I have memories of sitting in the garden as a child on a sunny day, bees buzzing, a water sprinkler on somewhere, soft green grass and blue skies and a stick of rhubarb in my hand, eating it raw and crunchy, dipped in sugar. It was so tangy, sweet and sour, almost like the fizz of sherbet on my tongue. We were always told not to eat too much because eating it raw would hurt our tummies and I’m sure there’s truth in that. But it is one of my aims to one day have a rhubarb patch of my own so that my children can taste its sherbety crunch, straight from the garden just as we did.
Citrus fruits marry well with rhubarb and the addition of lemon and orange to this pudding adds a sweet tang that takes me back to those summer days. I love using the coolness of cream to serve as a foil to the zesty flavours but for custard fans there can only be one option with a rhubarb pudding! If you enjoy eating your rhubarb with the soft fire of ginger on your tastebuds you could add one and a half teaspoons of ground ginger to the sponge instead of the lemon zest and a grating of fresh ginger to the rhubarb instead of the orange juice.
I used a ceramic baking dish for this pudding measuring 28 x 17 cm
For the rhubarb
2 tbsp plain flour
The juice of half an orange
For the sponge
100g caster sugar
100g self raising flour
The zest of two lemons
Cut the rhubarb into chunks about 3/4 cm in length and put into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, flour and orange juice and mix very well with your hands until all the rhubarb is coated. Then put the rhubarb in your oven dish and press down to make an even layer. It looks like a huge amount of rhubarb but it shrinks a lot when it cooks.
Set the rhubarb aside to make the sponge batter and preheat oven to 180°/ gas mark 4.
Cream the butter and sugar then add the eggs one at a time, beating well. Sift in the flour and gently fold into the mix. Add the lemon zest and (gently) mix in well.
Spoon the batter over the rhubarb. It doesn’t look like it’s enough to cover the rhubarb but don’t worry, it will spread as it cooks and it doesn’t matter if a few bits of rhubarb are poking through, in fact its quite nice to get some caramelised bits on top!
Bake in the oven for 35/ 40 minutes. The sponge should be nice and brown on top and fairly springy to the touch. Because of all of the juice from the rhubarb it will be fairly soft sponge.
Enjoy straight from the oven with cream, custard or whatever you choose!