a blog by Gemma Thomas.
There are few things I find more uplifting than the sight of bright pink stems of rhubarb piled up in boxes at a farmers market or greengrocers. Partly because I have a bit of a rhubarb obsession, partly because it sees us through spring; after the stone fruits of autumn and winter have gone and the berries of summer have yet to appear. When fruit is scarce, it keeps us in cakes, pies and crumbles until the weather gets warmer. And it’s actually a vegetable, don’t you know?
Rhubarb comes in two forms: forced rhubarb, which is usually pinker, sweeter and has more slender stems, and maincrop, which is the thicker, paler more traditional rhubarb we are used to. Both can be used in the same way, but in either case you must never eat the leaves, as they are toxic.
Rhubarb works well with a number of savoury ingredients, most notably pork and mackerel, to create some interesting dishes; but it is when it is used in baking and desserts that it is shown off at its best. This week I have made four different sweet dishes; one old, one new and two you can eat for breakfast.
Rhubarb Bircher Muesli
Muesli is not something that I ever found terribly exciting, and then I was converted by an article by Skye Gyngell which described soaking the oats overnight to create a different dish altogether. This is a rhubarb version that includes rhubarb poached in honey and orange, yoghurt and flaked almonds.
200g rhubarb, cut into 4cm pieces
3 tbsp clear honey
120ml orange juice
150g rolled oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
175g Greek yoghurt
50g chopped or flaked almonds
Put the rhubarb in a large saucepan with the honey and orange juice and poach until tender. Drain and reserve the cooking liquor.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, cinnamon, yoghurt, half the almonds and half the rhuarb. Add the cooking liquor and refridgerate overnight, leaving the oats to soak.
Serve with the ramining rhubarb and almonds, a spoonful more of yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.
Adapted from a recipe from The Guardian.
Rhubarb, Ginger and Spelt Cake
I have lost count of the number of times I have made this cake. It was brought along to our first Band of Bakers event by my friend Charlie, and is now my favourite cake in my repetoire. It’s easy to see why everybody falls in love with it: a moist, stem ginger sponge, made nutty and coarse by the addition of spelt flour, topped with stems of rhubarb and baked, before being brushed with a sweet ginger syrup.
140g unsalted butter
200g light soft brown sugar
5 pieces stem ginger, chopped
2 large eggs
200g wholegrain spelt flour
2tsp baking powder
Syrup from the stem ginger jar
Caster sugar, for dredging
Preheat the oven to 175ºc. Grease a 20cm x 20cm square cake tin and line with grease proof paper.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar until fully combined. Set aside to cool a little.
Stir in the stem ginger, eggs, spelt flour and baking powder until you have a thick batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin.
Cut the rhubarb stems to fit the tin and arrange them on top of the cake. Try to squeeze as many in as possible as they will shrink during baking. Use offcuts to fill in any gaps. Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for about 40 minutes. When done, the edges will have shrunk away from the sides of the tin a little and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake will come out clean.
Whilst the cake is still warm, brush over the syrup from the stem ginger jar. Dredge with caster sugar and allow to cool in the tin.
Recipe by Charlie Fox
Rhubarb Crumble Muffins
One of my favourite childhood desserts was rhubarb crumble; my Nan would make one, very simply, with chopped rhubarb and sugar and a packet of crumble mix from the supermarket. She would pour over Birds custard, made the old fashioned way with the powder, and give it to us on cold days. This is the inspiration behind these muffins; studded with jewels of rhubarb and topped with a crunchy crumble.
For the muffins:
175g caster sugar
175g rhubarb, cut into 1cm dice
2 tbsp sunflower oil
125ml natural yoghurt
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the crumble:
50g demerera sugar
50g plain flour
30g porridge oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
5og cold butter, cut into small dice
Preheat the oven to 200ºc and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases. Stir the rhubarb and sugar together and set aside.
To make the crumble, combine the demerera sugar, plain flour, porridge oats and cinnamon in a medium bowl and rub in the butter. Set aside.
Stir the oil, egg and yoghurt into the rhubarb. Add the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and stir until just combined. Spoon the batter into the cases and scatter the crumble mixture on top. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and risen. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
Makes nine muffins. Adapted from a recipe by BBC Good Food.
Baked Rhubarb with Orange Zest
500g rhubarb, cut into thumb-sized pieces
100g golden caster sugar
Zest of one orange
Preheat the oven to 180ºc. Arrange the rhubarb in a roasting dish and top with the sugar and orange zest. Cover with foil and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes until the rhubarb is soft but still holding its shape.