is also a modern apple, developed in the late 20th Century, in Western Australia, from a liaison between Golden Delicious and Lady Williams. It has the remarkable capacity to be consistent and until recently, I don’t think I have ever had a disappointing Pink Lady. That changed recently when I had some quite unpleasant Argentinian apples – the texture was too mealy for me. Perhaps they had been stored too long. And did you know that Pink Lady is a trademark? I didn’t; her horticultural handle is Cripps Pink and she has an equally lovely cousin called Sundowner (also a trademark), who is horticulturally Cripps Red. She, however, is not so easy to find.

In terms of other modern apples, Jazz is a likeable apple that works well in the Spiced Apple recipe below. Oh and this is another apple that operates under a nom de guerre; it is really Scifresh.

Braeburn is another apple that you will see in quantity in supermarkets and it was an apple in the right place at the right time. It became commercially viable at a point when the public wanted more in terms of flavour than Golden Delicious or Granny Smith could provide. At best, it is a crisp, fragrant and deeply flavoured apple. It does however, to my mind, have a major flaw and that is that it is hugely variable in terms of quality. Personally, I have had too many Braeburn disappointments. Rather than waste them, however, if you are unfortunate enough to have a disappointing batch, use them for the Spiced recipe and just up the spices!

The last eating apple that I want to talk about it is the wonderful Cox’s Orange Pippin. This is an older fruit, developed, it is said in 1825, and with many progeny. I love these apples when they are in prime season, becoming a tad mealy when old. That is though, a wonderful reason to eat seasonally, as it is at its best when from British orchards.
You may wonder why I have not mentioned the noble Bramley Apple in this post. Well, it is indeed a noble apple with an impeccable history of service in the kitchen. I stopped using it quite so ubiquitously when I made a conscious decision to reduce the amount of sugar I use in cooking. As I started to use other apples, I also realised that I actually prefer to eat my cooked apples when they have retained some shape and I can still see the slices. Don’t get me wrong, if I making apple sauce for roast pork, I would still use a Bramley as I do like a cloud of fluffy apple in those circumstances.

Spiced Apples

Print Recipe
Cooking Time: About an hour including prep


  • 6 eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices about 2mm thick
  • juice and finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon (I like to peel this with a potato peeler and then cut into julienne strips; you may have a julienne cutter but either way, I like clearly defined strips of lemon peel)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3 pieces of star anise
  • 1 large stick of cinnamon, broken in two
  • half teaspoon of powdered cinnamon



Put everything into a thick based pan or casserole and simmer gently for about 30 minutes


Stir occasionally and watch that it doesn’t catch


You may need to add a small quantity of water, depending on how juicy the orange is


The final result should be tender but still well shaped slices, with a slightly syrupy juice


This is scrumptious hot, warm and cold and I serve it with either ice cream, creme fraiche or yogurt


It makes a fabulous filling for a pie or a crumble and can have all kinds of ingredients added (see above)


Edoardo is fond of this for breakfast with yogurt and seeds and I have to say I agree with him.


This recipe rose out of necessity. I had a bag of eating apples (I think they were Braeburns, but can’t actually remember), I had tried one as a raw eater but it wasn’t terribly pleasant. Well, I was at the outset of watching my budget and my conscience, so it was unthinkable to just discard the other five or so apples, even for the benefit of our local birds and foxes. I didn’t want to shop specifically for anything else to make these apples edible so instead I rummaged in the pantry. I think I have said before that pantry is a metaphor - I would dearly love a larder but have to make do with two large drawers and two shelves as my pantry. One day……. Anyway, this recipe is made from ingredients I nearly always have in store, but I have found that I can experiment with this and use sultanas, raisins, seeds, dried apricots, prunes to add flavour to apples. This is also an extremely economical recipe if you make this with blemished apples which are often sold in supermarkets for very low prices, so do experiment. Also, you can make this with however many apples you happen to have, just scale the other ingredients up or down. It also freezes well for about three months. In truth, it so simple I feel a bit of a fraud posting it here, but friends I’ve shared it with have all liked it and mostly said “oh I never thought of doing that…”, so I’m hoping it’s not too much of a fraud!