The rhubarb in my garden is growing really well (apart from the hens eating some of the leaves!) so I thought this week we would look at that. It’s such a relatively short season that we really ought to make the most of it! Botanically, rhubarb is a vegetable (it’s related to sorrel and dock) but its thick, fleshy stalks are treated as a fruit, despite their tart flavour. It grows in two crops. The first, which arrives early in the year, is forced and grown under pots. Its stalks are watermelon pink, with pale lime green leaves, and it is the more tender and delicately flavoured of the two. The second, called maincrop rhubarb, is grown outdoors, and arrives in spring. Its stalks are a deeper red, tinged with green, and its leaves a brighter green. It has a more intense flavour and a more robust texture than forced.
I love mine lightly poached with my porridge in the morning (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!), or with custard or in a crumble. It also marries beautifully with ginger and strawberries (obviously not altogether). And did you know, it goes really well with savoury dishes, particularly strong fish like mackerel?
Mackerel with rhubarb chutney
- 75g / 3oz castor sugar
- 25g/1oz sultanas
- few sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2cm/¾in piece root ginger peeled and finely chopped
- 1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 sticks rhubarb
- 5 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 orange, juice only
- salt and black pepper
- 1 mackerel – 2 fillets
For the chutney, in a heavy-based pan melt the sugar until a golden-brown caramel forms. Remove from the heat and stir in the sultanas, rosemary sprigs, ginger, shallot and rhubarb.Stir in the cider vinegar and orange juice. Bring back to the boil and cook gently for 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
For the mackerel, place the mackerel fillet skin-side up on an oven tray. Brush with rapeseed oil and place the fillets under a hot grill. Season with salt and pepper. Serve a spoonful of chutney with the cooked mackerel fillets, new potatoes and a crisp salad.
Rhubarb Pudding Cake
This is one of my all-time favourite puddings! I’ve tried it with other fruit but it doesn’t work nearly as well. As the season is relatively short you really have to make the most of it – consequently, below is probably more for two than one – but you will be really happy tomorrow when you have another portion to eat!
- 4 dessertspoons plain flour 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 dessertspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 egg
- 1/2 lb rhubarb, chopped
- Sauce: 40 grams butter 2 tablespoons sugar 1 small egg
Preheat the oven to 200oC. Mix the flour and the baking powder in a small ovenproof dish. Add egg and milk and oil and mix together to a batter. Place the rhubarb on top and put into the oven for 15 minutes. Melt the butter and sugar together for the sauce, switch off heat and add beaten egg -DON’T SCRAMBLE! Pour on top of cake and put back in oven for another 15 minutes. Yum!