I’m tired of eating sturdy root vegetables and knocking off the shoots from potatoes before I use them and crave sweet baby carrots and tiny globes of deep coloured beetroot, crisp sugar snap peas and earthy new potatoes all freshly picked from the garden. Alas, they are all still weeks away from harvest and the only things we can pick from the garden this week are perennial herbs (though I seem to have unknowingly killed off most of my mint, which I thought was a fairly indestructible plant), asparagus and rhubarb. The cold weather meant the asparagus was very late this year so while in a normal year I’m beginning by now to have had my fill, this year it’s still a treat to nip out to the garden to cut the spears and have them on the table within minutes.
The rhubarb has grown particularly well this year, partly I suspect because in the autumn I lifted, divided and replanted some of the crowns. This was not in pursuit of horticultural excellence but because I wanted to try dyeing with rhubarb root, which you can see in the photo above. It was no great surprise that the wool came out beige, though it was a rich, sunset tinted beige rather than a washed out yellow beige. Honestly, until I started natural dyeing, I didn’t appreciate how many shades of beige you can achieve. But I digress …
Rhubarb kicks off the fruit season (even though I know that technically it’s a vegetable) and is perfect for late spring when the weather can be a little variable. On cool days we eat rhubarb crumble with custard and when the sun shines we make ice cream sundaes with layers of oven baked rhubarb, ice-cream and crushed gingernuts or meringues.
But surely the best way to eat rhubarb is in a fool. Are you a lover of a cream, yoghurt or custard fool? I’ve seen recipes for Rhubarb Fool made with yoghurt (isn’t that called Rhubarb Yoghurt?), with custard (too much faff) and any combination of cream, yoghurt and custard. Following my normal mantra of “take the easy option” I make my fools by folding fruit into whipped cream. However, adding a dollop or two of Greek yoghurt to a rhubarb fool gives a little edge of sourness, that I like, though I wouldn’t add it to a strawberry or raspberry Fool. Sometimes I add a little orange zest or stem ginger to the rhubarb, but mostly I leave it plain.
Make rhubarb fool by tossing 400g chopped rhubarb with 3 – 4 tablespoons of sugar in an ovenproof dish, lightly cover the dish with aluminium foil and bake in the oven at 200C for about 15 – 20 minutes until it’s soft and sitting in a pool of liquid. Put a sieve above a bowl and press the rhubarb into the sieve to remove as much liquid as you can. I don’t like a fool made with puree but I don’t want whole pieces of fruit either, so press as hard as you need to get your desired texture. Save the juice and leave the rhubarb to cool. Whip 300ml double cream until it’s floppy, fold in 3 tablespoons of Greek yoghurt with the drained rhubarb and chill in the fridge for an hour or so. I like to reduce the juice a little, by boiling it in a small pan, to make a syrup to pour over the fool that makes it look less anaemic.
Yesterday, we ate Rhubarb Pastries, which are also a pretty good way to use rhubarb. I had half a batch of Nigella’s Processor Danish Pastry left after making a trayful of Schnecken (both recipes from How to Be a Domestic Goddess) and as I also had some spare rhubarb, it was but a small step to combining them with a spoonful of crème patisserie to make Rhubarb Pastries. Tis true that they are not as satisfyingly sweet and delicious as the shnecken, but they are light and fruity with a little richness from the crème patisserie. They also make a better photograph than a bowlful of pale rhubarb fool.
Should you have a garden where the canopy of rhubarb leaves is growing ever thicker, no matter how many sticks you pull each day, you might also like to try some of these other ways with rhubarb, including Rhubarb Bitters, Rhubarb Flatbread, Rhubarb Jelly and Rhubarb cooked in Strawberry Gin.
Are you a lover of rhubarb? Or does is it set your teeth on edge?