It would be a terrible shame to lose my sous chef/furniture whittler/husband extraordinaire behind the megalithic growth of rhubarb that has staked its claim on the corner of our garden. Given his predilection for Saturday morning lawn-mowing of late, I have visions of him being swallowed whole venus-flytrap style before he even managed to make me my first cup of tea of the weekend. Myself and above mentioned SC/FW/H extraordinaire have battled the rhubarb back for the moment, and I have used the spoils of the skirmish to make a trilogy of rhubarby treats.
There is a profound pride in cooking with something that has grown not five feet from my kitchen sink, and with the planting marathon I undertook on Friday (more on that later!) it is an experience I hope to become familiar with as my tiny garden offers up the first shoots of the seeds planted this week. Rhubarb grows so prolifically in Ireland, unlike my home country, Australia and my experiences of rhubarb prior to moving here are of the mouth puckeringly sour variety, tempered with cloying caster sugar. Despite this introduction, the lurid colour and overwhelming flamboyance of the stalks growing in my garden have convinced me to give it another go.
The first is a Rhubarb Relish, which will apparently benefit from a few weeks aging for the flavours to develop. This recipe is a Mr-Potato-Head style mish-mash of a few recipes, so add and detract at will.
3 cups rhubarb
½ cup of apple cider vinegar
1 Tsp each of fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coriander seeds
1 tsp freshly ground ginger
4 curry leaves
Sugar, Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients except for the sugar, salt and pepper in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Do not overcook. Cool; store in the refrigerator. Suitable for bottling/jarring.
The second is a Rhubarb and Apple Cider Jelly. The recipe is from the final Temple Bar Market ‘Menu of the Month’.
I used Aspell Suffolk Cyder which I had banging around the fridge, but there is a glut of good quality apple juice producers emerging on the Irish scene.
1 ½ cups of rhubarb trimmed, washed and cut into 2cm lengths
1 ¼ cups of sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
6 gelatine leaves
1 ½ cups of dry cider
Place the rhubarb in a metal bowl with the sugar and lemon juice and cover tightly with cling film.
Set over a pan of simmering water for 20 minutes until the sugar has completely dissolved and all of the juice has come out of the fruit.
Place the gelatine in a bowl of cold water and set aside for 10 minutes, then drain and gently squeeze dry.
Place in a small pan with a little of the juice that has come out of the fruit and heat gently until dissolved.
Strain the remaining warmed fruit mixture through a fine sieve into a large jug.
Pour in the cider and then stir in the dissolved gelatine mixture.
Pour into 4 individual jelly moulds/ramekins and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight to set.
Finally, a Rhubarb and Orange Compote which was inspired by Sophie from Mostly Eating.
3-4 cups rhubarb, trimmed, washed and cut into 2cm lengths
¾ cup of orange juice with bits
2 Tbsp honey
1 cinnamon stick, or a few large pinches of ground cinnamon
Place all of the ingredients into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until the rhubarb has softened completely, about 20 minutes.Taste and add more honey if required.
Fortunately can be frozen to enjoy after the season has past.