Rhubarb crumble is hands down one of my favourite things to eat. I’ve made a million different variations over the years and it never fails to please. With the soft buttery crunch on top, slightly tart pink rhubarb underneath and a good scoop of thick yoghurt on the side, what’s not to like? It’s also a food that seems to elicit a longing sigh from a large proportion of the population when you mention the name.

Rhubarb is one of the few things that I’ve consistently managed to grow successfully in my little garden. It needs relatively little looking after, to the point that I’m pretty sure, along with cockroaches and Tupperware, it would survive a nuclear attack. I divided my rhubarb plant for the first time this year, which meant digging in and splitting up the root sections into new pieces. Ripping into something is always a little scary, but with the help of a YouTube video and a good spade I managed to separate my rhubarb sections, and it’s still going strong. Phew!

I feel pretty lucky to have lots of opportunities to cook with rhubarb. Between what I grow in my garden, my veggie delivery box deliveries and the beautiful light pink forced rhubarb that starts appearing in markets and supermarkets early in the year, there are lots of different rhubarb tastes to choose from.

And it’s not all about the crumble. Just in case you didn’t know, rhubarb is actually a vegetable, and although it’s quite often cooked in sweet dishes, some countries do treat rhubarb in more of a savoury way. In Iran and Afghanistan it’s even cooked in a stew with lamb. Rhubarb also goes really well with oily fish, such as mackerel and salmon. Rhubarb is fairly straightforward to cook with – no peeling or deseeding is needed, just a bit of chopping.

It’s best to store rhubarb in the fridge and it should last for up to a week or so (though its peak is really in the first couple of days). If you do want to freeze rhubarb, it’s best to cook it first. And remember, the leaves are poisonous so don’t eat them.

 

How to cook rhubarb

 

5 ways to eat rhubarb

Poached

Poaching rhubarb is really straightforward. First chop up 2-3 stalks into small pieces; a couple of centimetres in length is good. Pop the pieces into a small saucepan and add a few dessert spoons of liquid (see below). Cook over a gentle heat as you don’t want it bubbling and spitting too much. Stir the mixture occasionally until the rhubarb softens and comes apart. This only takes around 10 minutes.

For the liquid, I often just add water with a spoonful of honey or maple syrup. You could use a little orange juice, or add sugar instead of honey. Coconut sugar is a good option if you’re looking for a slightly ‘healthier’ sugar, and the caramel flavour is nice with rhubarb, as is a sprinkle of ground ginger. This lovely tart compote is perfect with porridge, spooned over the top of pancakes or mixed into good thick yoghurt.

 

How to cook rhubarb

Roasted

Roasting rhubarb is a great way to retain the shape of the stalks, which then burst into tart squishiness when you bite into them. Roasted rhubarb is good served warm (especially if you’re pairing it with something savoury), or you can leave it to cool a bit to serve as a dessert.

Cut the stalks into slightly bigger chunks than if you’re poaching. Put them in a single layer in a roasting dish, sprinkle a little sugar over the top and roast at 180 degrees celsius for about 20-25 minutes (I also like to a drizzle of olive oil).

Grilled

Grilling rhubarb is similar to roasting; cut it into big chunks, pop it in a roasting dish, sprinkle with a little sugar and stick under a medium grill for about 10 minutes. This is lovely served simply on its own with a big dollop of thick organic cream or a scoop of vanilla icecream.

Raw

If you fancy something a little different, how about trying rhubarb raw in a salad? The trick is to make sure your rhubarb is fresh, not too tart, and that you slice it very thinly (ideally with a mandolin, or if you don’t have one, a vegetable peeler will do). A mix of rhubarb, raw fennel and radish dressed with a little olive oil, lemon and honey makes a refreshing salad. Or, for another option, toss the rhubarb with a few salad leaves, some goat’s cheese and toasted walnuts.

Desserts & treats

Obviously I think rhubarb crumble is a very comforting way to end a meal, but rhubarb can turn up in fool, trifle, crème brulee and so much more. Rhubarb is also lovely chopped up and added to cakes and muffins. Rhubarb and banana in muffins are a great combination, and I particularly like rhubarb and polenta coming together in a cake.

How to cook rhubarb

 

Rhubarb food & flavour partners

Honey, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, custard, orange, strawberry, goat’s cheese, walnuts, almonds, mackerel, salmon, lamb, goose, pork

Looking for more rhubarb inspiration? Why not try one of the below recipes:

Delia’s No-cook Cheesecakes with Caramelised Rhubarb

Nigel Slater’s Rhubarb Polenta Cake

Rhubarb and Custard Tart

Salmon with Orange and Rhubarb Salad

Persian-style Lamb and Rhubarb Stew

 

I’d love to hear any of your own adventures in rhubarb, particularly if you’ve done something savoury.

 

How to cook rhubarb

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