- Food & Drink
The first time I tried amaretto I was in a wines and spirits aisle in Tesco and it was Christmas. A woman with curling brown hair and pink cheeks had set up a little tasting stand at the end of the aisle. She’d lined up rows of plastic shot glasses filled with a golden, syrupy drink and was trying to get shoppers to take a swig.
“Have a little drink while you shop!” she said. Most of the shoppers ignored her. It was the 23rd December. A day for shopping with precision and determination. The season’s celebrations depended on a really well executed supermarket shop and no one had time for an off-plan nip of some unknown drink.
Everyone unsaw the woman as they pushed their trollies past her; their eyes going temporarily blind. Everyone except me and my mum. Our Christmas shopping had been long done. The turkey ordered, the boxes of peanuts and Twiglets stacked on the washing machine in the utility room, the cream in the shed because there was no room in the fridge. We were doing a final sweep for the extra bits you suddenly decide you can’t do Christmas without. Pickled onions, strawberry jam, six more litres of milk. Things like that.
We took a little drink each, which made the shop assistant smile, and knocked them back.
We were transformed. The look on our faces was like the one babies get when they try chocolate for the first time.
“Why have I been wasting my time drinking anything else?” is what our faces said.
We bought a bottle and raced home to share this magical new drink with the family.
Now it isn’t Christmas unless there’s a amaretto poured over ice, mixed with coke or, a little weirdly, stirred with orange juice and served with a cinnamon stick poking out of the ice. But there is always a little left at the end of Christmas. And it doesn’t seem right to drink it when it’s not Christmas. So what to do with the last glassful?
Almonds and rhubarb is one of those instinctive combinations, like chocolate and mint or strawberries and cream. They just belong together.
Someone somewhere on social media was talking about bakewell tarts a few weeks ago (probably Jennie), which put a longing in me for rhubarb bakewell tart. Sour green field rhubarb, crumbly shortcrust pastry and damp frangipane, but with an extra layer of amaretto icing. The amaretto seems very boozy when it’s mixed into the icing, but leave it overnight to set and it mellows into a rich, almond glaze that backs up the frangipane.
Rhubarb Bakewell Tart with Amaretto Icing
FOR THE PASTRY
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
A pinch of fine sea salt
100g cold salted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cold water
FOR THE RHUBARB FILLING
75g caster sugar
FOR THE FRANGIPANE
125g room temperature butter
125g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
150g ground almonds
75g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of fine sea salt
FOR THE ICING
2 tbsp flaked almonds
300g icing sugar
Make the pastry: sift the flour into a bowl. Add a pinch of salt. Chop in the butter. Rub in with your fingertips to make crumbs with a fine, sandy texture.
Separate the egg and put the egg white to one side. Whisk the egg yolk with the vanilla extract and water. Stir the liquid into the flour with a butter knife to bring it together so it makes a soft dough. Wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Heat your oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Trim the rhubarb and chop it into lengths around 3cm long. Place in a roasting tin. Grate in the orange zest and squeeze in the juice. Scatter over the sugar. Roast for 20 minutes till the rhubarb is soft and collapsing. Take out of the oven and set aside.
Dust your work surface with flour. Unwrap the pastry and roll it out to make a round large enough to line a shallow 28cm tart tin. Carefully lay it in the tin, gently passing the pastry into the edges. Trim the edges (keep the trimmings in case you need it later for patching the case). Line the tart tin with baking paper and fill it to the brim with baking beans, dried pulses or rice. Bake for 15-20 mins till it feels dry when you nudge up the paper and beans.
Whisk the egg white to break it up. Lift out the paper and baking beans. If any holes have appeared, patch them with the pastry trimmings. Brush the pastry case with the egg white and bake for 10-15 mins till pale golden.
Make the frangipane: beat the butter and sugar together till pale and fluffy. Beat the eggs, then slowly beat them into the butter and sugar till combined and smooth. Tip in the ground almonds. Sift in the plain flour and baking powder. Add a pinch of salt. Beat everything together till combined.
Tip the rhubarb into a sieve set over a bowl and stir it a few times to push out any excess syrup. Spread the rhubarb over the base of the tart tin. Spoon over the frangipane – you’ll need to be gentle as you pat it over the rhubarb. Bake for 40-45 minutes till golden and risen. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then carefully lift up and out of the tin and finish cooling it on a wire rack.
Make the topping: toast the flaked almonds in a dry frying pan for 2-3 minutes till golden. Tip into a bowl. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and stir in enough amaretto to make a smooth, thick icing. Pour the icing over the tart and scatter with the almonds. Leave to set. Serve in slices.