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Baking, Yorkshire Rhubarb & a Recipe for Rhubarb, Pistachio & Rose Frangipane Tart

Rhubarb, Pistachio & Rose Frangipane Tart (Recipe)

Rhubarb, Pistachio & Rose Frangipane Tart (Recipe)

I am not an obsessive baker like many food bloggers. Certainly not in the sweet sense. I love salt, broth, tender meat, spritely vegetables and all the other things that make savoury sing. I have always loved confectionery, especially making it, and I am partial to a lemon meringue pie, victoria sponge, swiss roll and lots of old school classics, but that was it when it came to home baking. I simply wasn’t all that inspired to explore beyond that. I was happy with my salt.

Then something changed. In the last few months I have developed a sweet tooth (which sits nicely next to my very happy salty one). In fact, I think that all of my teeth might be salty, and now there is one shiny sweet one in the mix.

And then there is rhubarb. Lovely pink tender rhubarb. Slender and elegant, the rhubarb of January in the UK is Yorkshire forced rhubarb (also called champagne rhubarb), grown in the dark in long sheds in the Yorkshire rhubarb triangle, and harvested by candlelight (it is an old Victorian technique). It spends a lifetime stretching for the light but never reaching it, trapped beneath the terracotta urn that houses it. Yorkshire rhubarb brightens January, and I always look forward to it.

Rhubarb, Pisctahio & Rose Frangipane Tart

Rhubarb, Pisctahio & Rose Frangipane Tart

Rhubarb goes beautifully with pistachio and rose and I was recently reminded just how much I love simple frangipane when I baked David Lebovitz lovely Galette des Rois. Frangipane is a simple almond cream, made with ground almonds, egg, butter, sugar and aromatics (rum and almond extract for example), but it can also be made with ground pistachios, and in this case, rosewater. [Read more]

Rhubarb Cordial
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Recipe: Homemade Rhubarb Cordial

Homemade Rhubarb Cordial

Homemade Rhubarb Cordial

There is a lot to be said for the sunshine and a big bright sky. It brings cheer after a long harsh winter – and I know I haven’t experienced most of it – but London has become a dour place, and it seems as though as a city, it has been suffering from a severe Seasonal Affective Disorder.

So, what joy the sun brought with its big sky and warm sunshine. Everyone was cheerful and the parks were full. I was inspired to cook something bright and joyful. I wanted fruit and I wanted a refreshing non alcoholic drink. My mind turned to rhubarb cordial.

I love homemade cordials, I have one in my book and make many at home all the time. I finish them off with sparkling water and ice and sip as I work. After work, they sometimes end up in a cocktail.

The cordial I made is a fresh version to be consumed within the week. If you want to preserve it so that it lasts a few months, use citrate (also called citric acid) in place of the lemon (1 teaspoon for the recipe quantity below). Citrate is available in pharmacies generally although no longer in the UK, you can however order it online.

I used bright English rhubarb, not forced rhubarb but normal stuff. It was a lovely bright pink, if broader and tougher than its slender cousin. After a brief period of cooking, the cordial mixture is allowed to strain gently through a fine mesh sieve (or some muslin), releasing the bright pink cordial and leaving the darker fruit fibre behind. This incidentally, is great mixed in with yogurt for breakfast.

This recipe also works really well when you combine it with blood orange or rose extract when you are cooking the rhubarb. I make both, and adore them.

Enjoy! This is so easy and is really so delicious. The vibrant flavour and colour are something that you don’t get in the shop bought stuff, unless you are buying an artisanal one (which is also homemade, just not in your home :)

RECIPE: Rhubarb Cordial
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rhubarb-rose-porridge
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Recipe: Rhubarb, Rose and Pistachio Porridge

Rhubarb, Rose and Pistachio Porridge

Rhubarb, Rose and Pistachio Porridge

I had the weirdest day yesterday. In the middle of Balham, in broad daylight, a random stranger kicked me up the arse.

I KNOW.

I was shocked too.

He kicked me hard too. Very aggressive and actually quite scary, he thought I had hit my shopping trolley off his car, started roaring at me. I explained that I hadn’t, that I had merely hit the kerb. He roared “HANG ON! WHERE ARE YOU FROM?!” and was suddenly further incensed.

At this point it was obvious that he was out of control and I said that I would call the police if he didn’t stop. So he went for me.

I am so thankful that someone intervened. It is all in the hands of the police now but WHAT A WEIRD DAY.

I am tired and sore and in need of nourishment. I am also startled. If it weren’t so in line with a Fr Ted episode (kicking Bishop Brennan up the arse), it might not be quite so bizarre. As awful as it was, the constant reminder of Fr Ted brings a chuckle. How can it not?

So I made this.

January is joyless in many regards. Grey, moody and lacking lustre. But Nature comes to our rescue via some clever Yorkshire Victorian farmers, who decided that they would force rhubarb. Force rhubarb to do what? Well grow in the dark under large terracotta forcing urns  to be harvested by candle light. The lack of light forces the terracotta to grow long, lean and bright pink. Sweeter than normal rhubarb and so very tender. It is divine.

Rhubarb loves rose, rose loves pistachio, pistachio loves rhubarb too. The three together, and in my porridge mean everything is right with the world again.

Notes on the recipe: if you are planning this, soak the porridge in the milk overnight, it makes a difference. I prefer rose extract to rose water as it is punchier, if using rose water, use a tablespoon and adjust to taste. I use a lot of milk as I find these steel cut oats just drink it and I like my porridge to be soft and a little runny. I subscribe to the school that more-is-more when things are delicious so there is a lot of rhubarb and pistachio here. For extra luxury, add a little cream.

Update: if using normal rhubarb, use more honey as it is a lot more sour. It will still be lovely though.

Recipe: Rhubarb, Rose & Pistachio Porridge

Feeds: one hungry person / two normal not so hungry people

Ingredients

50g steel cut oats (I used Flahavan’s)
300ml full fat milk
150g rhubarb, cut into inch pieces – forced rhubarb if you can get it
25g pistachios, shelled and chopped
3 drops or so of rose extract – to taste (or 1 tbsp rosewater)
2 tbsp honey – to taste

Method

Poach half of the rhubarb with 1 tbsp of the honey in just enough water to cover it. It will take only a few minutes. Take off the heat when soft, and before it surrenders and collapses.

Put the oats, milk, rosewater, the rest of the rhubarb and the other tbsp of honey in a pot over a low heat and allow to cook gently for about 10 minutes until the oats are tender and the rhubarb soft. Adjust the honey and rose to taste.

Serve immediately with poached rhubarb and pistachios on top. The poaching water is gorgeous – fragrant, delicious and bright pink, so I add some of this too.

Enjoy!

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Greek Yoghurt with rhubarb, mango and pomegranate

I wondered if this warranted a blog post, it hardly requires a recipe, but, it is pretty and a delicious and healthy start to the day. All part of a new breakfast regime I am trying to implement!

I am on a rhubarb kick, you may have noticed, so I stewed a batch of rhubarb by chopping the rhubarb into inch pieces and stewing with a little sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water for 15 minutes or so until it is like a compote. It keeps in the fridge for a few days so doesn’t required this level of work in the mornings and makes it a speedy breakfast. To complement I pureed a fresh mango and stirred a couple of tablespoons of each into greek yoghurt (the real deal, no cows milk, just sheep and goats) and then sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. Delish.