On a recent trip to Borough Market I spied lots of forced yorkshire rhubarb, and recalled a childhood rhubarb obssession. Stewed rhubarb with custard is, for me, very evocative of my childhood. I loved it, just simply chopped and stewed with a little water and lots of sugar with lots of custard. It was either that or stewed apple for me, as frequently as I could have them. Both grew locally, our neighbour had two huge apple trees and another had rhubarb, there was more than I could eat, and I was the only one that would eat both in my house. I honestly think that was part of the appeal – I had it all to myself!
A good deal of forced rhubarb has been grown in Yorkshire in the Wakefield triangle over the last 150 years, and is still picked manually by candlelight to preserve the younger, still growing stems. It is such a proud heritage that there is a Rhubarb Festival in March and the rhubarb farmers are currently seeking protected name status, like that for parmesan or parma ham.
Forced rhubarb, grown in the dark, forcing the stem to shoot upward looking for light, produces a much more delicate plant with long sleek stems, a more tender texture, a sweeter flavour and a bright pink colour. It really is so pretty, I find it difficult to resist.
So, after work, I bought myself some forced yorkshire rhubarb and hurried home excitedly, to be greeted by a neighbour wondering what was in my bag that could be making me so happy. Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, I’m sure almost entirely in my head, she merely asked what was in my bag, and I proceded to tell with glee that I was off inside to stew my rhubarb for rhubarb fool.
How was it? Delicious! Absolutely delicious. Sweet and tart and creamy and pink. A delight. This recipe should serve 2, or two servings for one ;-)
70g sugar (you might need more if it isn’t forced rhubarb)
2 tbsp water
Some pomegranate seeds (optional)
Chop the rhubarb into approx 1 inch chunks (2.5 cm) and place in a pan with the sugar and water. Stew for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring at intervals, until it has fallen apart. Allow to cool.
Whip the cream until thick.
Fold the cooled rhubarb into the cream. Serve with some pomegranate sprinkled on top, if using.
Update March 2008: The top photo won a competition associated with London Restaurant Week.