And we would like you to forget the custard, too

Rhubarb is now regarded as a sophisticated and versatile addition to any menu, says Annie Bell

Rumours have been circulating about the new-found fashionability of rhubarb. There is the faintest whiff of hype mixed up with its steamy juices, so I straight away rang Anthony Worrall-Thompson who admitted to using it "quite a bit more" than he used to. Marco Pierre White seems in some danger of becoming patron saint, but he denied using it more than usual, saying that he has been loyal to it since childhood.

Rhubarb does enjoy a certain exclusivity at this time of year for being the only fruit to brave the weather. Well, vegetable actually; we classify it as a fruit because we eat it with sugar.

For the country-dweller in 1938, its significance should not be underrated. Della Lutes describes the first rhubarb of the season as being "to the digestive tract of winter-logged inner man what a good hot bath with plenty of healing soap is to the outer after a bout with plough and harrow".

Forced rhubarb has delicate, juicy, pink-leaf stalks, with just a tender wisp of outer skin, and it melts to a pure almost immediately when it is cooked.

If you want the rhubarb pieces to stay intact, then it is best to cook them in the oven as outlined below. For sauces and pures, cook the rhubarb with a minimal amount of water in a covered saucepan until it collapses.

Rhubarb's classic tartness makes it game for sorrel and gooseberry-style sauces, with mackerel or salmon. Mr Worrall-Thompson uses it in a chutney with almonds and apple-pie spices to go with cold meats. Although the mature leaves are poisonous, Mr White uses the young leaves to wrap around quail.

Meanwhile, on the sweet front, an old-fashioned cobbler with scones baked on top of rhubarb in syrup is quite heavenly, as is a rich saffron and honey custard baked on a base of fruit.

The prize for adoration has to go to Auberge de L'Ill, Illhaeusern, where Robin Weir and Caroline Liddell, authors of Ices (Hodder and Stoughton, £18.99), recall being served eight miniature rhubarb desserts on a plate: as well as rhubarb ice-cream and sorbet, it also arrived in a flan, a mousse, with ginger in a millefeuille, crystallised, and poached with a seal of white chocolate.

I have been avoiding mentioning that childhood nightmare of thin sticks of rhubarb in a pink syrup, with thick yellow custard sinking into it like the oil globules on a lava lamp. But compare yesteryear and today and there is no doubt that rhubarb has become a thoroughly modern vegetable.

Rhubarb Cobbler

with Clotted Cream

Ingredients: 8oz (225g) plain flour, sieved

1 heaped tsp baking powder, sieved

2oz (55g) caster sugar

3oz (85g) unsalted butter

1 egg (size 1), beaten

11/2lb (680g) forced rhubarb, trimmed weight

8oz (225g) strawberry jam

1 level tsp caster sugar mixed with one level tsp freshly ground cinnamon

To serve: clotted cream

Preparation: Place flour, baking powder and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, add butter and reduce to crumbs. Add egg and bring the dough together. Wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge while the rhubarb is cooking. Preheat oven to 180C/330F/gas 4. Cut rhubarb into 1-inch lengths, place in a shallow baking or gratin dish and mix in the jam. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, stirring halfway through.

On a lightly floured surface roll the dough 1/2-3/4 inches thick and cut out scones using a 2-inch cutter; roll dough twice only. Arrange these between the rhubarb so they are partially sunk into the juices. Scatter a pinch of cinnamon sugar over each scone and return to oven for 20 minutes until scones are lightly golden. Serve hot with the clotted cream.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on