chopped rhubarb

Rhubarb is for Fools

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.

rhubarb root scrubbed
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.

Rhubarb Pastries

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?


rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb

Do extras in films really mutter rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb when they’re pretending to have a conversation? Whether they do or not, meals here are a bit rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb.

I like to have a clump of rhubarb in the garden that, with little effort on my part, reliably pops up every year. First the tiniest spear emerges, followed by a bright green crinkly leaf that gradually unfolds as the rhubarb rises from the ground.

We seem to have two different varieties; one produces long, slim deep pink stems and the other stout, green stems with just a touch of red that grow almost as thick as my wrist if I leave them for too long.

Both varieties are doing very well at the moment so I’m cooking rather a lot of rhubarb. Mostly I just mix it with some sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water and bung it in the oven for 15 minutes to make a compote. The compote can be eaten on its own, with yoghurt or folded into a custard and cream mixture to make a fool, though I only use the red rhubarb for that as the green stems make a rather sludgy looking fool.  I’ve frozen plenty of rhubarb crumbles so that on cold winter days I can quickly heat them up to to eat surrounded by a moat of custard.

Here’s five more ways to use rhubarb.

1. Rhubarb with Strawberry Gin.

Nigel Slater has a recipe for cooking rhubarb in sloe gin, which makes a gloriously deep coloured dish. This variation is pinker and the strawberry taste shines through making it a little more summery.

Chop 750g rhubarb into short lengths, toss into a glass dish with 100g caster sugar and 120ml of Strawberry Gin. I cook it in a hot oven (about 220C) for 15 minutes (plus another five minutes if I’m using the thick stemmed variety) until the fruit is tender though NS recommends a good forty minutes at 160C. Eat warm or cold.

2.Rhubarb and Custard Cake.

Margot posted a recipe for a delicious looking Berry and Custard Cake but as I have no berries, I substituted rhubarb. I used only 300g rhubarb as I thought it might be a bit soggy with more. This is a wonderfully forgiving cake if you (a) forget to add the eggs so have to take the tin out of the oven and tip the mixture back in the bowl and (b) try to take it out of the tin before it’s cooled and then gather up the sloppy custardy mess and plonk it back.

3. Rhubarb Jelly.

rhubarb jelly recipe
4. Rhubarb Bitters

A subtle aromatic bitters to add a little joy to your lemonade and lime. Find my recipe here.

5. Rhubarb Flatbread

rhubarb and sesame flatbread

I was looking for different ways to use up the rhubarb and came across Johanna’s
Rhubarb and Raspberry Foccacia at Green Gourmet Giraffe . A little more searching and I turned up all sorts of variations. The addition of sesame seeds comes from The Shed: The Cookbook

This is surprisingly good with smoked mackerel or ham and I’d happily eat this warm for breakfast.

rhubarb flatbread recipeRhubarb Flatbread Recipe

 Next on the list is Rhubarb Relish and possibly raw rhubarb in a salad, though I’m not convinced about the raw rhubarb. Do you eat raw rhubarb?


rhubarb bitters

rhubarb bitters

As I’ve mentioned before, my favourite soft drink is Lemon Lime Bitters (made with the juice of a lime, a glug of home made lemon squash, soda water and a good dash of bitters) and so I thought it would be fun to try out some different bitters.

Rhubarb Bitters are subtly aromatic and as well as using in Lemon Lime Bitters they can be diluted (roughly 1:15) with water or soda water. This version isn’t very concentrated, so each glassful will contain slightly more alcohol than if you were using commercial bitters. If you aren’t worried about the alcohol levels, you might like to add Rhubarb Bitters to this Summer Cup made using Raspberry Gin.

Rhubarb Bitters Recipe

300g chopped rhubarb
1 cinnamon stick
5 coriander seeds
zest of an orange
zest of a grapefruit
350 ml vodka
160 ml water
40 g sugar
Put the chopped rhubarb, cinnamon stick and coriander seeds into a large jar.

Use a potato peeler to remove the zest of the orange and grapefruit and add to jar.

Pour in the vodka, screw on the lid and give everything a good shake.

Leave in a cool place for 3 weeks, giving the jar a good shake whenever you remember.

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and when it’s cooled, add to the strained rhubarb liquid.

rhubarb bitters