Archives for posts with tag: rhubarb

Goodness, that last post was a bit heavy going.

My intention is never to sound political or preachy about food; those conversations can be had via different mediums. This space is simply for the pleasure of good food. So, today let’s talk about cream – beautiful, luxurious, voluptuous cream.
Roasted rhubarb, strawberry punnet, lemon brandy cream
Cream is effortlessly elegant, I think. I love the mouth feel of cream, the softness of the dairy and the savoury richness as it coats my lips. Even when poured onto a dessert or into coffee straight from the bottle with barely a shake, the cream seems to say, “forgive me, dear, for my casual attire.” The jeans and t-shirt of the cream wardrobe.

Cream is so easily transformed from a basic accompaniment to a dessert in itself like rhubarb fool or a frozen parfait. We made syllabub this summer, a light, brandy-spiked cream dessert when strawberries, cream and brandy were a near permanent fixture of our kitchen.
Diced strawberriesSummer redStrawberries and cream
My mother has a forest green ring-bound folder for her recipes. My sister and I have added a few over the years, our handwriting changing with each entry but most of the recipes are written in my mother’s fat, round teacher hand with a little indicator at the top of the page as to the origins of the recipe. We don’t consult this folder much these days; it has become habit to first look through the glossy, well authored cookbooks when seraching for a recipe. So this book, this understated green folder, feels like a memoir of my favourite childhood foods: chocolate caramel slice, weet-bix slice, Jill’s zucchini cake, best ever cheese scones and chocolate oat cookies. Somewhere between chocolate caramel slice and Gaye’s chocolate cake is a recipe for lemon syllabub.
Roasted rhubarb, poached strawberries
I’ve always liked the word, syllabub. Silly bub. Sybil, the silly bub, eats syllabub. It rolls and plays off the tongue in a child-like way. Although for most of my younger years, perhaps even before this summer, I only had the vaguest idea of what syllabub really is. I knew my mother had served it for dinner parties; it sounded exotic and sophisticated, as things are prone to sound when you’re only 8 or 9. Had I tried it, brandy and all, I’m sure I would have loved it.
folded and whippedbest-dressed dessert
But this summer, this best-dressed cream dessert is a new favourite. Cream, like yoghurt and butter, holds other flavours so well, folding them together and nurturing their finest qualities – the warmth of the brandy, the sweet of the strawberries, the tart of the lemon, the sour of the yoghurt. Good enough to eat with a teaspoon from the mixing bowl, but cream so glammed up benefits from a bit of ceremony.

Strawberry Yoghurt Syllabub

We served this syllabub with roasted rhubarb and strawberries, but could also be eaten by itself, perhaps with a dessert biscuit or as dressing for a cake.

250 millilitres cream
1 heaped teaspoon icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 teaspoons brandy
grated zest of half a lemon
8-10 strawberries, finely diced
1 cup yoghurt

In a medium bowl place the cream, icing sugar and vanilla essence. Beat until very softly whipped. Add the lemon zest and brandy and continue to beat until just soft. Fold in the strawberries and the yoghurt.

Enjoy.

There comes a point during winter where enough is enough. Winter-fatigue comes in stages. First there is the surprise that this, winter, has happened yet again. We watch the leaves change colour and slowly fall off the trees. We feel the sun sink lower in the sky, appear less often to warm our faces, and the days grow shorter. It feels like a suitable end for summer, quiet and colourful, but I tend to forget that the grey winter months lie ahead.

Next comes the envy directed at those in the northern hemisphere who are wondering how to use the bounty of vine ripened tomatoes; their red, green, black or stripey skins glistening in the sun; or the endless piles of summer corn. Then I feel an almost physical pain, like an itch you can’t quite reach, in my desperate longing for heat and summer; for long evenings (you still must wear a jacket, possibly two, in Wellington), and light meals, for new season potatoes and stone fruit and for big, blue skies.
This ice cream is the perfect bridge between seasons here in Wellington. Lemons lend themselves well to winter; their bright acidity adds a little pop to all sorts of dishes. This ice cream is similar to the rather unsuccessful batch I made several months ago, as it really is just sweetened frozen whipped cream. The difference here is I know this recipe to be good.

This was my first taste of home-made ice cream as a child, perhaps a reason for my deep-seated love of cream. The recipe comes from our friend Jill, a fantastic cook. I remember meals at her house with carrot sticks, olive bread, baba ganoush, zucchini cake, barbecue lamb cutlets, and this lemon ice cream. I’m sure we saw Jill and her family during winter, but I seem to only have memories of summer nights playing in their backyard. Lemon ice cream seems to suit these days.The fat of the cream coats your lips and the spoon in this gorgeous slick, and the lemon hovers, constant, smooth and sweet. The zest adds little pin pricks of yellow. The heavy slick is lovely, but perhaps not for everybody. This week I wanted something new, something for these days now. I have been looking for an opportunity to drain yoghurt – to wrap it in muslin and extract the whey. After 24 hours in the fridge the sharp taste of yoghurt remains but the texture is transformed into something closer to cream cheese.It seems a shame to break up these beautiful soft curds with a beater, but whipped through the mix they sharpen the lemon and cut the heaviness of the cream. This ice cream is best after it has been out of the freezer for 20 minutes or so. It becomes softer, more like a frozen parfait or semifreddo. In summer it would be well matched with roasted peaches, or a berry soup. In winter perhaps a rhubarb galette, caramelised pears or apples; something warm to loosen the ice cream further into smooth lemon dribbles.

