Saturday, 21 April 2012

For the love of rhubarb

Today was my first walk in the country park where the Race for Life takes place in May.  I knew a long(ish) route and wanted to see if this hit the magic 3.1 miles (and more importantly, if I was anywhere near my target of 45 minutes).  I asked my friend Annabelle if she would like to come with me, as Fi is still away and it's always good to have a walking partner in the woods.

We set off just after 11am, and as expected, encountered quite a bit of mud immediately!  Typically, the government here in England has threatened a hosepipe pan because February and March had been quite dry months - so, of course as soon as the words "hosepipe ban" are breathed what does it do but rain constantly!  We've had a lot of rain - but thankfully we had a dry window today for our walk and though it was muddy, we at least stayed dry.  The woods were beautiful today - I stopped briefly to snap this photo and you can just about see a carpet of purple bluebells in the background.

I had not walked this route in about two years, so I had to concentrate much more on my surroundings to make sure I did not take a wrong turn!  This route in particular is very good for training for fell climbing, as there is a variety of terrain and elevation.  Even though I have not taken this path frequently, I would go as far to say that it is my favourite walk in our little country park.  There are some fabulous views across the woodland, which, on a fine day simply cannot be bettered.

Annie and I finally reached the lake, which was a relief as I knew my way back to the car from there!  Our overall walk time was not great considering the distance covered, however there were about three brief stops (to pet the odd friendly dog) and as we were unfamiliar with the terrain, I reckon our time wasn't that bad.  I must admit I was slightly disappointed with our overall distance.  I felt sure that this route would provide the magical 3.1 mile loop I was looking for, but sadly no.  Next week when I attempt this walk again, I shall see if I can add a bit more to it to achieve the 3.1!  Watch this space!

I got home at about 12:20 and knew that my daughter had art class this afternoon and that we needed to leave at 1:30 to get there.  Quickly I had to have a shower (including washing my hair, which was in a dire state!), have something for lunch, slap some makeup on my face, dry my hair and go!  We didn't have a lot in the fridge, so my low calorie lunch comprised of a plain omelette with 10 grams of cheddar cheese and a bit of salad.  298 calories (not bad!).  Amazingly I finished everything with about 15 minutes to spare - phew!


So, Sundays in our house are always a bit special.  When we bought a house six years ago with my husband's parents, his mother and I agreed that every Sunday we would have a roast lunch.  It started with her and I sharing the cooking, but sadly she passed away two years ago - so the task has of course fallen to me alone.  The men in my family appreciate a good roast, and I must admit that I learnt from the very best!  My mother in law made the best roast ever, and she was a perfectionist where this was concerned - but she taught me all she knew and I think that I've managed to carry that baton well.

One area, however, where I require little help is baking!  From a very early age (basically, as soon as I could hold a spoon!), I was in the kitchen concocting something!  My mother was also very good at baking, so I'm sure it runs in the family.  She worked briefly at a bakery in our small Indiana town and during the summer holidays would take me with her - I suppose I was about 10 or 11 at the time, but the ladies in the bakery would let me bake dill bread, black bottom cupcakes - it gave me a wonderful foundation for baking - skills I still use today.  And I must admit that there is no greater stress reliever than kneading bread dough (and nothing quite as satisfying as eating your own freshly baked bread!).

As I type, there is yet another culinary masterpiece in the oven, the aroma filtering through to the lounge.  I should start by explaining that I love rhubarb - I love it!  I love the flavour, I love the versatility, I even love the colour (if I could design a fabric that comprises the perfect green and the perfect pink of rhubarb, I would!).  It's wonderful stuff, and the amazing aroma is that of a Rhubarb Cornmeal Cake.  My most dog-earred cookbook is without doubt, Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess.  If ever I want to bake, this is my first port of call.  Regardless of the ingredients, I know if I search the index whatever I choose will be utterly delicious.  So, I popped the ingredients into my trusty app My Fitness Pal, and assuming that I'm going to cut this little gem into 10 slices, it works out at a respectable 367 calories per slice - which for cake is pretty darn good!  The recipes is as follows:-

Rhubarb Cornmeal Cake
From Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess


500g rhubarb
300g caster sugar
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
155g fine cornmeal (polenta)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g unsalted butter, soft
250g natural yogurt, preferably bio (I've used low-fat yogurt)

23cm Springform cake tin, buttered and lined


Preheat oven to 180 C / gas mark 4.

Wash and dry the rhubarb if necessary (which I rarely find it to be), and then trim, removing any stringy bits, and cut into 1/2cm slices.  Put into a glass bowl or china bowl and cover with 100g of the sugar, while you get on with the rest of the cake.  Don't let the rhubarb stand for more than half an hour or the sugar will make too much liquid seep out.

Mix the flour, bicarb, salt, cinnamon and cornmeal together.  With a fork, beat the eggs with the vanilla in a measuring jug or small bowl.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and the rest of the sugar, then gradually add the egg and vanilla mixture, beating while you do so.  Then add the flour-cornmeal mixture alternately with the yogurt.  They just need to be combined, don't over mix.

Finally, add the rhubarb together with its sugary, pink juices, folding into the mix, and then pour the speckled batter into the prepared tin.  Put in the preheated oven and bake for about 1 hour or until springy to the touch.  You may need to cover it with foil after about 40 minutes so that the top doesn't catch.  let cool in the tin on a wire rack for a while before unmoulding.

Serves 8-10.

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