Rhubarb is appearing more often in shops and on market stalls this time of year.
While we have forced rhubarb mainly from January to March, the hardier outdoor version has now taken over.
Buying fruit and vegetables during their natural season rewards you with the best flavour and quality.
Forced rhubarb needs to be treated with a bit more care and a light poaching usually does the trick.
It is created by depriving the young shoots of light, forcing them to stretch upwards more quickly.
Once we move to the outdoor variety it is a bit tougher and more fibrous.
By late summer it can in fact be a bit too fibrous for my liking.
Make sure to always discard the leaves as they are poisonous.
To make a compote chop two stalks of rhubarb into a small saucepan, add the juice and zest of an orange, a little vanilla essence if you wish and about 50 grams of sugar.
Stew for a few minutes until the fruit has softened.
This simple compote works well in a cocktail with a dash of vodka and ice topped up with a little soda water or white lemonade.
Orange, rosewater, elderflower, vanilla and lavender all complement rhubarb very well and add an extra dimension to its fresh flavour.
To preserve the taste of rhubarb well beyond its growing season you can make a jam.
I have included a nice gingery jam here.
It is wonderfully sharp tasting on some freshly baked brown bread or spread onto a scone.
The pastry recipe included for the pie is a very handy one to know.
You can make any fruit tart with it or use it or at Christmas to make mince pies.
A few strawberries sliced through the pie also work well.
QUICK MID-WEEK MEALS
a dash of rapeseed oil
2 shallots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 small sticks of rhubarb, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 tsp of mustard powder
50 mls of red wine vinegar
100 mls of maple syrup
8 pork chops
Heat the oil and sauté the shallots and garlic until they have started to turn golden.
Add the rhubarb, mustard powder, red wine vinegar and maple syrup and allow to simmer for five minutes until the rhubarb has begun to soften.
Blitz the mixture with a soup gun and taste and season.
Season the pork chops and lightly brush with oil, grill them under a medium grill until golden on both sides and cooked through.
Spoon the sauce over the chops and either serve with potatoes or rice.
4 fillets of salmon. Get an organic one from the local fishmonger
a dash of rapeseed oil
4 small sticks of rhubarb, cut into bite-size chunks
3 tbs of light brown sugar
juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
4 tbs of olive oil
1 tsp of honey
4 handfuls of rocket leaves
a handful of almonds, roughly chopped and toasted
crunchy bread to serve
Rub the oil in an ovenproof pan and place the trout skin-side down. Season the fish and add the rhubarb to the pan.
Sprinkle the rhubarb with the sugar and place the pan under a medium grill for about 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and the rhubarb is softening.
While it is cooking, whisk the lemon juice, mustard, oil, and honey. Taste and season.
Once the fish is cool enough to handle, flake it apart, discarding the skin.
Toss the leaves in the dressing.
Sprinkle with the salmon and nuts.
Lay the rhubarb over the salad and drizzle any juices from the pan.
Serve with the crunchy bread.
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND
1 kg rhubarb, sliced into 2cm chunks 1 kg sugar zest of 3 oranges juice of 1 lemon 25g fresh ginger, peeled
Combine rhubarb, sugar, orange zest and lemon juice in a large saucepan; let stand until sugar is moistened by juices, about two hours.
Place the ginger into a piece of muslin and tie it up with some twine, to make a parcel.
Add this to your other ingredients.
Stir continuously over a low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Then boil rapidly until the jam sets, you will know it is set when you place a spoon of it on a cold saucer and the surface wrinkles.
Skim the top of the jam.
Take out the ginger and pour the jam into sterlised jars.
Pop a circle of baking parchment on top, seal and close the lid tightly and label the jam.
225g of plain flour
1 pinch of salt
140g of cold butter, cut into small cubes
55g caster sugar
1 egg, and 1 egg yolk
600g of rhubarb, in bite-size chunks
1/2 tsp of lavender flowers, finely chopped, make sure to use edible flowers
250g of light brown sugar
2 tbs of milk
Mix the flour and salt.
Rub in butter until it forms the texture of rough breadcrumbs, do not over mix.
Stir the sugar into the eggs until it is almost dissolved.
Add the eggs to the flour with a fork and then bring it together with your hands.
Rest the pastry for at least an hour in the fridge or over night.
Spread the rhubarb over the base of a 9 inch pie dish, Sprinkle with the lavender and brown sugar.
Rhubarb varies in sweetness you may need a little more or less sugar.
Roll out the pastry and cover the dish pinching in generously at the sides.
Cut a slit in the top centre and if you wish decorate the pie with some of the pastry off cuts.
Mix the egg yolk and milk together and brush the top.
Bake at 180 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, until golden.
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