This time of year is a very special period indeed. It’s not just that the evenings are now lingering rather than slamming shut into darkness, or that the browns and greys of winter have been chased away by spring flowers. This is rhubarb season.
I met a woman at my allotment this weekend who had never heard of rhubarb. “What’s this?” she said, poking the crumpled leaves that were poking up on her new plot. Imagine never, ever having tasted that wonderful tart fruit. Can you imagine that?
This weekend I married two of the most wonderful and unmissable flavours in the world: rhubarb and saffron. They’re starcrossed lovers that you can grow very easily in your own garden, and they make a magnificent dish.
The idea of a sweet pizza which brought rhubarb and saffron together comes from the wonderful The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. This is a book that has changed my approach to cooking more than any other. It suggested that the two flavours did something rather special together, and so I came up with something special to eat.
For the filling:
8 rhubarb stalks
For the pizza base:
1/2 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
300g strong white flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tbsp milk powder
1 tsp salt
1 large pinch of saffron
210ml lukewarm water
1 egg yolk to glaze
1. If you’re lazy, have too many other things to fill your day with or don’t enjoy kneading dough, you can whack all the pizza base ingredients into a breadmaker as I do, for 45 minutes on the pizza dough setting. Or you can mix all the ingredients except the water together in a mixing bowl, gradually adding the water until it forms a soft dough. Then knead for ten minutes, leave to rest for twenty minutes and then spread out on a floured surface and knead again.
2. While your dough is proving, dice the rhubarb stalks and throw them into a saucepan with the raspberries and the sugar and stir well until the fruit juices run and the mixture begins to stew. The whole stewing process should take about ten minutes and you’ll be left with a mixture a little runnier than jam at the end.
3. Shape the dough into a round pizza-shaped base, leaving a slightly thicker edge to form the crust. Pour your rhubarb and raspberry filling into the centre and smooth it around the base.
4. Glaze the edges of the dough with the egg yolk and pop in the oven at 200 degrees for twenty minutes, or until the dough is a rich golden brown. Serve with a thick vanilla-y custard.
What is so wonderful about the rhubarb on the saffron base is that its tart flavour is set off perfectly by the warm, fizzy, floral flavour of the spice. The whole thing makes your mouth tingle with joy. If you don’t believe me, then bake it for yourself, and let me know if that wasn’t one of the loveliest experiences of your life.