The Romance of Rhubarb

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I often get presents from the farm, like fresh brown eggs that have the most beautiful yellow yolk on earth, savory with the freshest fragrance, sweet pickled beets and tomato relish. They come from my mother in law’s good friend Lilly. Lilly and her husband Bruce own a farm in Conception Bay South. It is a short hop away from town – a twenty minute drive will lead you to their house and small farm. Last year we brought Saira there for a play-date with Lilly’s grandson Darwin and a lovely visit with the farm animals (you can read about it here) .

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 And this year, I received rhubarb. If you have been reading my blog you would probably be slightly shocked after what I wrote about rhubarb last year. I stared at the stalks and felt the tart juices were going to attack me any minute. There had to be at least 10 pounds of ruby pink, tart rhubarb stalks laying on my counter, sent for me from Lilly.  I did not understand rhubarb. How anyone could tolerate that amount of tartness was beyond my understanding. My husband loved rhubarb, so did my mother in law and I despised it. Up until then the thought of rhubarb hurt my teeth, it made my body cringe. Last year an effort to save a half-pint jar of rhubarb compote sent in by my mother in law ended up as a chutney that surprisingly made a wonderful condiment on top of crostini.

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Nothing goes to waste in our household, especially a gift. I washed and diced a few stalks and set them in the pan with enough sugar to make a compote for my husband. It was meant for the husband because I was not going to eat rhubarb, because I don’t eat rhubarb, because I don’t like rhubarb. While the pan boiled my teeth ached.

 When done and cooled, I scraped the compote off the pan to put in a jar.  Out of an old habit I absent-mindedly put the spoon in my mouth. Now, how do I explain what happened next? From despising to falling in love – just like that – in a second. If you have ever watched any run of the mill Hindi romance musical, you know what I am talking about. The Hindi movie heroine displays an invincible hate for the putative hero, only to inevitably fall in love in a heartbeat, breaking into dance and song and running around trees. I did not run around trees, I assure you, but my taste buds did do a dance. Rhubarb – the former villain – is definitely my new love.

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Funny how things change. But, I do believe all I needed to do was add more sugar to balance the extreme tartness and bring out a harmonious flavour. Why hadn’t I thought of it before?

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And since then, I have been experimenting with different flavours in rhubarb compote. I tried a caramelized sugar rhubarb compote which got added to a vanilla swirl ice cream (absolutely fantastic). I also made a spiced rhubarb compote which found its place in a cocktail drink (served on my Canada Day post) and soon will be served with pork chops. And if you are already a rhubarb fan, have you tried spooning some on top of a “tres leches” cake? Perfection, is the word.

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Simple Rhubarb Compote

Ingredients:

  • Rhubarb: 4 cups diced
  • Sugar: 1cup or more ( I like my compote sweet)
  • Water: 2 tbsp

Method:

  • In a medium sized saucepan, put rhubarb, sugar and water over medium heat.
  • Stir to combine and let the mixture come to boil.
  • Reduce heat and cover. Stir once in a while and let the rhubarb completely lose shape and become mushy.
  • The fibers of the rhubarb will make the mixture thick.
  • Take off heat.
  • You can can at this stage.
  • Let cool before serving.

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Caramelized Rhubarb Compote

Ingredients:

  • Rhubarb: 4 cups diced
  • Sugar: 1 and 1/2 cups
  • Water: 1 tbsp

Method:

  • In a medium sized saucepan, put sugar and water over medium heat.
  • Stir to combine and let the sugar start to caramelize. When the colour changes to medium brown, take off heat and add the rhubarb to the sugar.
  • Mix and bring back to stove and continue to cook over low heat till the rhubarb looses shape and becomes mushy.
  • Continue cooking till the compote becomes nice and thick.
  • The compote will be dark in colour.
  • Cool before serving.

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Spiced Rhubarb Compote

Ingredients:

  • Rhubarb: 4 cups diced
  • Sugar: 1 cup
  • Ginger: 2 inch, finely julienned
  • Star Anise: 2 large
  • Water: 1/4 cup
  • Salt: 1 very small pinch

Method:

  • In a medium sized saucepan, put rhubarb, spices, sugar and water over medium heat.
  • Stir to combine and let the mixture come to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low and cover. Stir once in a while and let the rhubarb completely lose shape and become mushy.
  • For the spices to infuse this compote needs to cook over very low heat for at least half hour.
  • Once the rhubarb fibbers have loosened up take off heat and pass through a sieve.
  • Let cool before serving.
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7 thoughts on “The Romance of Rhubarb

  1. Nice pictures Debjani!:) I have never cooked with Rhubarb. It’s rarely found in stores here. Love your narration of the villain turning into the hindi film hero 🙂

  2. Your rhubarb conversion made me laugh. I’ve been in that situation, too, where I thought I didn’t like something and then it totally took me by surprise. I suppose it’s a lesson to keep our minds (and our palates) open. Love your three rhubarb recipes. I made a compote last year with orange and vanilla. This year I made syrup (and then cocktails), muffins and a rhubarb cream cheese tart. Such a versatile ingredient – enjoy!

  3. nice 🙂 have long been a rhubarb fan–pies, muffins, sauce (just boiling with sugar, water, and sometimes a cinnamon stuck), cobbler, etc. My latest project is vodka 🙂 Have infused it with sugar water for nearly two months. Its unveil will happen on deLizious facebook maybe early next week. Rhubarb is very very good in cocktails!

    Your pictures are gorgeous (I always say that!) and your stories are lovely. How wonderful to have friends who offer such wonderful gifts.

  4. Loved the post – very funny. I think we have all had foods that we hated then tried again and thought “wait a minute – that is actually really good”. Rhubarb has always been on my love list but then I like the tartness of it 🙂

  5. You make rhubarb look like the most romantic delicious ingredient 😀

    Cheers
    CCU

    P.S Because of my exams, I will not be commenting for around 4 weeks – see you afterwards!

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