Seasonal Ingredient of the Week: Rhubarb
The queen of crumbles, the ultimate porridge topper, a regular on the jam scene: there's nothing that rhubarb can't do well. Botanically speaking, it's actually a vegetable, but it's tart stalks are always treated as we would fruit - stewed or roasted with sugar to increase sweetness then added to desserts and puddings.
From days living in the North, where rhubarb is practically a way of life (force grown in what's known as the 'rhubarb triangle' around North Yorkshire, because obviously one crop a year is not enough), it's tart stalks have become a firm favourite in the kitchen. Picking apples from the tree and trimming rhubarb from next door's garden to bake into crumbles was as much a sign of spring as the daffodils and tulips sprouting.
Further afield (London to be precise) rhubarb tends to be a key fixture in small plates menus and elaborate cocktails aplenty, and is currently in season so will be popping up even more so. The main crop, rather than force-grown rhubarb, are deep red in colour with bright green leaves and an intense, robust flavour.
- Rhubarb is actually one of the lowest calorie veggies out there, at only 21 calories per 100g. Now we're not really into calories, but that's still pretty impressive for something so delicious!
- It's also seriously high in fibre, making it great for helping with digestive problems and making sure everything runs as it should - although this said, it's not recommended that those with severe gastrointestinal conditions eat it in large amounts.
- It's high levels of vitamin K also help to stimulate bone growth and repair - even more reason to load up on it if you're suffering from an injury.
- Rhubarb has to be stewed (8-10mins), poached (8-10mins) or roasted (20mins) before use, usually with added sweetener such as honey, maple syrup or dried fruit. It's regularly mixed with cinnamon or ginger too.
- Once stewed, it's the perfect addition to a crumble, particularly with apple or blood oranges, which are both in season currently too. Crumble topping is super easy to make healthy too using gluten free oats, toasted seeds and coconut oil.
- Stewed rhubarb is also delicious with everything from coconut yoghurt or ice-cream to your morning porridge or pancakes.
- In fact, why not try adding chunks of roast rhubarb into your pancake batter - yum!
- Roast rhubarb can also be baked with cakes, muffins and breads. Simply add the roasted stalks to the top of the batter before baking - much tastier and natural than adding icing.
- Rhubarb with savoury? Totally a thing. Slow roasted meats are great roasted alongside rhubarb, or marinated in it beforehand, adding a slightly sweet flavour.
- A particular favourite of ours is to us chunks of roasted rhubarb in place of pomegranate in Persian dishes such as pilaf with slow cooked beef.