Some Rhubarb Thoughts

Those of you of a certain age may be having a nostalgic chuckle at this point. Rhubarb  is radio jargon for unintelligible background speech. Extras would mutter the word over and over to provided atmosphere for, say, a party scene. The Goons, ultimate radio anarchists, had a sketch where it was repeated, clearly and audibly, with occasional interspersions of Custard! Eric Sykes took this to new lengths with a film of the same name. But we digress.

Most commonly, rhubarb is stewed, cooked with sugar and a little water until it falls to bits. It then has many uses. Served with yoghurt, for example, or used as a topping for cereal or muesli. The ratio of fruit to sugar varies. An old book which I consulted suggested 400:150. I suspect that would be very sweet for today's tastes. A ratio of 5:1 is about right for many, but it depends on your taste. Less may be needed if there will be added sweetness elsewhere in the dish, in a crumble, for example. If you're going to break your fruit (technically veg, actually) right down you can always add more sugar later.

Orange and rhubarb are close friends. Try adding the juice and zest of one orange. And a few drops of vanilla extract will never go amiss. Close friends are one thing, but besties are another. Orange, if rhubarb turns down your offer, it's because she's off with her lifelong pal ginger. A civil partnership made in heaven. (Doesn't sound quite right - Ed)

For the stewed stuff, add some powdered ginger. But beware, it's stronger than you might think. You can always add.... In these days when presentation is everything, cut your rhubarb into finger length pieces of equal size. Place side by side in a pan and simmer gently for 5 - 7 minutes until they are just tender, but hold their shape. They'll look good as a garnish or topping.

Or make a sauce. Blitz and sieve your stewed rhubarb and ginger combo. Warm it and serve over vanilla ice cream with little chunks of preserved stem ginger in syrup.

Fool. Or syllabub. Or posset. Or panna cotta. All fine things to do with rhubarb. With the exception of the latter which uses gelatin, the differences aren't widely understood. A fool is traditionally stewed fruit whipped into custard. Now, we generally use whipped cream. For a lighter dessert use half and half whipped cream and yoghurt (about 200ml of each) with 2tbsp of icing sugar.

A syllabub is traditionally milk or cream based "curdled" with wine or cider then sweetened. Don't confuse this with zabaglione, which uses egg yolks. And finally the posset? Well, if you can explain the difference between that and syllabub, please write in.

Finally, another idea nicked from Lady Claire. Stew about 350g of rhubarb, allow to cool, then blitz it. Whip a mixture of 300ml of double cream and 110ml of ginger wine. Mix with 4 chunks of ginger preserved in syrup cut into thin slivers. Fold the cream and purée together, pour into serving glasses, chill and serve.

Sue LawrenceAnd if it's too chill for any of these? Well, as someone wrote in this column years ago, Crumble Isn't Just For Kids. Searching for the link, I discover that was on the old website; however I leave you with links for a general crumble and a terrific recipe provided by Sue Lawrence a few years ago.

We're away next week. See you in a fortnight

1 Comment

  1. Allan Stewart on 13th March 2024 at 10:38 am

    Rhubarb, can be an excellent accompaniment to a range of meats (e.g. venison). It sounds odd but I really like it. We experimented with rhubarb (and ginger – natch!) ice cream using my wee ice cream maker – the sort of notion you walk around and poke with a stick but who’d have thunk it? it was very tasty and liked by our guinea pigs (ermmm “children”) as well as us.

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