There was a book I once read set in like 1700 America. I can’t remember much of the story but the girl comes across this weirdly shaped food brought on the ships from a far away land. She writes a letter describing the shape, the strange way to peel the fruit, the texture, the smell. It took a minute to realise she was describing a banana.
Fastforward to the 21st century. Globalisation has taught us that there are still lots of fruits and vegetables we don’t know about or are yet to taste. Rhubarb however is a familiar sight along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway on those vertical fruit stands by the road. It’s the one that kind of looks like celery but red. Not a common vegetable in most African homes, it’s considered mzungu food. But what is rhubarb? How do you use it? What does it taste like?
What is rhubarb? A vegetable. 94% water. Good source of vitamin K and some vitamin C. The leaves however are toxic. The stalks are the edible part.
How is it prepared? It’s very sour or tart so sugar is usually added. It’s good in pies, crumbles, cake, or even juice. If you add pectin it makes a delicious jam.
What does it taste like? Lemons are sour, but so is tamarind (ukwaju) and purple passionfruit; but they taste different. So sour is just one aspect. It smells floral, green, and delicate. You just have to try it for yourself. And here is one way to!
- 1/2 cup (113g) butter
- 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup (240ml) mala
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
- 1-2 cups rhubarb
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
Mix the 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar for 3 minutes. Feels extra but it’s worth it.
Add in 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla and whisk for a full minute.
In another bowl mix 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 cups flour.
To the butter mixture, whisk half the flour mixture lightly. Next add 1 cup mala. Finally the remaining flour mixture.
Cook the rhubarb for about 5 minutes with the 1/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons flour, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Taste and adjust to your preference.
Grease and flour a baking tin.
You could sandwich the rhubarb mixture in the middle or have it on top of the cake. So pour the cake batter into the baking tin. Spread the slightly cooked rhubarb on top (or in the middle of the batter).
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Enjoy.