For me Rhubarb is one of those comfort foods. My Dad was an avid gardener and like all good Kiwi backyards, that included a rhubarb patch. On a hot Auckland Summer’s afternoon, as kids we used to snap off a stalk, cut the poisonous leaves off and suck on the rhubarb stalk. When I was six, I fell off the local school’s Jungle Gym bars and did a face plant into the concrete below (none of this ‘soft cushioning’ they lay down these days). I successfully managed to chip one of my front teeth. I was home from school for several days and during that time my Mum served me Rhubarb and Custard whenever I wanted it. When I was ten and fell off my bike and hurt my foot, out came the Rhubarb and Custard again. In between these events my Mum would cook Rhubarb Pies, Rhubarb Crumble etc etc etc. What a great ‘vegetable’.
Today, I live in a ‘modern’ house with a bit of lawn and about 1 square metre of soil where I can put my Rhubarb. Some of these plants came from my Grandmother’s patch to ours, then when we moved 4 years ago I dug them up and relocated them again. It goes to show just how hardy they are! I’ve added some store bought plants too and each year the stalks get fatter and taller. As you can see from the photo, I had pushed all the herb containers in front of the Rhubarb. This is to force it to grow up as I was having problems with it growing ‘out’ not ‘up’. Whilst I’m proud of my little patch, I still groan with envy when I visit my parents who now live in Christchurch….how does Dad manage to get the Rhubarb to grow so purple? So upright? So tall? Oh well.
So, how to cook Rhubarb? It’s pretty straight forward. Wash, cut into inch long pieces, into the pot, add some sugar (not sure how much….go with your gut on this one) and cook on a low heat until soft. DO NOT add water! I’ve met some of ‘those’ people. All this does is literally water down the taste. Experiment from here. Brown Sugar or White? Honey instead of sugar? Artificial sweetener if you’re avoiding sugar. Throw in some strawberries or maybe some root ginger. You’ll be surprised with how many fruits go great with Rhubarb.
Take this and make a crumble, or maybe a pie. Or just have it with custard in Winter or ice cream in Summer.
If you ever have left over stalks from the store, or the patch in the garden is overflowing, just cut the stalks into a size that will fit into container and pop them into the freezer.
When it comes to baking with Rhubarb, below are my two current favourite recipes. The muffins are somewhat low fat because of the buttermilk. If you don’t have any store bought buttermilk in the house, just make your own:
- Place one cup of milk in a bowl.
- Add one tablespoon of white vinegar
Allow the mixture to stand for five minutes
Rhubarb Buttermilk Muffins
1 1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 cup salad oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups finely diced rhubarb (about 1cm)
1/2 cup pecan pieces (optional)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 200 deg C (400 deg F). Grease a 12 muffin tray.
- Combine in large bowl brown sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Stir into mixture buttermilk, rhubarb, and pecans.
- In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add this mixture all at once to rhubarb mixture and fold until all ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix!!
- Fill prepared muffin pan 3/4 full with batter.
- Bake in preheated oven on center shelf 15 to 20 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
Rhubarb and Ginger Slice
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
175gm butter softened
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 eggs beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cornflour
200g rhubarb finely diced rhubarb (about 1cm)
30g stem ginger, finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 180 deg C (350 deg F). Grease and line a 23cm square cake tin.
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add the butter, caster sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Beat well until mixture is smooth.
- Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and smooth out flat with a palette knife.
- Toss cornflour with the rhubarb and scatter with the ginger over the top of the batter. Lightly press the rhubarb and ginger into the mixture.
- Bake for 45 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Leave to cool slightly then turn out to cool on a wire rack.