rhubarb and vanilla jonathan

serves 6-8. hands-on time 30 min, oven time 50 min

It's a simple, fruity sponge pudding that you can make with any seasonal fruit - peaches and nectarines are good in summer. Rhubarb's best, though. It's ideal for serving after a Sunday roast - with cream, of course.

1 vanilla pod
300g caster sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
1kg forced rhubarb (trimmed weight)
115g lightly salted butter, softened
2 medium free-range eggs
150g self-raising flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt
3 tbsp milk
Icing sugar for dusting
Cream or custard to serve

Heat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/ gas 4. Slit the vanilla pod open lengthways and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife into a mixing bowl (save the pod for later). Add 185g of the sugar and mix them with your fingertips, then stir in the plain flour. Wipe the rhubarb stalks clean, cut into 5cm pieces, then add to the bowl and toss to coat. Leave for 20 minutes, stirring now and then, until all the pieces of fruit are coated in sticky sugar/flour mix.

Spoon the fruit over the base of a shallow 2 litre baking dish (the shallower the dish, the quicker the sponge will cook). It will look like quite a lot of fruit, but don't worry - it collapses during cooking. Cut the reserved vanilla pod into 4 pieces and poke them in amongst the rhubarb. Cover and bake for 15 minutes.

For the sponge topping, beat the butter and remaining 115g sugar in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon (or with an electric mixer) for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the self-raising flour with the second egg. Beat in the vanilla extract. Sift over the rest of the flour and pinch of salt, then gently fold in along with the milk using a metal spoon, trying to keep the mixture as light as possible.

Remove the dish of rhubarb from the oven, discard the vanilla pod pieces and drop small spoonfuls of the sponge mixture roughly over the top of the fruit. Don't worry about a few gaps; these will fill in as the sponge rises and cooks.

Bake for about 35 minutes until the sponge is cooked through and crisp and brown on top. Remove the dish from the oven and leave to sit for 10 minutes. Dust the top with a little icing sugar and serve hot with cream or custard.

per serving (for 8) 319kcals, 14.1g fat (8.1g saturated), 5.3g protein, 43.8g carbs (27.8g sugars), 0.6g salt, 3.3g fibre


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