Over the weekend the tomato plants have moved from a space next to the big glass doors in living room to the greenhouse. This is a sure sign that summer is on the way and not, as my family would like to think, that I’ve finally taken heed of their complaints about there being pots all over the house. And while we’re on signs of summer, the swifts are back too from their wintering grounds in Africa. I saw the first few birds yesterday evening, skimming through the sky after high flying insects. They join the swallows, cuckoos and chiffchaffs that have arrived back over the last few weeks… now all is ready, and summer can begin.
I was looking back at a post from almost exactly a year ago to check when the swifts arrived last year, and it was just about the same time. In the post there’s a photo of apple blossom. The swifts might be back at the same time, but the apple tree is way behind this year. It has leaves, but no sign of any flowers yet. The pear trees, on the other hand, are covered in pink buds and white flowers.
I’m less excited about the huge flowers appearing on my rhubarb though. It does this every year – the RHS website says that some cultivars are more likely to flower than others, I must have the most flower-prone cultivar in the history of the world. I’ll remove the flowers, following RHS instructions, to prevent them from weakening the crown – I want the plants energy to go into producing stalks not flowers.
The internet is awash with rhubarb recipes at the moment – Kathy at Gluts & Gluttony did a great round up of recipes, including rhubarb tart, ice cream and cake. And this month’s three ingredients for the Recipes for Life challenge over at Bangers & Mash are rhubarb, lemon and spice. Must admit, my first attempt at a recipe using these three wasn’t great – rhubarb crumble cookies with lemon icing. They looked ok, but tasted something like rhubarb-flavoured cardboard. The children at the school gardening club tried them for me, and decided that I should try again, maybe with something else. Although the experience was memorable enough for eating cookies to make it onto the blackboard recording things we’ve done at gardening club.
This time I think I’ve got a recipe that not just works, it works well – rhubarb and lemon scones. The scone dough is nice and sweet to contrast with the tart rhubarb and lemon zest. They’re great as they are, warm from the oven. Or cut in two and spread with butter… some jam is nice too. Whichever way you want to eat them, they’re seasonal, easy to make and my entry for May’s Recipes for Life.
Rhubarb & lemon scones
50g caster sugar
100g rhubarb, chopped fairly finely
1 tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
75g unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1 egg, lightly beaten
a little milk
Preheat the oven to 220oC, 450F, gas 7.
Mix the sugar, rhubarb, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest in a small bowl and set aside.
Sift the flour, and baking powder into a mixing bowl, add the salt and stir to mix. Rub the cubed butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, rhubarb and spices mixture to the flour – the sugar should have dissolved, scrape all the sweet liquid from the bottom of the bowl and add that too. Stir well so that the rhubarb pieces are spread through the flour.
Stir in the egg and enough milk to bring everything together into a soft dough.
Put the dough on a lightly floured board and roll it out gently until it’s about 21/2 cm thick. Use a cookie cutter or an upturned glass to cut rounds out of the dough. Put the scones onto a greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes of so before serving.