February marks a seasonal shift and the first trickle of new season produce, including my favourite: forced rhubarb. The eye-popping pink colour and sharp flavour are a late-Winter pick-me up and a reminder that Spring is just around the corner. Every year I’m keen to get my hands on it as soon as I can, so when my Mum kindly bought me some last week I knew I wanted to make something extra special. I plumped for a celebratory half-term rhubarb and coconut meringue tart: tropical coconut makes a lovely pairing with the bitter rhubarb, adding complexity and nuttiness to the fresh fruity flavours. The meringue adds just enough sweetness to balance the sour notes, and is well worth the effort for Sunday lunch or a weekend treat. To make the rhubarb and coconut meringue tart, you will need:
700g trimmed rhubarb, cut into 3cm pieces
160g golden caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp extra to taste
Grated zest and juice of ½ orange
4 tbsp cornflour
4 large free-range egg yolks (you will use the whites in the meringue)
50g unsalted butter, melted.
For the coconut pastry:
50g desiccated coconut
200g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
1 tbsp caster sugar
110g unsalted cold butter, cubed
About 2 tbsp cold water
For the coconut meringue:
3 large free-range egg whites
175g caster sugar
40g desiccated coconut.
For the coconut pastry, put the coconut into a food processor with 1 tbsp of flour and pulse to a fine mixture. Mix with the rest of the flour in a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Add the cubed butter and lightly rub into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add just enough cold water to bind. Knead lightly until smooth, wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat a baking sheet in the oven to 200C/Fan 180C. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and then transfer t0 a 20cm x 3.5cm fluted, loose-bottomed tart tin. Chill for 30 minutes. Line the pastry case with baking paper and baking beans and blind-bake for 12 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove the paper and beans and bake for 5 minutes or until crisp and golden. Set aside.
Turn the oven down to 190C/Fan 170C to make the filling. Mix the rhubarb with 70g of the sugar and the orange zest and juice. Scatter in a roasting tray and roast for 20 minutes.
Purée the rhubarb and its juices in a food processor. If you want to make it really smooth you could pass it through a sieve, extracting as much juice as possible – although I found mine was already pretty smooth! In a small bowl, mix the remaining sugar with the cornflour and enough of the rhubarb purée to make a paste.
Return to the pan containing the rest of the rhubarb. Bring to the boil, bubble for a minute, then remove from the heat. Taste and add 1 tbsp more sugar if it’s too tart. Stir the egg yolks and butter into the rhubarb mixture to make a curd. Scrape into a bowl, cover, cool and chill.
Pour the curd into the pastry case and bake for 30 minutes, until set. Cool completely, then chill while you make the meringue.
For the meringue, whisk the egg whites until stiff, add 1 tbsp of the sugar, then whisk again. Add the remaining sugar a tablespoon at a time until stiff again. Fold through the coconut and spoon the meringue over the rhubarb curd in peaks.
Bake for 15 minutes until the meringue is golden and crisp on the outside. Remove, cool and serve.
What are you baking this weekend? Are you celebrating rhubarb season?
Recipe for rhubarb and Coconut Meringue Tart via Delicious Magazine.