COOKING WITH RHUBARB

Cooking rhubarb is so quick.  There are different schools of thought whether to add liquid, or not?  Personally, I usually add orange juice, because I like the flavour marriage. I also err on the side of minimal sugar, again because I like it rhubarb’s tartness. Sweet tooth? Add more sugar! In the world of flavour marriages, rhubarb also works with spices like cinnamon, clove, star anise, cardamom.  It’s happy with fresh ginger, vanilla, berries and apples too. 

Here are some basic cooking methods to get started, with photos showing the different stages.  There are some added serving suggestions to get on track, to then personalize the cooking style and flavour to suit.

ROASTING – serve as is or use in tart fillings or dessert toppings

1 bunch (about 6 stalks) rhubarb, leaves and ends trimmed, cut into 8-10cm lengths

55g (¼ cup) brown sugar

finely grated zest of 1 orange

juice of an orange   

1 vanilla bean pod halved, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced).  

Spread rhubarb over base of an oven-proof dish large enough to fit pieces side by side.  Scatter over the sugar, orange zest and pour over the orange juice.  Add vanilla pod if using. Cover dish with lid, or sheet of foil and seal around edges.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and insert knife to test if the rhubarb is just tender, keeping in mind the rhubarb will continue cooking in the residual heat.   Remove lid and set aside to cool.

STEWING – it’s your choice whether to add liquid or not.  The recipe works without added liquid, such as juice or water, but less ruby syrup results and you have to watch your heat closely so sugar does not burn.

1 bunch (about 6 stalks) rhubarb, leaves and ends trimmed, cut into 2cm lengths

¼ cup brown sugar OR ¼ cup honey

juice and zest of an orange (optional)

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir to combine. Place over a medium heat, cover with lid and:

  • cook for 5 minutes.  The rhubarb will be just tender, hold it’s shape and soften further on cooling.  (Perfect to stir through cake and muffin batters).

  • cook for 8 minutes.  The rhubarb will be very tender and completely softened.

  • cook for 10 minutes.  The rhubarb becomes mushy.  Ideal for folding through yoghurt or cream for fruit-fools desserts, or over morning muesli.

FOR SOMETHING SAVORY - with the tartness of the rhubarb, sweetness from honey and apple juice, and warmth from the thyme, this is a great match and simple condiment to serve with rich meats such as lamb, pork or duck.

1 bunch (about 6 stalks) rhubarb, leaves and ends trimmed, cut into 2cm lengths

¼ cup apple juice (we used Mock Orchards)

1 tablespoon honey

2 sprigs of fresh thyme (add more for a big thyme kick)

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir to combine.  Place over a medium heat.  Cover with lid and cook for 8 minutes.  The rhubarb will be very tender and completely softened.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

 Fiona Hammond © August 2019

Mark Brancatisano