This time of year always brings the first glut of the season – rhubarb.
One day, there’s none, but the next, there are vast parasols shading slender stems rocketing skywards, growing thicker and darker day by day. Rhubarb is the most hardy and forgiving of vegetables, and it is a vegetable and not a fruit, although unusual in the fact that it’s normally eaten with sugar. It’ll survive and thrive in the most unpromising of spots – mine lives in a damp North-facing bed overshadowed by a four-story house, yet each year brings more stems than the one before.
My care regime of transferring a couple of spadefuls of compost from the bin next to it to the spent rhubarb crown every autumn seems to work.
From a cooking perspective, though, it can all get a little … samey. There’s only so many rhubarb crumbles one family can tolerate before somebody sidles up to me and says something like “yeah, about those rhubarb crumbles, Dad … ”
This quick little recipe is a great alternative. It’s a simple Asian inspired pickle, similar to the ones that you’ll find on the pickle tray at any decent Indian restaurant, ready to be smothered on shards of poppadom. The main difference is that it uses rhubarb as its base ingredient.
Eat with any curry, or as an accompaniment to big and tasty food, like roast beef or sausages, or alongside strong, sharp cheeses.
This recipe layers flavour on flavour in much the same way that the depth of a curry is built.
Heat a good swig of a flavourless oil, maybe groundnut, in a large pan over a medium heat, and add a teaspoon of black mustard seeds and half a teaspoon of ground fenugreek seeds. The spices will sizzle and spit. When they do, add two deseeded and finely chopped green chillis and about 75g of peeled and finely chopped fresh root ginger.
Cook for three minutes or so, taking care not to let the ginger darken or burn.
Add 300g of rhubarb, chopped into 3cm chunks, along with five generous tablespoons of brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Turn the heat down, cover the pan and let the pickle cook gently for about five minutes or more.
The rhubarb will start to break down and release its juices, and the whole will start to turn into a sweet jam, rich and tangy with a definite hint of heat.
You can either use it warm, straight away, or transfer to a sterilised jar and save for later. There’s enough here for about one jam jar’s worth.
This recipe is one of Stevie Parle’s, and comes via The Telegraph.