Fifty shades of pink
Rhubarb, the prettiest of summer produce, is the most versatile vegetable around, says Rachel Allen, who loves its tart flavour. Photography by Tony Gavin
The popping-up of the pretty pink rhubarb stalks is always a sure sign that spring is here. It stays in season for another few months through the summer, so we have lots of time to enjoy this vegetable that thinks it’s a fruit. Whether it’s poached in a lemon-scented syrup, cooked and folded through sweetened cream in a fool, or roasted with butter and sugar, it’s always a welcome treat in my house.
The fact that rhubarb works with some fish and meat too shouldn’t be surprising, considering its vegetable status. Trimmed, chopped and simmered with a touch of sugar and a small splash of water to create a pleasing pink sauce, it works a treat with richer fish, such as mackerel, and also meats such as pork, goose and duck.
The roasting of rhubarb is a revelation if you haven’t tried it before, as the stalks soften — but don’t lose too much juice if you want to keep the flavour. Try adding spices such as ginger, cinnamon and star anise, or bring citrus zest into the equation, as rhubarb adores lemons, limes and oranges.
The roast rhubarb with yoghurt, cardamom and honey recipe, right, is one that works as a seasonal dessert or brunch. And when it is paired with the crepes and sweet vanilla cream, right, it brings me right back to Iceland when I was little.
A rhubarb jam is a joy on bread in the morning, and here’s a recipe, far right, that includes its good friend ginger. I love it on toasted sourdough with lots of butter.
In about a month or so, when Irish strawberries come into season, rhubarb gets a whole new lease of life, as this pairing is one of nature’s best. Baked together in a crumble, a pie or in this simple compote, far right, this is the essence of summer food.