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February 22, 2010

A romantic trip to London was a whirlwind tour of foodie treats: Borough Market, St John, Deptford’s myriad shops and the sublime chocolate of Paul Young. Inevitably, I am brimming with inspiration to take into the kitchen. Crackling breads and pungent cheeses; piles of mushrooms and neatly arranged fish; battalions of truffles with regimented garnishes, sticky-stodgy frangipani tartes, bone marrow and ox tongue: it must be said, when it comes to food, London is in a league of its own.

But one must pity the poor Londoner for their rhubarb: bright red, long and fat, with crisp linear ribs and a broad flanged base. Beautiful rhubarb it is true, but the sort of thing one might snap from the manure in late May, not the slender delicacy one expects from the candle lit sheds of Yorkshire’s rhubarb triangle. Proper forced rhubarb should be an anaemic pink, long, thin and floppy like an alien kelp. Forced rhubarb isn’t just a way of getting something in a crumble in the winter. Growing in the dark from strong crowns gives a very different product, not just in appearance but in the mouth: forced rhubarb has none of the pithy stringyness, none of the tooth etching astringency of its summer counterpart. A much more beautiful vegetable, which will reward gentle cooking, restrained sweetening and thoughtful spicing.

One can scarcely improve on baking it simply in foil with a little honey, cinnamon, star anise and orange zest: a topping for your breakfast yoghurt, a perfect accompaniment to creme brulee or a piquant partner to fatty meats or oily fish. But even if you can’t improve, it’s still nice to do something a bit different every once in a while. When I have an appropriate occasion, I will be making a rhubarb frangipani tart, the slender stems embedded next to one another like a fruity bar code. The top will be glazed with a jelly and it will be served with a flavoured cream.

Now I just need to find a huge tart tin…

One Comment leave one →
  1. Anon permalink
    April 2, 2010 21:03

    Write Sam, write. “Rhubarb” has never disappointed me before now.

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