Tag Archives: Rhubarb

Cool Kids Cook and a Rhubarb, Rose Water Crumble

At last I can break the news (well, close friends and relatives have put up with months of my banging on about it already) I have a new cook book coming out in May.

Cool Kids Cook, Jenny Chandler May 2016

It’s all about getting children into the kitchen cooking REAL food. Imi and her friends have been my very willing guinea pigs as we regularly cooked supper at our “Monday Night Cooking Club”. It struck me that that whilst it’s fun to bake cupcakes and ice dainty biscuits Imi and her 9 year old mates were just as excited about rolling meatballs or making a Minestrone. We all know that children are much more adventurous about food if they get involved with the cooking and who needs encouragement when it comes to scoffing meringues? We need to get them excited about the good stuff. Don’t panic; there are recipes for tasty muffins, a basic cake that can be whipped up into all sort of different flavours and other sweet treats (any whiff of worthiness and we’ve lost the audience anyway) but the recipes are weighted towards healthy, proper food.

The book is aimed at 7-14 year olds (although quite a few adults have expressed an interest), there are step by step photos, fab’ illustrations, cheesy jokes and a selection of recipes that will set them up for life. I love to see children experiment and get excited about adding their own touches or favourite ingredients so the recipes have variations and suggestions to kickstart their imaginations. So do look out for it, shout about it, purchase numerous copies ( almost goes without saying) and get those young’uns into the kitchen; you may even be able to put your feet up whilst someone else cooks supper from time to time.

So that’s the pitch over and done with, now for the recipe…Crumble does appear in the book, with variations, it’s formatted in a fabulous child-friendly way – you’ll have to wait and see (if I reproduced the page I’d be in terrible trouble). Imi made this last weekend when we had some friends around for lunch, it was great to delegate the pudding to her – less work for me and a great sense of achievement for her

Rhubarb, Rose Water CrumbleRhubarb and rosewater

The crumble combination was inspired by an instagram post from the fabulous garden and food writer  Lia Leendertz, who was making a rhubarb rosewater tart. Reg the Veg was selling (and still is) glorious forced Yorkshire rhubarb, we happened to have 1/2 a bag of pistachios lurking in the cupboard and so this variation of the basic crumble was born.

Serves 4-6

You’ll need an ovenproof dish about 25 cm square and 5cm/2 inches deep

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/ Gas mark 6

The Crunchy Top


The Crunchy Top140 g/5 oz chilled butter
200 g/7 oz plain flour
pinch of salt
100 g /3 1/2 0z caster sugar, light brown Muscovado sugar or a mix of the two
a handful of chopped pistachios

Chop the cold butter into small squares and drop them into a large mixing bowl with the flour and salt.

Give everything a quick stir with your hands and then rub the pieces of butter into the flour using your finger tips. Try to use your finger tips; your palms are hot and will melt the butter making greasy, stodgy crumble.

Once the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, with no big lumps of butter you can stir the sugar and nuts in with a spoon.

Put the crumble mixture into the fridge whilst you prepare the filling.

The Rhubarb


900 g/2lb rhubarb
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp ground almonds
1-2 tbsp rosewater

Cut the leaves and any ragged ends from the rhubarb and then chop into logs.

Sprinkle the ground almonds into the bottom of the ovenproof dish.  Lay the rhubarb over the top, scatter over the sugar and sprinkle with rosewater – don’t go overboard or the entire dish can seem a bit bubble-bathy .

Spoon the crumble mix over the fruit and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden.

Serve crumble with vanilla ice cream, cream or custard





Spring In Snackistan ~ Spinach, Rhubarb and Pomegranate.

Japonica or Japanese quinceWelcome to Spring and Happy Nowrooz.

