Over the last week the rapidly melting snowscape has left a carpet of hardy snowdrops in its wake, and us daring to hope that spring is finally on the way. To cheer us all up we’ve been enjoying the bright delights of rhubarb. She’s the kind of friend you don’t phone for most of the year, scarce a text message will pass between us, but when we see her again it’s as wonderful as it ever was. Gorgeously pink and full of zing, I defy rhubarb not to warm the hardest of lockdown hearts.
The thing about rhubarb is that too much sugar blunts the delicate flavour, but not enough leaves an acidity which can be off-putting. I like to make a simple rhubarb puree and retain some of the unique tart flavour. To make it, trim a few stems of rhubarb and dice into small pieces. Put them in a small pot and add enough sugar so that the rhubarb looks coated but not covered (I don’t weigh the sugar, preferring to adjust by taste as it cooks). Then put the pot on a high heat and gently stir; heating quickly helps retain the lovely pink-ness. As the rhubarb softens and the sugar melts and bubbles, it will release it’s juices and combine with the sugar to create a pink syrup. Taste it now to check the sweetness and add more sugar as required. Turn the heat down to medium and once it starts to thicken and soften (up to five minutes should do it) remove from the heat before checking the taste again. At this point you can blitz to make a smooth puree, or simply leave it as it is.
We’ve been spooning over some Persian love cake (left over from Valentine’s Day!), a rose-scented sponge made with ground almonds and flavoured with cardamom, with a sprinkle of pistachio and rose petals. It’s also perfect for breakfast, over Greek yogurt with a little granola (almost like rhubarb crumble); it’s delicious with a scone and cream, or even just a piece of shortbread; or to beat the lockdown blues top up the smooth blitzed puree in a champagne flute with prosecco to make a rhubarb bellini.