I love rhubarb. I love it to the point of passion. I have also long ago dispensed with trying to get non-rhubarb lovers to join the party - those naysayers are just too hard to win over, and all I can say to those poor souls at this point is…click here, and spend your non-rhubarb dollars wisely.
But for those of you that have persisted to this point, I thank you - and for this dedication you deserve a small amount of recompense - which I will provide in a screwy, sexy and absolutely delicious recipe. Read on.
Just like all fruits and vegetables, rhubarb has a season - it matures naturally mid-winter to spring. However, rhubarb can be coerced into ripeness, either in hothouses or in warmer climes, so what was once seen as purely the domain of winter can now be enjoyed year round.
I could hypothesize as to why folks don't dig on rhubarb Till the cows come home, but that won't get us that far. I would hazard a guess however, that many rhubarb phobias come from one simple mistake - overcooking. You see, when you cook rhubarb for too long, it falls apart and turns stringy. This is cool when you are stirring rhubarb into custard, churning it into ice cream, or serving it up to recovering boarding school boys, but for the rest of us - it is pretty much slop.
Enter this recipe. I have been cooking rhubarb like this for years, and this method has proved so reliable that I have whacked it on our brand new dessert menu. Slender batons of rhubarb are stacked high, and then dusted with icing sugar. We then take an acetylene torch and blast the top of the rhubarb so it is hot and caramelised. Alongside is served a wedge of rhubarb and vanilla bean ice cream terrine - the lot dusted with a crunchy, toffee pistachio praline. Please indulge me - it tastes wonderful.
As toothsome as the above accoutrements may sound, the secret to this dish is the way the rhubarb is cooked - not boiled, not steamed, not stewed, but roasted. Yes - roasted. You see, when you cook rhubarb quickly, and at a high temperature, it retains its shape and integrity, instead of turning wet and stringy. You can serve it alongside a myriad of sweet dishes, grand or humble, and it will still shine with a very special touch. Even with a simple bowl of vanilla ice cream.
You traveled thus far rhubarb lover - wanna try it?
Cut the leaves off the rhubarb stalks and discard - for they will make you unwell. Line the rhubarb up on a chopping board and cut them into 5 cm pieces. Fill a sink with cold water and plunge the sliced rhubarb, stirring well to dislodge any dirt. Lift out and place into a large glass or stainless steel bowl. Use anything but aluminium, which will react badly with the acid-laden stalks.
Toss in the halved vanilla bean, followed by the sugar. Stir well, cover and set into the fridge for 6 hours to macerate. You can leave the rhubarb in this state for up to 5 days, each day will leach more colour out and make the end result all the more yummy.
Heat your oven to 200 °C (390 °F). Choose a low-sided baking dish, and lay the rhubarb in a single layer. Pour over any remaining liquid, then cover with aluminium foil. Place in the oven for 9 minutes - remove, and check the rhubarb. It should be the same shape as when it went in, but soft - like you can take a bite soft.
Serve forth immediately, or transfer to a clean container to be refrigerated for up to 7 days.