Today isn’t just the Spring Equinox it’s Persian New Year too. Iranians the world over will be celebrating, whilst back here the  Japonica up the street, on Jen the Potter‘s wall, is looking spectacular – a sign that winter’s been and gone.  I decided to mark the occasion by cooking a recipe from my very latest acquisition, Sally Butcher’s Snackistan, using some of the huge haul of rhubarb I received from a friend with a glut. Hoorah for gluts.

I have to admit that I hadn’t even heard of Nowrooz until last week when I visited Persepolis, Sally’s amazing shop, which she describes as a little bit of “Persia in Peckham”.  I walked through the door to find her amidst a new delivery from Iran, bowls of lush wheat grass and a washing tub of goldfish. The shop was hotting up for New Year (music and all ), which just happens to be Jamshid, Sally’s Iranian husband’s birthday too. Both the wheatgrass and the fish are meant to represent the new life and prosperity that everyone hopes for in the months ahead.

I sipped fragrant cardamom tea from the samovar, and managed to devour an entire plate of traditional pastries too, before setting off around the shop. The place is packed with all those fabulous Middle Eastern treats such as sumac, dried barberries and plums,  lurid-green nibbed pistachios, Turkish delight and pomegranates. The shopping experience is further enhanced by Mrs Shopkeeper’s labels around the shelves, along with her advice and incredible insight into the  life and food of Persia.

My Peckham pilgrimage was a wonderful one (just a 20 minute bus ride from Victoria on the 436 or 36) and I left with a great stash of goodies to cook with. Better still, when I dive into my copy of Snackistan (or the equally inspiring Veggiestan) I can now picture Sally writing in her chaotic office at the back of the shop and celebrate the idea that at least one person in this world ( and a fabulously creative one at that) has a messier desk than I do.

Spinach with Rhubarb, Chickpeas and Pomegranate
Esfanj va Rivas

“Snack lunch for 1 hungry shopkeeper” – it fed 2 of us at suppertime with some rice.

This recipe is taken from Snackistan- Sally gives you plenty of extra info’ in her inimitable, witty style but you’ll need to buy the book for that (you won’t regret it). Her inspiration for this was a dish that contains chicken too, so do feel free to experiment. I’d love this alongside lamb or in a very non-PC (when it comes to Persian New Year) way with some juicy belly pork.DSC_9501_2

2-3 spring onions
Sunflower oil for frying
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 garlic clove, chopped
A big handful of both mint and parsley, chopped
1 glass of water
1/2 of a 400g can of chickpeas, drained
2-3 sticks of rhubarb
1 tsp sugar
1/2 a bunch (I used 2 large handfuls) spinach, washed and roughly shredded
Juice 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp Pomegranate molasses
Salt, black pepper (and sugar too, if necessary)
Fresh pomegranate to garnish

Fry the onions in a splash of oil and then, once soft, you can add the turmeric and garlic, followed by the herbs. After 5 minutes, stirring well, add the water and bring up to the boil.
Throw in the chickpeas, rhubarb and sugar and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the spinach, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses and cook until the spinach has just wilted.
Season well and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

I do have a bit of a rhubarb fixation as you may well have noticed on my blog. If you are up for some more rhubarb trivia you could go to my post on the Borough Market Blog or consult either/both of these fabulous little books  The Great Book of Rhubarb by Elaine Lemm or Rhubarbaria by Mary Prior.

Rhubarb and Lentil Curry


Here’s a gratuitous blossom shot just to get yet another post about rhubarb off to a good start.  Imi and I walk under this glorious tree on the way down to school every morning and I thought I’d catch it in its pink powder-puffy prime before the rain and gale force winds set in.

I hope you’ll forgive me for returning to my pet subject but I cooked a very simple, tasty supper last night that I think you may love too. Rhubarb and lentils seem a pretty bizarre combination but you really should give this a go. The recipe comes from a good friend of mine, Celia Brooks Brown, who’s an uber-talented vegetarian food writer, cook and gardener. It’s from her book New Urban Farmer.

