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Rhubarb and Strawberry Tart Cooked in 'Beer

Rhubarb is a very British food, provoking love and loathing in equal measure. Very few of us escaped rhubarb in our childhood when it was second to apples as an ingredient in tarts and pies. It was first introduced into Britain in the seventeenth century, but only became fashionable as a tart ingredient at the end of the eighteenth century, reaching its greatest popularity in the nineteenth century. After some time in the doldrums, it is now experiencing something of a revival. Traditionally it has been cooked with elderflowers or strawberries and in beer, as in this tart. The strawberries bring colour and texture and accentuate the lemony tartness of the rhubarb. The lovely rhubarb juices are used to make a sauce. The cooked tart will look very rustic and inviting and, once cut, will ooze a few juices, but somehow it doesn't matter when the flavour, texture and appearance are so wonderful.

ingredients

serves 8 - 10
450 g (1 lb) rich sweet shortcrust pastry
550 g (1 1/4 Ib) trimmed rhubarb (about 5 - 6 sticks), cut into small chunks
115 g (4 oz) light soft brown sugar
300 ml (1/2 pint) beer (pale ale or bitter)
225 g (8 oz) strawberries, hulled and halved
55 g (2 oz) fresh breadcrumbs (white or brown)
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
25 g (1 oz) demerara sugar
beaten egg, to glaze
small sprinkling of caster sugar and ground cinnamon, to finish
1 dessertspoon cornflour

method

1. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a large round about 38cm (15 in) in diameter. Place the pastry round in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. Note that in this recipe the pastry is not pre-baked.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5 and place a lightly oiled large baking sheet in the oven to pre-heat.

3. Place the rhubarb, soft brown sugar and beer in a saucepan. Bring gently to the boil, cover and simmer for about 7 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft but still has some texture.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the rhubarb very thoroughly, saving the juice and rhubarb separately. Put the rhubarb in a bowl with the strawberries and stir to mix.

5. Put the breadcrumbs, lemon zest and demerara sugar in a separate bowl and mix well.

6. Place the rhubarb and strawberry mixture in the centre of the pastry, then cover with the breadcrumb mixture. Pull the sides of the pastry up and around (but not completely over) the filling, pinching it into a rough shape ¢â‚¬â€ remember it is meant to be rustic-looking.

7. Brush all over with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the caster sugar and cinnamon.

8. Place the tart on the pre-heated baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove the tart from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheet.

9. Put the cornflour in a saucepan, add 1 tablespoon reserved rhubarb juice and stir until well blended. Gradually stir in the remaining rhubarb juice, then heat gently, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens sufficiently.

Serve the tart warm with the hot sauce and thick cream.

Cook's Tip - ! find this tart looks particularly inviting when placed on a round wooden breadboard, surrounded with a few fresh strawberries.

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