I don’t think I’d ever tried rhubarb before moving to the UK and to be honest I found it a bit weird and scary the first time it arrived in my veg box. I mean, it looks like stringy celery but it’s used in desserts?? The leaves are also super-poisonous which makes it sound even more suspicious. I tried making a typical crumble and it was ok but I couldn’t quite work up the enthusiasm other people seemed to have for this weird veggie/fruit thing.
But I kept trying different dishes and by this spring, I found myself smiling at the smell of those first sticks of rhubarb, picked from the garden. So if you’re not so sure about rhubarb, do stick with it. (sorry sorry bad pun!) Here’s a few recipe ideas to try…
My top five recipes for rhubarb:
- Coffee crumb cake: This cake was the first rhubarb dish I truly enjoyed – and when I brought it into work it was devoured! For the Brits out there, a ‘coffee cake’ has no coffee in it, it’s just a typical cake to have with coffee, usually with a crumb topping – you know the Americans love a sugary breakfast!! Anyway – try this cake and do it soon folks. ( it also works beautifully with other fruits like plums or apples…) Or if you’re looking for a more traditional cake – this simple rhubarb recipe works great as a full-size cake or cupcakes.
- Crumble: OK so this is the typical thing to do with rhubarb but there’s a twist – firstly, try mixing the rhubarb with other fruits if you’re not so keen on it, it’s amazing what a bit of pear or apple or even strawberry can do to compliment rhubarb’s slightly more tart flavours. Secondly – for your crumble topping make sure to try adding oats or nuts for a much more interesting texture and flavour. Or you could try some rhubarb crumble muffins or even Delia’s rhubarb crumble ice cream if you want to get really creative…
- Rhubarb and elderflower jam: They say ‘what grows together, goes together’ so these two spring flavours are a natural combination. Elderflower’s sweetness compliments the tart rhubarb perfectly – I’d dial back the sugar from most jam recipes to let the natural flavours come through. Many recipes specify equal weights of fruit and sugar but I’d use a half to a third less sugar at least. You can also sub in a few tablespoons of elderflower cordial if you don’t have the fresh stuff handy – I’ll be posting more on picking elderflower soon though…
- Rhubarb curd: Many people have heard of lemon curd – a rich, sweet and creamy fruit preserve which is used on toast, as a tart filling, on ‘pancakes’ (known as crepes in the USA), on shortbread biscuits or for many other uses similar to jam. Well rhubarb curd can be used in the same ways but seems so much more special since it’s so seasonal and so lovely and pink.
- Rhubarb also makes an excellent savoury chutney – see recipe below…
Rhubarb Chutney (adapted from BBC Good Food)
Makes 3-4 small jars
- 450g (about 1lb) rhubarb, chopped
- 2 medium onions (about 200g), finely sliced
- 3 apples (about 450g / 1lb), peeled and cored and chopped
- 300ml cider vinegar
- 250g light brown sugar
- 2-3 small red chillies, dried or fresh, finely chopped (or 2 tsp cayenne pepper)
- 1 tbsp mustard seeds
- 2 tsp ground ginger (or grated fresh)
- 2 tsp mixed spice (cinnamon, cloves, ginger)
- 100g raisins
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
Combine all ingredients. Cook over medium heat in the widest pan you have. You want a shallow layer of chutney so avoid using a deep pot and, if necessary, cook the chutney in batches (this will prevent long cooking times which can damage the final texture).
The chutney is ready if you can run a wooden spoon through it and the spoon’s path remains visible for a few seconds, without liquid flowing back in. Spoon into hot, sterilised jars* and store for at least 6 weeks before eating to allow the flavours to mature.
*I sterilise my jars by first washing in warm soapy water (a good soak should also make it easier to remove any labels, the back of a bread knife is a good tool for scraping off any remaining bits of glue). Then I boil the jars and lids for 10 minutes. I then place the jars in a 150C oven for at least 20 minutes and until they are dry. Make sure to fill and seal while they are still warm.