Pete and I did make a large dent in the lentils, but had I cooked up some rice there would have just about been enough to feed four. I was too busy collecting up the marauding snails in the garden (a head torch is mighty useful) to get around to the basmati, so we had warm flat bread instead. Served with a blob of yoghurt this makes a great, healthy and very economical supper. I reheated the leftovers and sprinkled them with some freshly sprouted lentils and radishes for my “photo shoot” today, which did spruce up the look of the lentils and added some pleasant, fresh crunch too.

Rhubarb and Lentil Curry (Serves 4)Rhubarb and lentil curry

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
salt, black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp crushed chilli flakes
1 handful coriander (cilantro), stalks and any roots, chopped (reserve leaves for garnish)
350 g (12 oz) rhubarb, cut into chunks
150 g (5 oz) Puy lentils
600 ml (1 pint) vegetable or chicken stock
1 – 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
To serve: steamed basmati rice or flat bread, yoghurt, coriander leaves and maybe some freshly sprouted lentils or beans.

Heat the oil in a large pan over a low heat and then add the onion, celery and carrots with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir from time to time and, once softening nicely, add the garlic. Stir in the spices and the coriander stalks (and roots if you have some) and cook until sizzling and spicy, 2-3 minutes.

Add the rhubarb and lentils and turn up the heat. Pour in the stock, give it all a stir , bring up to the boil and then turn down and simmer gently until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir in 1 tbsp sugar. Balance the seasoning (you may want more sugar). Continue to simmer gently until the lentils are soft and the rhubarb has collapsed, about 10-20 minutes.

Serve up in warm bowls with the rice and/or flatbread, yoghurt, plenty of coriander and perhaps some sprouted bits too.

……… And Yet More Rhubarb

spiced rhubarb and grilled mackerelAt last a chance to cook up one of my favourite combinations. Lovely Kate gave me a huge pile of rhubarb from her garden a couple of days ago and the slightly milder weather has lured back the mackerel, they virtually jumped off the slab at the fishmonger’s this morning. So dinner was decided in a moment.

Grilled Mackerel with Spiced Rhubarb

I medium mackerel per person, gutted and trimmed of fins
A splash of rapeseed oil
salt and pepper

For the sauce (for 4)
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
3-4 shallots, finely diced
1 cm piece of ginger, finely diced
1-2 red chillis, finely diced (do check how hot they are)
1 star Anise
About 4 sticks of rhubarb
Juice of 1 orange
2 tbsp sugar
1-2 tbsp Tamari or Soy Sauce

Pre-heat the oven or grill to its highest setting. Line your tray with a bit of foil, to save on washing up later, & then splash on the oil. Turn the fish in the oil and then season. Set the fish aside whilst you get the sauce done.

This sauce is a cinch.  Just fry the shallot, ginger, chilli and star anise for about 10 minutes until slightly golden and very fragrant. Add the rhubarb, orange juice, sugar and a splash of Tamari. Simmer gently until the rhubarb is soft but still intact. If you do have a disaster and the rhubarb collapses into a stringy mess then it’s best to puree the sauce completely. Balance the sauce with more sugar or Tamari if necessary.

Cook the mackerel in the oven or under the grill until just cooked through and coming away from the bone. We had new potatoes and a fresh green salad with ours this evening. Very, very nice indeed.

The sauce is also stunning with pork belly and I’m up for trying it with roast duck next time around.

Rhubarb Cordial

I still had mounds of rhubarb and decided to make some cordial. I wasn’t expecting the fabulous girly-pink juice that I’ve seen in magazines since most of the sticks were rather green (and no Kate, I am NOT complaining). But, I have to admit to being pretty chuffed with the stunning peachy-pink of my cordial, which is good news since I think that boiling up the expensive, early forced rhubarb really would be too much of an extravagance.

