It was Father’s Day over the weekend here in Australia and it was great excuse to get the whole family together to celebrate.
I’ll admit, it’s not one of my favourite holidays. My father passed away when my siblings and I were very young. At first it was hard for us. In elementary school, teachers would try to force us to make Father’s Day presents regardless of how hard we resisted. There was no consideration for ‘non-traditional’ families back then.
But as we got older, we decided to celebrate the male family members who have been like fathers to us. My uncle and, in particular, my grandfather, a grumpy old Calabrese who hides his affection behind gruffness, but who makes still salami from scratch every year even though he’s 80 just because he knows how much we love it.
Like most old Italians, he’s very fussy about what he eats. Dessert is always a disaster and we can never make a birthday cake, he’ll even taste, let alone enjoy. Then my grandmother thought up this rhubarb recipe. It’s not too sweet and goes beautifully with a bitter Italian espresso. It’s the only dessert my grandfather enjoys. So to celebrate Father’s Day, we made one just for him.
Rhubarb is out of season here in Australia, but that never really stops the supermarkets from stocking it. I did pay $6 (more than €3) for five stalks, which incredibly over-priced if you ask me. Fruit and vegetables are definitely more expensive in Australia than in Italy. I just kept reminding myself of how much my grandfather liked this tart as I handed over my cash!
If you do manage to find rhubarb and it’s underripe, cut into small pieces and soften in a bowl of just boiled water for a few minutes before placing in the casing. Otherwise feel free to use any other tart fruit you have on hand. Plums, blackberries, raspberries and cherries would all work beautifully.
The pastry is my grandmother’s invention and one that she uses often. It doesn’t have butter or a lot of sugar in it, so it’s not a typical shortcrust. It’s a cross between a cake and bread in consistency and has a beautiful lemon flavour – like all Italian sweets. It’s fantastic for fruit tarts because it absorbs the fruit juice that steeps out while cooking without becoming soggy.
Don’t worry if the sides open a little bit while it’s in the oven.This is a free-form tart and the self-raising flour in the dough rises beautifully to provide the crust you would traditionally expect. My cousin complemented me on the perfection of my tart’s circle. I think he was being sarcastic, but I’m a firm believer that everything homemade should look rustic!
Dust with a little icing sugar or vanilla sugar before you serve and that’s it! Enjoy and Happy Monday! xx