Friday, 30 April 2010

Election Fever and a lot of Rhubarb

It just so happens that our General Election hits at the same time as this very British plant comes into season.

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. Am I referring to the fruit or to the quality of the debates between our three potential leaders?

Would a stick of rhubarb be better at running the country than any of the three key candidates?

Would a stick of rhubarb keep its mouth shut when the microphone is still on?

Answers on a polling card.

So this week's Food of the Week is rhubarb!

There seems to be very few interesting facts about rhubarb. It doesn't make your pee smell in the same way as asparagus, it's very bitter and its leaves are poisonous. It has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and used to command prices several times those of opium or saffron in medieval times as it was so expensive to transport. It also grows wild along the banks of the river Volga in Russia.

In the UK the first rhubarb of the year is harvested by candlelight in dark sheds dotted around the noted "Rhubarb Triangle" of Wakefield, Leeds and Morley
All a bit dull really when rhubarb has a really distinctive flavour that deserves a much more interesting heritage. I love the fact it's as seasonal as daffodils and creme eggs and that we can't air freight it from Kenya. I also love the fact that it's very adaptable and goes with so many other flavours so well, from almonds to ginger to oily fish.

Where can I find good British rhubarb?

Like most fruit and veg, you can get British rhubarb everywhere. For really good stuff, (as ever) the biodynamic stall at Borough is a good bet and you'll get weird and wonderful shapes too

What can I do with rhubarb?

My favourite recipe for rhubarb is Giorgio Locatelli's rhubarb and amaretto tart - a great mix of flavours although most people wouldn't appreciate having to prepare the rhubarb a day in advance.

Otherwise, stew the rhubarb with a fair amount of sugar and concentrate it so it's not too liquid. Once it's cooled down you can stir it into natural yogurt (with some amaretti crumbled on top) or even use the strained liquid to make your own rhubarb cordial. The mushed rhubarb can be used to stuff oily fish like mackerel or even as a sauce for cod.
Restaurant of the Week

One to splash out in this week... (or just go for a drink at the bar!)

Hix, Soho, London

Mark Hix is a quasi celebrity chef who continues to champion British produce. Go to his restaurant in Soho and you'll find everything from the cocktail list in the bar right through to the menu in the slightly noisy but celebrity studded restaurant based on seasonal British food.

Lovely bar and great food although a little bit pricey - if you don't find rhubarb somewhere on the menu I'll eat my polling card!
Nearest tube is Piccadilly - expect to pay £60 per head

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