I’ve tinkered with my recipe a little because the cordial could do with being a a bit more intense. It really only worked at a 50/50 dilution so I’ve cut down on the water in my recipe below. So yours could come out an even more amazing colour.

rhubarb cordialAbout 500g rhubarb, chopped into smallish logs
Juice of 2 orange
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
200 g raw castor sugar
200 ml water

Fling everything in the pan and simmer until the rhubarb has just collapsed and looks rather slimy and revolting.

Strain the rhubarb mixture through a sieve and resist from stirring, prodding and squashing (or you will end up with a cloudy syrup). The cordial will drip through slowly. You could leave it to strain in the fridge overnight if you have room. I never do, my fridge is a nightmare; an avalanche just waiting to happen.

Bottle the cordial, keep in the fridge and use within a week. If you really do have a massive rhubarb crop on your hands you could stir in about a tablespoon of citric acid (available from shops that sell home-brewing kit) to the rhubarb just before straining  and then you’ll be able to keep it for months. It’s delicious with some stem ginger syrup added too.

Try your cordial with:

Fizzy water and fresh mint. With Prosecco, an English spin on the Harry’s Bar Bellini. With a shot of vanilla vodka (recipe to come at a later date) Or make a jelly…see below

And the leftover rhubarb mush

The rather unattractive sludge left in your sieve is fantastic stirred into some Greek yoghurt for breakfast. You could even layer it in a glass with some cream/custard and crumbled ginger nuts for a simple supper dessert.

Rhubarb Jelly

Rhubarb Jelly is fabulous using your cordial. Check the size of your dariole moulds, rabbit, racing car, other jelly moulds or perhaps you’re just using glasses. Fill up the mould with water and tip into your measuring jug and multiply by however many you’re making. Take enough sheets of gelatine to set said amount of liquid and place them in a bowl of cold water to soak.

Remember not to dilute the cordial too much, your jelly needs to be much sweeter and stronger tasting than a drink would be. Heat up about 1/4 of your diluted cordial. Remove the floppy sheets of gelatine from their water, give them a squeeze and then add to the hot liquid. They’ll dissolve in an instant. Add the remaining liquid for your jelly and tip into the moulds. Leave for a few hours to set.

Dip the jelly moulds into some hot water, just for as few seconds, and turn out onto plates.

rhubarb jelly

Rhubarb, Rhubarb


I can’t help muttering “rhubarb, rhubarb” every time I decide to cook some. It’s rather like shrieking “Basoool” in a Sybil Fawlty-esque voice whenever I make some pesto. It’s really not funny but there are certain bits of ridiculous British humour that have become lodged in my brain for life. I’ve not seen the Eric Sykes film Rhubarb, Rhubarb for decades. I’m not even sure that a farcical game of golf between a policeman and a vicar (whose only words “rhubarb, rhubarb” are repeated many, many times) would be that amusing any more, but now I’m determined to track the film down just to see.

I’m especially in love with rhubarb at this time of year when the stalks are still slender, tender and lurid pink. I loathed it as a child. It was the school pudding that did it;  slimy mush topped with undercooked pastry, all floating in a pool of lumpy Bird’s custard. Now I just can’t get enough of the stuff whether it’s the stunning Barbie-pink forced stems or the more sturdy garden varieties.

So, I had my big bunch of rhubarb and had already decided that the finer pieces would end up on top of a gingery meringue whilst I made a zippy sauce with the stumpier pieces to go with some wonderful fresh mackerel. Disaster, no mackerel. We’re not the only ones who are throughly peed off with the shockingly cold spring. The freezing easterly winds have sent the mackerel in the English Channel packing, seeking refuge in deeper waters, and only some milder westerly weather will bring them back. Thankfully David Smith, my fantastic fishmonger, does stock some delicious smoked mackerel from the local Severn and Wye Smokery too.

