Friday, 19 February 2010

Rhubarb Rhubarb

Well, the market today in Chatteris had rhubarb. I love rhubarb. I love the way it makes your teeth feel squeaky, a property it shares with halloumi cheese. I like the weird texture of it, I like the hugeness of the leaves in a garden, a tropical native plant look for the Fens. Most of all I love the fact that it's pink, a lovely sharp citrus pink that just about brightens my cupboard in these months of turnip. I know we are all meant to eat seasonally now, but there is only so much swede I can take, so I allow a little bit of rhubarb forcing into my life. So I grabbed 4 big sticks and gave them to daughter to brandish all the way home. Rhubarb is more interesting than you might think.
  • It is a film by Eric Sykes, in which the only dialogue is the word "rhubarb". Really.
  • It used to be more expensive than saffron, imported from the banks of the River Volga.
  • It was first cultivated in the UK in Oxford, as a medicinal plant, in 1777
  • In 1835, the Chinese Imperial Commissioner put a stop to the trade in tea and rhubarb, opining that without rhubarb and tea, the foreign Western barbarians would surely die.
  • Rubbing the raw end of a piece of rhubarb over burnt pots will remove the encrusted black stuff.
  • Rhubarb root dyes your hair blonder.
  • Rhubarb leaves make a good insecticide.
  • Ambrose Bierce described rhubarb as "the vegetable essence of stomach ache".
  • Rhubarb chutney goes extremely nicely with lamb.

I have two snotty coughing children. I can tell they are not well, as they are arguing even more than usual and sleeping in the day, although not at night. Son even fell asleep on the naughty step today. Rhubarb crumble with proper (tinned) custard is about as comfort food as you can get. Here's my recipe.

5 good size sticks of rhubarb, about 400g
2 apples, chopped
handful of sultanas, presoaked in orange juice
1 tsp ginger powder
for the topping:
60g soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves or 3 whole cloves to be removed later
60g butter, melted
130g muesli
Oven: gas 4, 180 degrees
preheat your oven grease your dish. Cook your apples, rhubarb,sultanas and ginger till tender to the fork (about 5 - 10 mins) in about 4fl oz of water or orange juice, making sure all the sugar is dissolved, and plop into your dish. For the topping, stir all the dry ingrediants together, add the butter, and stir till it's crumbly and the butter has touched it all. I like to use a mesli with a high oat/ grain content and some nuts. Plonk it on top and into the oven for 15-20 mins.

And off topic of rhubarb, here are 3 things I am extremely pleased with this week. The first is a great invention, and has saved me from endless trips up and down the stairs since it arrived on Monday (from Dunelm mill, a tenner well spent).

The second is the first quilt top square I finished that actually looks any good (although this is all relative...). The third is the booty I returned from Ely with. Lots and lots of Michael Miller fat quarters.

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