Once you have tried the delicate, fragrant Pink Yorkshire Rhubarb – you will never want to go back to ordinary run of the mill garden variety again!
Grown in dark warm sheds in the Yorkshire Triangle, the spindly stalks strain to seek light and can be heard ‘popping’ their leaves as they grow at such a fast rate, this method of growing is known as ‘forcing’. The stalks are allowed to grow to 2 feet tall before they are hand picked traditionally by candlelight. The resulting stems are pink in colour with smooth silky skin, gently acidic and a tender texture.
Available only at the beginning of the year until April, these tender stems are more expensive than the main crop varieties, especially if bought pre-prepared in supermarkets – though well worth the extra!
Once you have sourced yourself some genuine forced rhubarb – and not just young main crop varieties – it must be prepared and cooked with care. The best and most controlled way to cook is to bake the stems, covered, in a hot oven.
How to bake rhubarb:
Firs remove the leaves and top and tail the stalks. Wipe the stalks with wet kitchen roll and cut into even pieces -about 6cm long. In a roasting or baking tray lay out the stalks in a single layer and sprinkle over 20z caster sugar for every 400g of fruit (strictly speaking it is a vegetable!) No extra liquid is necessary as it soon oozes its own delicate juice. Cover tightly with tin foil and put into a preheated hot oven (180c, 350F) for 10 – 15 minutes (time it, don’t guess) The stems should be just cooked – a little more than al dente, but still retaining its shape and form. If its nearly there – but not quite – keep foil on for a further 10 mins, but don’t return to the oven.
Should the rhubarb collapse and loose its form don’t panic – it will make a wonderful compote for breakfast with yoghurt, or a delicious ‘fool’ mixed with strawberrrys, or pureed and swirled over ice cream.
Though rhubarb has a delicate flavour it’s acidity means it is robust enough to marry well with the strong flavours of ginger, vanilla, strawberry, almond and orange. However it is important to get the sweet and tart balance right: caster sugar and honey works best.
The acidity is tempered by pairing with creamy custards, mousses and ice creams.For perfect rhubarb partners click to recipes here