Saturday 29 June 2013

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb

When rhubarb it at its finest, the sun is usually shining then garden and culinary skills can be put to excellent use.

I remember, as a child, being given a rhubarb stalk and a small bag containing sugar – the original sherbet dip! Boy did it make your eyes water and jaws tingle.

Rhubarb is grown for its stalks, which, incidentally, are called petioles, from the Latin petioles meaning “little foot” which evolves into pediculus meaning “foot stalk”. It has been around for thousands of years in China and became more popular in England in the 17th century after sugar was more readily available (and you definitely need sugar with rhubarb) although the earliest entry in the Oxford English Dictoinary is:

c1390 Pistel of Swete Susan  (Vernon) 112 (MED),   Columbyne and Charuwe clottes þei creue, With Ruwe and Rubarbe, Ragget ariht.

And  a gem from the 17th century; the entry reads more easily:

?1760   H. Glasse, Confectioner:   To make rhubarb tarts. Take stalks of English rhubarb..peel and cut it the size of goosberries; sweeten it, and make them as you do goosberry tarts.

If you grow your own or are fortunate to know someone who does, always remember to cut the leaves off and discard them as they contain oxalic acid, which is poisonous.

Be warned - if you eat too much (stalks, that is) you may think you have been poisoned as its reputation as a culinary laxative is well known!

How wonderful that this modest plant is often spoken about on the stage - when lines are forgotten or a hubble of mutterings is called for, then the stock phrase is, of course: rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb.

Now you know all about this fascinating plant, if you go to the recipe pages, you will find some delicious ways to use it. Just click on the links below:

Rhubarb Crumble
Rhubarb and Ginger Yogabub (like a syllabub, but healthier and less calorific)
Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam

Rhubarb and Ginger Yogabub (Rhubarb and Greek Yoghurt - mmmm)

When rhubarb is in abundance, it's usually summer and warm, so you might just prefer a cold dessert and this is an absolutely delicious combination of rhubarb and Greek Yoghurt.  It's easy, it's quick, and can be made hours before you want to eat it, in fact, you can make it the day before and pop it in the fridge until its wanted - better to make a couple more than you need as temptation will be a force to be reckoned with.

Rhubarb and Ginger Yogabub
Syllabub with a healthier twist

You will need:

         1 lb rhubarb stalks, cut into small cubes
         1 inch x ½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
          (or, you can use 1 tsp ground ginger if you’ve no fresh)
         3 oz caster sugar
         6 tablespoons of white wine or lemonade (optional)
         1 pint Greek yoghurt
         2 oz icing sugar
To decorate
                2 pieces crystallised ginger, finely chopped
                A few  fruity M&Ms
Here's what you do:

   Put the rhubarb, ginger, sugar and white wine in a saucepan and simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.  You can cook in the microwave instead, especially if you are not using the white wine.
    In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the yoghurt with the icing sugar. 
    Take 6 tablespoons of the cooled rhubarb and mash it with a fork, then fold it into the yoghurt.
    Divide the rest of the rhubarb between 6-8 glasses (depending on how large they are). Spoon over the yoghurt mixture, then top with a few pieces of crystallised ginger and one or two fruity M&Ms. These desserts can be chilled for several hours before serving.
   Serve with brandy-snap biscuits. You can make your own (follow the link to find out how) or buy them.

If you would like to make this dessert a little more decadent, unhealthier and more calorie-laden, then swap the yoghurt for  
4 oz mascarpone cheese and ½ pint double cream

For all you metric lovers, you can use this link to convert from Imperial.

© Karen Ette 2013

Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam or Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam

Summertime, and the living is easy, so the song goes, and equally is the choice of fruit for jam-making. One of THE most delicious jams I have ever made at Fancy Pans is Rhubarb and Strawberry. Demand last year was so high, we ran out, so I shall be making double the amount this year.


Jam is really easy to make - all you have to remember is that you need equal quantities of fruit and sugar, and never make batches with more than 3lbs of fruit, and you can't go wrong.

Firstly, sterilise at least 6 jam jars and lids; – a hot cycle in a dishwasher does this, or you can wash them in hot, soapy water, rinse them in hot water and put them into the oven at 375F, 190C, gas 5 for about 5-10 minutes. Take care when you remove them to cool.

For the jam:

2lbs rhubarb, chopped into small pieces
1lb strawberries, hulled (that's the stalk removed) and chopped
3lbs sugar - I use jam sugar or preserving sugar as the jam will reaching setting point more quickly and keep better.

You will also need wax discs to place on top of the jam in the jar. You can get these from Lakeland and a small plate or saucer which you will have placed int the freezer to chill

Here's what you do:

In a very large, thick-bottomed saucepan (preserving pan if you have one, or a pressure cooker) put the rhubarb and strawberries and cook them taking care not to let them burn. You can add a few tablespoons of water to prevent this.  Alternatively, you can cook the fruit in a microwave first, thus avoiding any risk or burning.

Add the sugar to the hot fruit and turn up the heat.  Boil rapidly and when you can't stir the fruit down as it rises, then after about 4 minutes test the jam.

To test if the jam has reached setting point, either use a jam thermometer (this will be marked accordingly) or the small plate from the freezer and drop a little of the jam onto it. If it forms a wrinkled skin when you push it with your finger (or a teaspoon if you are not that brave) then it is ready.  When you have reached this point, remove the jam from the heat and drop a knob of butter into it to dispel the scum which may have formed.

Fill the clean jars, pop a wax disc on the top and tighten the lids.

And there you have it, Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam.  Enjoy.

© Karen Ette 2013

Rhubarb Crumble

Nothing is so comforting as a rhubarb crumble: the taste-buds tingle at the very thought.

It’s such a quick and easy pudding to make, there’s no excuse!

For the crumble mixture you will need:

8 oz self-raising flour
4 oz granulated sugar (no need for caster) – if you substitute 2oz of the granulated with 2oz of Demerara, it will give the crumble topping a slightly crunchy texture.
4 oz butter
3-4 oz porridge oats

And, of course, you will need some stewed rhubarb. Some recipes uses uncooked rhubarb, but I prefer to cook mine beforehand.

In a large bowl (or food processor) rub the flour and butter together until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the sugar and stir it in (don’t food-process this; if you’ve used a food processor, then tip the flour and butter mix into a bowl)

Stir in the oats, and that’s it.

Put the stewed rhubarb into an oven-proof dish and top with the crumble mixture. Put into a pre-heated, moderate oven (170°C , 325°F, Gas 3) for 25-30 minutes.

Serve with the accompaniment of your choice (custard, cream, ice-cream)

DON’T be tempted to put the crumble on top of the fruit if you are not going to cook it immediately., otherwise you’ll have soggy crumble, and that would never do.

Of course, you can use any fruit in the pie: apples, pears, gooseberries, etc. etc.

So, what are you waiting for?  Go make a fruit crumble for tea.

© Karen Ette 2013