Thursday, May 14, 2009

rhubarb rhubarb

rhubarb |ˈroōˌbärb| noun

1 the thick leaf stalks of a cultivated plant of the dock family, which are reddish or green and eaten as a fruit after cooking.

2 the large-leaved Eurasian plant that produces these stems. • Rheum rhaponticum (or rhabarbarum), family Polygonaceae.
• used in names of other plants of this genus, several of which are used medicinally, e.g., Chinese rhubarb.

3 chiefly Brit. informal the noise made by a group of actors to give the impression of indistinct background conversation or to represent the noise of a crowd, esp. by the random repetition of the word “rhubarb” with different intonations.
• a heated dispute : rhubarbs often broke out among these less than professional players.

ORIGIN late Middle English (denoting the rootstock of other plants of this genus used medicinally): from Old French reubarbe, from a shortening of medieval Latin rheubarbarum, alteration (by association with rheum ‘rhubarb’ ) of rhabarbarum ‘foreign rhubarb,’ from Greek rha (also meaning ‘rhubarb’ ) + barbaros ‘foreign.’

Rhubarb, once considered to have mysterious cathartic powers, is one of my favorite summer fruits and just for nostalgic reasons. It has become very popular lately because it is considered one of the superfoods; it contains very few calories and has anti-oxidant properties. It reminds me of our kitchen garden at home, where the rhubarb patch was marked with an odd array of large terracotta cloche domes, shiney leaves pushing through the holes in the top.

Wendy, an Englishwoman and the most divine of writers -- yesterday at our writer's group her piece about her father stunned us all into mute, weepy silence, the words so beautiful that she was greeted with nine slack jaws -- brought me yesterday a large bag full of young, slender rhubarb direct from the farmer's market. I drove home giddy with it. S (@exromana), one of my lovely new Twitter friends has sent me two terrific rhubarb recipes. (Much appreciation to all my twitter friends who offered recipes and rhubarb support.) This one is from Rowley Leigh, chef at Cafe Anglaise in London:

Pannacotta with rhubarb and strawberries

Pannacotta can be infused with almost anything: ginger or basil might be an option here but, as with ice-cream, vanilla is still the one to beat. A little shredded basil or mint can be added to the compote immediately before serving.

650ml double cream
80g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean
4 sheets leaf gelatine, or
2 tsp powdered gelatine
6 slender sticks rhubarb
50g light brown caster sugar
1 rhizome of ginger
1 vanilla pod
250g strawberries

● Combine the cream and the sugar in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthways and scrape the seeds out into the pan before adding the bean itself. Bring gently to the boil and then simmer gently for five minutes.
● Meanwhile soften the gelatine sheets in some cold water. Once they have softened, drain them well and add them to the cream after it has simmered. Stir really well until completely dissolved before removing from the heat. If using gelatine powder, sprinkle it over the surface of the simmered cream and leave for a minute until whisking in to the cream. Pour the cream into either one large 750ml mould or into six little 125ml moulds. Chill until completely set.
● Wash the rhubarb and cut it into 3cm lengths, cutting it diagonally. Peel the ginger and cut into very thin slices and place in a saucepan with the sugar, 300ml of water and the vanilla pod, split in half with the seeds scraped into the pan also. Bring the syrup to a simmer and cook very gently for 10 minutes. Add the rhubarb and poach for two or three minutes until tender but still holding together. Remove from heat and cool. Remove the vanilla pod and, if desired, the ginger: I rather like its sharp rasp but it may be an acquired taste.
● Hull and wash the strawberries, dropping them into a bowl of cold water and then draining them. Cut these in half and then mix with the rhubarb and the syrup. To serve, lower the pannacotta moulds momentarily into boiling water and then invert on to a soup plate. Spoon the rhubarb and strawberries with a little of the syrup around the pannacotta.

More Rowley Leigh (in the FT) here.

Trina Hahnemann's The Scandinavian Cookbook is my new favorite cookbook (o Ottolenghi I have not forsaken you). Here is her recipe for Rhubarb cordial in her book,
4 lbs rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 1/2 cups water
3 1/2 cups superfine sugar

Rinse the rhubarb in cold water and drain well. Combine the rhubarb and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Line a strainer with cheesecoth and strain the cooking liquid through it. Transfer the liquid to a clean pot and bring to a boil with the sugar, stirring so that the sugar dissolves. Skim any froth from the surface and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Pour the hot liquid into sterilized bottles and seal. When the cordial has cooled, store it in the refrigerator. To serve, mix one part rhubarb cordial with two parts cold water and serve over ice.


Margaret Roach said...

I just cut a dozen stems or so, the first that I am willing to give up to cooking (I like the way the plant looks so much, intact, a real giant; the cook and the gardener in me struggle on this one). Thank you for the ideas of what do to next.

Signe said...

Hey-you've been trying out Trina's recipes! Rhubarb sounds fab. It's a great book, highly recommend the kransekage (or kransekake as we 'Weegies say)...actually pretty much everything in the book is moreish, though am still a loyal fan of Ottolenghi's too!

Miss Whistle said...

Margaret, I'm glad this provided some inspiration. I can't say enough about Trina Hahnemann's The Scandinavian Cookbook, especially as tomorrow is Norwegian National Day.

Thanks so much for your comment.


You turned me on to Trina - can't thank you enough! Happy 17. mai.

-- Miss W x