This week, we are back to the world of rhubarb, one of my absolute favourite ingredients.
There’s still plenty of Yorkshire forced around, and it won’t be long before we are into the thicker maincrop stalks, full of their wonderful tart flavour.
They may be a but more labour-intensive, but those big chunks are absolute heaven in a pie or crumble. I was reminded, when in Leeds recently, of the beauty of Yorkshire rhubarb, as I passed by a poster for an exhibition at the wonderful Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield.
It’s a series called ‘The Rhubarb Triangle & Other Stories’ by artist and photographer Martin Parr, and features the people and locations of rhubarb farms in the famous area between Leeds, Wakefield and Castleford where this incredible crop is grown.
READ MORE: A-Z foodie guide to Yorkshire
The poster featured a bearded man holding a huge armful of beautiful pink stems, and it has been stuck in my mind since. The exhibition is at The Hepworth until June, so there’s plenty of time to go – I must pop along, and I hope you will too. If they’re really switched on, the gallery café ought to be serving up some rhubarb-based treats, and today’s recipe would make an excellent addition to such a special event.
Today we’re making rhubarb turnovers, combining the tart, piquant fruit with the richness of cream cheese, wrapped in a thick fold of crumbly pastry.
Turnovers are perhaps the ultimate snacky food, easily eaten on the hoof, or more politely with cutlery as part of a more formal light lunch or supper. They exist in almost every culinary culture around the world, generally in very much the same format, from the empanadas of South America to the knish of Israel, from Turkey’s spicy börek to the curried goat patties of Jamaica.
Essentially it’s a square of pastry, be it puff, flaky or shortcrust, filled and folded before being baked to deep golden perfection. Our own pasties are similar, but it’s the simplicity of the turnover that appeals, and this recipe is a doddle. It’s one definitely worth having a go at and adapting to your own preferences.
The pastry is a sort of rough flaky recipe, and it was my first time trying it. I will definitely do so again, because it’s brilliant. As you’ll see, it couldn’t be easier to make up, and it’s very pliable and eager to please.
As a man with incredibly warm hands, I have found pastry-making to be a troublesome process a lot of the time, especially when making temperature-reliant butter-based things. It’s always constant trips to the fridge and plunging hands into iced water for me! But this pastry comes together into a very amenable dough which allows for all that rolling and folding with ease.
I look forward to using it in both sweet and savoury recipes in future. I imagine it would make a lovely classic apple turnover, or maybe with pears or raspberries, but it would also go well with a savoury filling like chicken and mushroom, curried meats, or cheese and onion.
You just have to make sure the mixture isn’t too wet before it goes in, as it could leak through any gaps. And of course, whilst these rhubarb turnovers are a lovely afternoon treat with a cup of tea, they would also round off a meal very nicely with a scoop of clotted cream, or even a decadent vanilla ice-cream.
For the filling:
25g unsalted butter
500g rhubarb, diced
100g unrefined golden caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split, seeds reserved
The zest of a lemon
7-8 teaspoons full-fat cream cheese
For the cream cheese pastry:
175g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
175g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
175g full-fat cream cheese
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 tablespoons unrefined golden granulated sugar
First, make the filling; put the butter, rhubarb, the lemon juice and zest in a non-reactive saucepan, add the sugar and vanilla seeds and cook gently until the rhubarb is just tender. Remove from the heat, and strain off the liquid into a pan. Reduce the liquid to a thick, tart syrup, leave to cool, then chill.
To make the pastry, place the flour, butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Whizz the mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.
Quickly, and without overworking, push the lumps together, then roll the dough into a rough rectangle.
Fold the top third over, and the bottom third up and over this double layer to make a neat-ish square. Turn this parcel 90 degrees to the right and repeat the rolling and folding process. Do this twice more, making four rolls and folds in total.
Wrap the parcel in cling film and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes, before repeating the whole four-time rolling and folding process again, chilling the pastry again after the final fold. Once the dough is completely chilled and ready to use, roll it out on a lightly floured work surface to ½cm thickness, then cut into 12cm-sided squares.
Layer up on a suitable tray interlaid with baking parchment and leave to chill once more in the fridge for about half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 180°C / Gas 4 and line a large baking sheet with parchment.
To make a turnover, place a chilled pastry square on a clean, lightly-floured work surface and brush the edges generously with egg yolk.
Spoon a generous amount of the chilled rhubarb filling in the centre of each square, and top with about a teaspoon of cream cheese. Fold one corner of the pastry square over to the opposite corner to make a triangle. Press the open sides together, and crimp with the tines of a fork, then place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining pastry.
Brush each turnover with the egg yolk and dust well with granulated sugar. Make a couple of centimetre-long slashes on top of each turnover. Chill for 20 minutes in the fridge, then bake for about 25 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden brown. Remove from the oven, transfer carefully to a wire rack and leave to cool for 15-20 minutes before serving.