I changed tack and decided to try a dish using raw rhubarb. A Dutch friend had told me that he used to munch at the stems dipped in sugar when he was little. I tried it today. Not bad but rather like the super-sour sweets that children pretend to relish. I’m sure that they’re the junior equivalent of the posturing male’s Vindaloo curry, managing to look like you enjoy them brings some bizarre form of kudos amongst peers. I was more up for trying the traditional Iranian salad of salted rhubarb and cucumber that I’d found in Paula Wolfert’s brilliant book The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. The tart, fresh crunch was a great combination with the rich oily fish. I swapped watercress for the rocket, did add a pinch of sugar, a splash of rapeseed oil and of course the smoked mackerel.

rhubarb and mackerel salad

Smoked Mackerel and Raw Rhubarb Salad

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a light lunch

2-3 stalks of rhubarb
1 small or 1/2 a large cucumber
2 tbsp salt
1 large bunch of watercress
2 fillets of smoked mackerel, skin removed
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
Black pepper and a pinch of sugar

Slice the rhubarb and the cucumber as thinly as possible (mandolin or knife, that’s your choice). I’d only bother to peel the cucumber if I was using one of the delicious, but tougher skinned, continental varieties & maybe thicker garden rhubarb would be best peeled too.

Put the rhubarb and cucumber in a colander and toss with the salt. Leave for 10 minutes and then rinse and drain it.

Now throw the salad together in a bowl, shredding the mackerel flesh in with the rhubarb, cucumber and watercress. Add the mint, lemon juice, rapeseed oil and pepper. Balance up the flavours with a pinch of sugar or salt, or maybe both.

Delicious with some sourdough bread and plenty of butter.

rhubarb and ginger pavlova


Mini Rhubarb and Ginger Pavlovas

The rather decadent mini pavlovas went ahead as planned. The classic combination of rhubarb and ginger is heaven. I really did pile the dried ginger into the meringue mixture, as well as serving some little chunks of the fiery crystalised stuff on the top. The pinky, pink rhubarb really looks beautiful. Save fools and crumbles for later in the season when it’s lost its good looks but still tastes great.

Serves 4 (with 4-6 left over meringues for another day – keep in a sealed bag/box/tin)

4 medium egg whites
225 g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp cornflour

For the top
3-4 sticks of rhubarb, cut into 5cm-ish pieces
150 ml double cream, whipped until just stiff
8 pieces of crystalized ginger, sliced

Pre heat the oven to 180c. And line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.

Take an oven proof dish and place the rhubarb in 1 layer, sprinkle over the sugar and then cover with foil. Cook in the oven for anything between about 8 and 15 minutes until just tender (timings will depend on the thickness of the stalks). Watch it like a hawk as it can turn into a rather messy looking mush if you leave it just a couple of minutes too long. Set aside to cool.

Now for the meringue. Whisk up the egg whites until stiff and then whisk in the sugar a few tablespoons at a time until the meringue is really firm and glossy. Add the ginger, vanilla, vinegar and cornflour and whisk those in too.

Use a small blob of the meringue underneath the paper to stick it to the tray. Divide the meringue into 8 or 10 circles, leaving some space in between them as they will expand a little. Flatten the meringues, making a bit of a dip in the centre.

Place the trays in the oven and turn the heat down to 120 c. Bake for about an hour until crisp and golden.  Cool.

Serve the pavlovas piled with double cream, the fabulously pink rhubarb and a few pieces of chewy ginger.

Other Ways with Rhubarb

You’ll have to hold out for the rhubarb sauce (the one for the fresh mackerel) as my friend Kate   has promised me some stems from her garden this week so I’ll post about that recipe if the Mackerel have been lured back by the warmer weekend (although it was hardly balmy).

Rhubarb coulis. Cook up thicker rhubarb in a saucepan with a couple of oranges (juice and zest) and good dose of sugar. Once tender, puree with hand held blender until smooth. Try adding a few strawberries or better still raspberries for extra flavour and colour later in the season. Fabulous with vanilla ice cream and you crumble over some Ginger Nut biscuits for a bit of crunch.

And of course there’s fool, there’s crumble, there’s pie. There’s another post waiting to happen.