Even this cute thing thinks it sounds blissful. No matter the weather, she is content.

Lemon Ice Cream

Plan ahead for this recipe – it takes a couple of days.

300ml plain yoghurt
muslin/cheesecloth

300ml cream
4 lemons
1 cup icing sugar

Place a colander or sieve over a bowl and line with the muslin/cheesecloth. Pour in the yoghurt and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When the yoghurt has thickened and the whey has been extracted, beat the cream until softly whipped. Add the zest of 2 of the lemons and the juice of all 4. Add the icing sugar and break in the yoghurt. Beat until smooth and more firmly whipped, but still silken looking.

Pour cream into a freezer container and freeze for 2-3 hours or overnight. Remember to remove from the freezer 20-30 minutes before serving.

At the house where I grew up, behind our makeshift compost bins, was the most abundant rhubarb patch. Long, bright red stalks with forest green leaves flourished in the warm and rich soils of breaking down vegetable matter. A sink full of chopped rhubarb and water was a common sight on a Sunday night. While Mum prepared dinner, strips of ruby red bobbed about in the water, ready to be made into rhubarb crumble for dessert, or stewed rhubarb for our breakfasts, or a spiced rhubarb cake for our lunches.

The rhubarb my parents grow in their current garden is doing well. A single leaf is about the same size as a folded out newspaper and they often break under their immense weight. Most of the stalk is a pale green with small flecks of red. They smell sappy and perhaps of a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

I took three stalks and they sat on my kitchen table for a day or so before I thought what to do with them. A rhubarb and ginger compote; tart and sweet all at once, and then, a soothing heat resonates around your mouth.

This compote took less than ten minutes to make and brightened little bits and pieces all week –  with lemon cupcakes, as a topping on thick Greek yoghurt, on crusty sourdough bread like a sloppy sort of jam and atop my morning porridge.

Rhubarb is one thing I can never bring myself to buy; it is a vegetable to grow.

Rhubarb and Ginger Compote
Next time I will double the quantities, three stalks doesn’t make enough to eat out of the jar with a spoon.

3 stalks rhubarb-about 250 grams when chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
a small knob of butter
a thumb size (approx) piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is tender and compote begins to combine, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool. The colour of the compote will vary depending on the colour of the rhubarb.

The Northern hemisphere blogosphere is going crazy over “fall.” My favourite writers are either lamenting the end of the stone fruit season- wondering how they will survive without roasted peaches and apricot compotes. Or other bloggers’ posts are full of exclamation marks as they look forward to woollen coats(!), thick stews(!), extra duvets (or comforters)(!), pumpkin and squash(!), crunchy leaves under foot(!) and wearing scarves(!), gloves(!) and seeing your breath at winter market stalls(!!!).

I love this excitement over the change of seasons. The new produce, a new wardrobe, a change in weather (hopefully for the better) can make all the difference to winter’s drudgery. New season asparagus, purple tipped and crunchy. New season potatoes, or rhubarb, or spring lamb – all are wonderful reminders of the importance of eating seasonally.

I wish to jump on this seasonal bandwagon with a pretty-in-pink rhubarb tart. Last week, while the weather in Wellington was decidedly not Spring, I went to cook and eat and speak french with Ollie’s lovely French flatmates, Gabrielle and Antoine. On the menu was a pear, walnut and Gorgonzola risotto and une tarte à la rhubarbe pour le dessert.

The risotto was, as Ollie declared, one of the best risottos he had ever had. Risotto can be quite rich and overly creamy but the sharpness of the Gorgonzola plus the sweetness of the pear made quite a delightful combination.

For la tarte à la rhubarbe I peeled the pinky-red threads from the rhubarb stalks while Gabrielle made the pastry. We drank mint tea and the kitchen steamed up, making it near impossible to see the rain still drizzling outside. With Gabrielle’s instruction I mixed the tart filling. Gabrielle is the kind of cook I would love to be one day – instinctive. We chatted away in a sort of franglais about grams and cup measurements as we made the tart filling, un petit peu plus, oh un peu trop, oh well!

La tarte came out of the oven slightly golden, the rhubarb pale shades of pink. I think it would be lovely with marscapone or vanilla bean ice cream.

It really is a very pretty dessert.

Rhubarb Tart
From the kitchen of Gabrielle et Antoine

Pastry:
200g flour
100g butter

Filling:
6 stalks of rhubarb
2 eggs
150ml cream
2 tablespoons ground almonds
3 heaped tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Pre-heat oven to 180°C.

Place the flour in a bowl. Rub in the butter and knead the mixture until a smooth dough forms. Press the dough into a shallow tart pan.

Peel the rhubarb and chop into 2cm pieces. Spread evenly over the pastry.

In a separate bowl thoroughly whisk the eggs. Then add the cream and other ingredients, whisk well. Pour over the rhubarb and place in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft.

Serve hot or slightly warmed.

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