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 come spring time. And quite understandably - their deep red colour and robust flavour makes them the perfect kitchen accompaniment.

RECIPE IDEAS

- 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 (which we highly recommend).  

- Once cooked, it's the perfect addition to a crumble, particularly with other seasonal ingredients such as strawberries, apple or blood oranges. In fact it's pretty great in pies, tarts and galettes too - we're low key obsessed with the pie art ruling Instagram currently and can't help but feel the urge to spend our weekend making a lattice rhubarb tart... 

- Once you have your stewed rhubarb, it's so good with pretty much anything in fact: porridge, bircher, pancakes, waffles, ice-cream, coconut yoghurt... 

- Roast rhubarb can also be baked into cakes, muffins and breads. Simply add the roasted stalks to the top of the batter before baking - much tastier and easier 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. For example, try adding chopped rhubarb to the baking tray alongside a rack of lamb - it will caramelise and add a delicious sweet element to a traditional lamb roast. 

- Rhubarb is also a dreamy flavour for homemade kombucha, shrubs and tonics too. There's a ton of recipes on how to do this such as this super helpful Food52 guide, but our two fridge staples for summer evenings are a rhubarb and basil drinking vinegar and rhubarb and blood orange syrup (the key to perfect cocktails).