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...