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Rhubarb Rites of Spring

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Rhubarb is one of the first crops to poke out of the soil when spring hits where I grew up in Nova Scotia. I have very fond memories of sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table with a dish of warm stewed rhubarb topped with fresh cream or on top of her fresh baked bread.

Rhubarb has been used for ages as a tonic for the digestive system. It promotes circulation and also relieves pain due to inflammation. But it’s also incredibly delicious. Most of us have tasted it in the classic strawberry-rhubarb pie , where the tartness of the rhubarb is cut by the sweetness of strawberries.   But the stalks are much more versatile than that, and are great in either sweet or savoury item. The recipe that follows, while a dessert, has both sweet and savoury elements, making is a very grown up end to a meal.

Rhubarb and Stilton Tart

The secret ingredient in this tart is the Stilton cheese in the crust. The layer of butter icing may seem unecessary, but it does keep the crust from getting soggy.

For the crust

  • ½ cup (125mL) butter
  • ½ cup (125mL) Stilton cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup (125mL) icing sugar
  • 1 Tbsp (15mL) milk
  • 1¾ (425mL) cups flour
  • 2 tsp (10mL) cornstarch

Cream the butter, cheese, icing sugar, and milk. Add the sifted dry ingredients. Roll out and fit into a 9-inch springform pan (or to make squares, into a 9 x 9-inch baking tin). Bake at 350ºF until light brown on the edges. Cool completely.

For the icing

  • ¼ cup (60mL) butter
  • 1 tsp (5mL) vanilla
  • 1 cup (250mL) icing sugar

Cream the butter and vanilla. Gradually add the icing sugar and beat until smooth. Spread the icing on the shortbread crust when it is cool.

For the rhubarb topping

  • 3 cups (750mL) chopped raw rhubarb
  • ½ cup (125mL) sugar
  • 1 cup (250mL) water
  • 2 cups (500mL) whipping cream

Cook rhubarb in water and sugar. When the rhubarb is completely cooked and no longer holds its shape, remove from heat. Drain as much liquid from the rhubarb as possible using cheesecloth or a sieve and chill completely.

Whip the cream until it holds peaks. Gently fold the rhubarb into the cream until completely blended.

Top the shortbread crust with the rhubarb mixture and chill before serving.

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