Friday, 1 February 2008

rhubarb, rhubarb...

blah, blah, blah...

Except forced rhubarb isn't just any old rhubarb. Nope, it's super special rhubarb, available only for a short time during the year so as to give us a little taste of summer in the gloomy depths of winter.

For anyone who's not sure exactly what forced rhubarb is, the dear old BBC (hey, Wiki - wake up!) has all the answers:

"The roots, or crowns, of outdoor rhubarb are left in the fields for two to three years and are then lifted, by hand, from November through to Christmas and replanted into low, dark forcing sheds where they are kept warm and moist as the shoots form. The forcefulness of the shoots is such that you can hear the buds bursting, practically crying out as they strain upwards.

In a matter of a few weeks the rhubarb stalks are ready to be harvested. As with every other stage of this weird and wonderful plant, nothing is, or can be, mechanised. Nimble fingers pick the luscious pink stalks in true Victorian fashion - by candlelight - to protect the younger stems that are still growing. The telltale sign of forced rhubarb is its incredible colour: a particularly eye-pleasing vibrant pink with curled mustard-yellow leaves. The plants grow in the sheds right up to the end of March, when the outdoor variety becomes available."

OK? Still with me?

The real point about the forced stuff as far as any foodie is concerned is that it retains its fabulous pink colour even after cooking - unlike the outdoor variety, which tends to go a rather sludgy greeny-brown. Tasty, yes, but not that pleasing aesthetically. Forced rhubarb is quite a show-stealer by comparison...

So - what to do with it?

I say keep it simple, and let it speak for itself. So here I roasted it (with the zest and juice of an orange, a vanilla pod, a little cinnamon, and sugar to taste) at 180C for about 20 mins or until it starts to collapse a little. Then I buttered a slice of brioche, and 'toasted' it quickly over a high heat in a fry-pan until golden brown - just a couple of minutes each side, at most.

Then, unable to wait any longer, I put the brioche slice on a plate, piled on the rhubarb, and then topped the lot with a generous dollop of creamy Greek yogurt and a casual tangle of orange zest for even more colour.

It was wooooonderful.... A real hit of zingy fruit, made blissful with the yogurt and brioche. Go on, you know you need some...

forced rhubarb


forced rhubarb and orange zest




forced rhubarb on brioche

22 comments:

Heather said...

Rhubarb makes a lovely chutney with cardamom, white raisins and a bit of shallot - great for pork. Yours looks like the cat's pajamas, too. >^_^<

Pixie said...

I keep passing by the rhubarb in the supermarket and it keeps calling me but am too afraid and uncertain of what to make. This sounds so easy and delicious, and I've never had rhubarb, so I MUST try this. Thanks for sharing.

Sylvie said...

You have me craving rhubarb right now!

Antonia said...

Oh, I just adore rhubarb. Crumbles, fools, ice cream. You name it, I love it! And I agree that it is such a colourful treat at this time of year - a real burst of summer in winter!

Rosie said...

I really enjoy rhubarb crumble but now I feel so tempted to this :)

Rosie x

KJ said...

Wow, that looks amazing. What an interesting post. I have never heard of forced rhubarb. I guess it's not something we need to do here in Australia, with our varied climate.

It does seem kind of mean though - the poor rhubarb. Is there such a thing as cruelty to plants:)

Kevin said...

That rhubarb looks really good!

Holler said...

I do love rhubarb so much! This is a gorgeous way of serving it, nice idea!

Greg said...

I thought I had left a comment but I guess it never got through.

Rhubarb in winter seems so wrong to me! :) I love the spring rhubarb when it emerges from the ground. I make rhubarb wine every year with most of mine. I also like to use it in savory dishes like stir fries. I add it at the very end so it doesn't turn to mush. Kind of nice to use rhubarb as the sour in a sweet and sour chicken or pork.

Rosa said...

Oh, how I love rhubarb! It's quite a rarity in the south of France, where there is no such thing as forced rhubarb. How wonderful to have such a treat in the middle of winter.

Kate the Foodie said...

Rhubarb... I am suspicious of it, having never come across it in my dining experience. I think it must be a northern thing...? The cookbook I recently bought by Nigella Lawson is FULL of rhubard recipes, but I don't even think I can get it here in FL. What's the taste like? It looks like sugarcane.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

heather - thank you. Not sure my cats would agree... ;)

pixie - yes, you must!

sylvie, antonia, rosie, kevin, holler - it sounds as though you all need a fix!

kj - shame you can't get some so as to convince you that even if it's cruel, it's worth it... ;)

greg - rhubarb in winter is very right, trust me!

rosa - interesting that it's rare in the south of France. Too warm?

kate - please don't be suspicious. It's wonderful! Not sure what you mean by 'northern' - if northern England, then no. It's grown all over, from the southernmost tip of Cornwall, to the northern most counties. And it might look like sugar cane, but it's nothing like it in taste. Very sharp, almost citrusy - which is why it's often cooked with orange zest and juice.

Johanna said...

the pink is indeed a pleasing colour - rhubarb is something I love but don't cook with - thanks for the reminder!

Bellini Valli said...

Not sure if we can find forced rhubarb here , but it won't be long before Spring according to Wiarton Willie the groundhog :)

Steven said...

Hi - love your blog, your recipes and food talk are all very scrumptious.
Glad you liked the confit tomatoes - they really are delicious!
Talk soon, Steven.

Emiline said...

Yowza, is all I have to say. Rhubarb on brioche with Greek yogurt? How fabulous is that.

I just tried Greek yogurt, yesterday. It was so creamy and delicious.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I've somehow, still never had rhubarb before and would really like to--this looks great! Maybe I'll luck out this summer...

Marie said...

I love rhubarb. It's my absolute favourite fruit. We meant to buy some new crowns this past winter, but alas we forgot. I expect it's far too late now...sigh...

Elle said...

That looks so perfect for gloomy old winter time. I love rhubarb and the roasting idea is a great one.
BTW, quince grow well in most of the UK, but right now it looks like many nurseries only have 1 year old plants, available this autunm. It might take a few years, but then you would have a lovely ornamental tree and great fruit.

Cakelaw said...

I do love rhubarb, and this sounds like a fantastic, simple way to enjoy it.

Stephanie said...

I live in Minnesota and there is rhubarb everywhere at the farmer's markets. It's a little late this year because it has been so cool. It is a perennial crop here, and it needs a dormant period.

This looks amazing- thanks for the recipe. From the photos, it doesn't look as mushy recipes with rhubarb cooked on the stovetop.

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