Rhubarb is a very old plant – its medicinal and horticulture uses were recorded in ancient China. It is known in some countries as ‘pie plant’ and is prized for its use in pies, tarts and sauces.Only the petioles (stalks ) are eaten (some compounds within the leaves can be toxic ) although herbal remedies use the leaves and roots.
Rhubarb contains more calcium than a comparable cup of milk, but in a form the body cannot easily absorb. The stalks do, however, provide healthy amounts of vitamins K and C, potassium and manganese, among other vitamins and minerals.
Preparing and Using
When buying rhubarb, choose fresh, crisp stalks and peel off any stringy covering before use. Stand the stalks in cold water for an hour or so before use to refresh them. Rhubarb is quite acidic but in most recipes this is normally offset by sugar. Rhubarb can be used to make breads, cakes, desserts, sorbets, tarts, fools,jams, pickles, chutneys, relishes, soups, and sauces, jelly and wine. It can be used to flavour yoghurt, ice cream and drinks and to fill pancakes and pies. It goes well with fish especially oily fish like mackerel and tuna and swordfish.
Rhubarb also goes well with apples or strawberries. Use apple and rhubarb instead of lemon in a meringue pie for example. Ginger is another flavour that goes well with rhubarb and ingredients such as oatmeal, ground almonds and coconut can be added to the topping on a rhubarb crumble for flavour variations. It’s useful to dust rhubarb pieces in flour before adding them to a pie, to reduce the moisture content.Other flavours or ingredients that go with rhubarb include: orange, pork, ham, currants,apricots, honey, and chocolate.
Rhubarb tart with whiskey cream
Rhubarb grows very easily in Ireland and has always been a staple of country gardens. The whiskey sauce lifts this pretty dessert from its more usual everyday role.
350g prepared puff pastry
450g rhubarb, washed and thinly sliced
150g melted butter
150g caster sugar
100g caster sugar
Dash of Irish whiskey
Preheat a moderate oven, Gas Mark 4, 180°C (350°F ). Roll the pastry out to make four ten centimetre diameter discs, then pleat the pastry all round the edge. Carefully arrange the sliced rhubarb on top of each pastry disc, making sure there are no gaps, then brush with the melted butter and sprinkle the sugar over. Cook in the preheated oven for thirty minutes. To make the sauce, whip the cream then whisk in the sugar and whiskey. When the rhubarb is tender and nicely caramelised on top, serve on heated plates with the whiskey cream and a sprig of fresh mint to garnish.