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

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - KERRY GOLD -

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.

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