A friend recently complained about the dearth of desserts on the blog. He had assumed that, as a vegetarian, I would supplement my caloric intake with sugar. He was wrong. Clearly, he doesn't know that many vegetarians, because most of the ones in my circle are health nuts... I tend to stray from the healthful passage, but seldom veer towards the sweet side: despite growing up a sugar fiend, I mostly crave crunchy and salty foods. Sugar is for special occasions.
And what could be more special than the first spears of local rhubarb? Mother's Day is just around the corner...
Rhubarb Polenta and Olive Oil Upside-Down Cake
Serves 8 to 12
250 ml/ 1 cup olive oil, plus extra for mould
320g/ 1½ cup sugar
220g/ 2cups ground almonds
220g/ 1¼cup medium polenta
3 large eggs
5g/ 1 tsp baking powder
1 lemon zest
1 orange zest
500g/ 1 lb rhubarb
125g/ 8 Tbs/ 1 stick butter, optional
1 vanilla pod
Butter or oil the sides of a 20cm/8", 5cm/3" deep cake mould (not spring form), and sprinkle with polenta or almond powder. Butter or oil the bottom of the mould, and line with baking parchment. Set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 180°C/350°F. If you have a fan (convection) oven, turn off the fan or lower the oven temperature, otherwise the cake will be done before the caramel sauce is ready.
Wash and trim rhubarb, chop into large chunks.
In a mixing bowl, mix a third of the sugar, rhubarb and the vanilla pod, halved and scraped. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.
In another mixing bowl, mix the olive oil, the rest of the sugar, ground almonds, polenta, eggs, baking powder, lemon and orange zest.
Dot the bottom of the cake pan with butter: while this is optional, it will add body to the caramel sauce..
Pick out the vanilla pod from the rhubarb, and fill the cake mould with the rhubarb and all its juices.
Pour the batter over the rhubarb, and smooth top.
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through (the cake cake is ready when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.)
Let cool until the cake mould can be handled. Ease a knife around the cake, and flip the mould onto a plate.
This cake is lovely served warm as is, but absolutely to die for with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You can also adjust the recipe for each season: substitute the rhubarb for cherries, gooseberries or mango in June; pineapple, raspberries or blackcurrants in July; blueberries, peaches, plums, or nectarine in August; apples, pears or quine in autumn; you get the idea. Just make sure you use a smooth olive oil, nothing too harsh: a Greek or a California black olive oil are best suited for this cake.