• In season now: May

    New this month: Asparagus! The food of gods... and carrots are back.

    Still in season from last month: cauliflower, chard, green cabbage, salad leaves, main-crop potatoes (from store), salad leaves, sea kale, spring greens, rhubarb

    Goodbye till next year to: Purple sprouting broccoli (sniff, sniff), leeks, stored parsnips, forced rhubarb

  • What I’m doing here

    This all started when I picked the first strawberries from my new allotment.

    I'd never been so enraptured or so excited by food. It was a shock to find that anything could taste so good.

    So what - I'd never had strawberries before?

    No - all the strawberries I'd had were shop-bought, like as not flown in from intensive growers in Spain or Chile, and eaten in winter when strawberries should be a distant summer memory.

    It revolutionised my thinking about the fresh food we eat every day. I started to wonder if you got the same amazing taste from all types of food grown and eaten in season. And then I decided to do something about it.

    The Year of Eating Seasonally is my little experiment to find out what it's really like not to have it all. The only fruit and veg I and my family are going to eat in 2008 will be what's growing in the ground at the time (or, in winter, what I can get out of store).

    I want to find out if the hungry gap is really as hungry as everyone says it is: whether you're really eating nothing but cabbage all winter; and whether you miss strawberries in December.

    Along the way I hope I'll save a few tons of carbon being released into the atmosphere on my behalf, as I won't be requiring those French beans flown from Chile, thanks very much. And I hope I'll be rediscovering what food can really taste like.

    If you have any comments, please feel free to post them anywhere you like - or you can email me at sallywhite@hotmail.com.

Rhubarb crumble cake

A truly delicious way to combine the sweetness of seasonal forced rhubarb with melt-in-the-mouth sponge cake and crunchy crumble topping. It doesn’t get much better than this!

15 oz (400g) forced rhubarb (or non-forced later in the season), topped and tailed, then chopped

1oz (25g) caster sugar

for the crumble topping:

2 1/2 oz (75g) butter at room temperature

5oz (125g) plain flour

2 1/2 oz (75g) demerara sugar

for the sponge base:

6oz (175g) caster sugar

6oz (175g) butter at room temperature

6oz (175g) self-raising flour

3 eggs

This needs making in two stages, at least an hour apart.

Start by cooking the rhubarb with the caster sugar over a low heat for about 8-10 minutes. The rhubarb should be tender and just starting to collapse.

Place a sieve over a basin, pour the rhubarb in and let it drain and cool for at least an hour. You can drink the juice, diluted with water, for a real pick-you-up buzz: or simmer to reduce it to a syrup and pour over the finished cake.

While the rhubarb is cooling, make the crumble topping. Rub the butter with the flour, using your fingertips held above the bowl so that air is incorporated with the mix as it falls back in. Keep going until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Then stir in the demerara sugar.

When the hour is up, switch on the oven to gas mark 4 (180C, 350F). Get the food processor out to make the sponge base (you can make this by hand – it just takes a little longer). Beat the butter and sugar until creamy – about 20 seconds in the processor, rather longer by hand. Break in the eggs one by one and zap them/beat them in steadily with a fork. Add the flour and mix until it makes a smooth paste.

Now add the cooled rhubarb to the sponge mixture and stir well – it makes a lovely marbled effect at this point. Take a square cake tin or baking tin about 9″ (22.5cm) across and butter it well (you can line it too if you wish). Pour in the rhubarb and sponge mixture, smooth it out with the back of a spoon, and then cover with the crumble mix. Spread it out evenly, and then bake in the oven for about an hour until the topping is golden and the sponge has risen.

Take out of the oven and leave to stand for five minutes before turning out to cool on a wire cake rack. You can serve this still warm as a scrumptious pudding, or wait till it’s cold, cut it into squares and eat with a nice hot cuppa as a teatime treat. 

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