Ready for rhubarb?
Date: 22-05-2018 published by Nick Baines
It’s one of the most iconic British ingredients. Perennial produce that rises from the earth with gigantic Jurassic Park-like leaves and chunky red-green stalks. Rhubarb gives us incredible versatility in the kitchen, lending itself to a huge range of both sweet and savoury uses.
It’s the latter that we are most familiar with though. Many British childhoods will be pockmarked with memories of rhubarb crumble. With varying degrees of tartness, jammy stewed rhubarb is contrasted against digestive-like, biscuity crumble and the firm bite of caramelised sugar. A dousing of custard is where the personalisation takes place. Some preferring the skin from the top, others the luxurious textured hot custard beneath, while some prefer it cold against the heat of the baked crumble. This is a nostalgic big hitter on menus, and one that still offers a level of customisation from the chef.
The balance of sweetness and acidity is a classic one, with rhubarb and custard still remaining one of the great British boiled sweet flavours, and one ripe for the picking when it comes to modern interpretations.
Of course, rhubarb fools and possets also play strong on the dessert line-up at this time of year, not to mention its appearance in gin-based cocktails. In fact, rhubarb and gin make for an incredible marriage, the tart earthiness working in harmony with the dry botanicals of Britain’s favourite spirit.
But rhubarb has a rightful place in the savoury realm of main courses too. Due to its inherent acidity, it can work to tenderise meat when used in rubs and marinades and can add brightness to the season’s heavier dishes. Acidity is most certainly your friend, and when you have ways to regulate it without vinegars, rhubarb can add an intriguing layer to untold dishes.
As British rhubarb season descends upon us, it’s time to draught in bags of Demerara sugar to help keep that sharpness in check and perhaps preserve spring’s bounty for future use throughout the year –pickled or jammed rhubarb can be a great ally come autumn menus, not to mention its affection for game #justsayin.
It’s an ingredient that can fight the good fight against any naysayers on British cuisine. Forced Yorkshire rhubarb was even granted PDO status, though that protection is likely to be lost in the aftermath of Brexit, but talk of politics is going to further sour our stewed rhubarb and that’s not the aim of the game here.
It’s a relatively short window for fresh, good quality British rhubarb and it’s one of those ingredients that, when prepared well, reminds customers just how special this ingredient is.
If you stand for great produce, if you mean to celebrate the seasons and strive to deliver brightness and excitement, then now is the time to capitalise on
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