In the pink: Mark Hix cooks with rhubarb

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The Rhubarb Triangle between Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield is where the majority of our home-grown rhubarb comes from, and the early, forced rhubarb (out-of-season rhubarb which is grown indoors) hits the shops from mid-December onwards.

Until the 1960s, the triangle – sometimes called the "pink triangle" – grew about 93 per cent of the world's forced rhubarb. Although rhubarb has suffered a culinary downturn, it seems to be making a bit of a comeback – and that is probably down to cooks and chefs wanting to cook with produce grown on their home turf, as well as the realisation that there's so much more you can do with rhubarb than put it into a crumble.

By the way, did you know that rhubarb is a vegetable, not a fruit? If you want to find out more about the fascinating history of the stuff, turn to page 156 of my book, British Regional Food (Quadrille).

Wild duck and rhubarb salad

Serves 4 as a starter

January is the best time for wild duck as they get really nice and plump as they feed themselves up to cope with all this cold weather. Sadly, the game bird season is almost over so this will be the last game bird recipe you will be getting from me until August.

Wild and tame duck are well suited to sharp and acidic partners and rhubarb is particulary suited to the rich gamey flavours of wild duck.

You can use mallard, teal or widgeon for this recipe.

1 wild duck
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A good knob of butter, softened
2 large sticks of rhubarb, trimmed and washed
A couple of handfuls of small winter-salad leaves and herbs such as pennywort, bittercress, rocket, treviso, etc

For the dressing

2tbsp good-quality red wine vinegar
tbsp caster sugar
3tbsp corn or vegetable oil
3tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Cut the rhubarb into 3cm lengths, then into half-centimetre batons. Bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch the rhubarb for 30 seconds then drain, pat dry with some kitchen paper and place in a bowl. Dissolve the sugar in the red wine vinegar, whisk in the oils and season, then pour over the rhubarb and leave for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, season the wild duck and rub with the softened butter. Place in a small roasting tray and roast for 30 minutes, keeping it nice and pink. Remove from the oven and leave to rest. Remove the legs from the carcass, remove the meat from the bone and shred it up.

Remove the breasts from the carcass, then go around the carcass removing any other bits of meat and shred it up and mix with the leg meat.

To serve, cut the breasts into 6 slices, toss the leaves with the shredded meat, the rhubarb and the dressing, season and arrange on plates with the slices of breast scattered over.

Rhubarb and Kings Ginger fool

Serves 4

The Kings Ginger Liqueur was concocted by Berry Brothers in 1903 for King Edward VII to revive His Majesty during morning rides in his horseless carriage and has been appreciated by bon viveurs ever since.

The boys in Mark's Bar have been using it in their cocktails over the festive period and we have started using it in the kitchen for various puds; it gives a great winter punch to creamy desserts.

For the rhubarb compote
300g rhubarb, trimmed, washed and chopped into rough 1cm chunks
100g caster sugar

For the fool

100-120ml Kings Ginger Liqueur
The juice of half a lemon
50g caster sugar
300ml double cream

First, make the rhubarb compote. Put the rhubarb and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan and cook on a low heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring every so often until the rhubarb is tender. Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then refrigerate for an hour.

For the fool, mix the lemon juice and sugar together. Then add the cream and whip the mixture slowly with an electric whisk or by hand until thick; then add the Kings Ginger and continue mixing until it thickens again. Then taste and add a little more of the liqueur if you wish.

Carefully fold half of the compote into the cream mixture and spoon into individual glasses or a serving dish and chill for at least an hour.

Serve with the rest of the compote on top of the fool.

Rhubarb and mascarpone risotto

Serves 4

You've probably guessed this is a sweet risotto and not a starter – in fact it's rather like a rice pudding – but the idea is that it's made in the same way as risotto, but with a sweet stock instead.

8 medium sticks of rhubarb, trimmed and washed
150g caster sugar
150ml sweet wine
1tbsp grenadine
100g butter
120g carnaroli rice
2tbsp mascarpone cheese
4 amaretti biscuits

Cut 4 of the sticks of rhubarb into 1cm chunks and put to one side. Roughly chop the rest and put into a saucepan with the caster sugar, wine, grenadine and about 1.5 litres of water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, pushing as much juice out of the rhubarb as possible. Bring to the boil and blanch the chunks of rhubarb for about 30-40 seconds or until almost tender then remove with a slotted spoon on to a plate.

Melt about 30g of the butter in a thick-bottomed saucepan and stir the rice over a low heat for about 30 seconds; gradually add the hot rhubarb stock, about 150ml at a time, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon and adding the next batch when the previous has all been absorbed. Continue adding the stock until the rice is tender then stir in the rest of the butter, mascarpone and blanched rhubarb over a low heat. The risotto should be fairly liquid and just dropping off the spoon easily; add a little more stock if not. At this stage you can leave the risotto in the pan for no more than a few minutes but stir it every so often. Serve in bowls with the amaretti biscuits crunched over the top.

Champagne and rhubarb jelly

Serves 4

One of my Dad's friends used to always tell me about his mother making champagne rhubarb – but it turned out that he was talking about champagne and rhubarb jelly. When I finally remembered to make the dish I was so impressed that I put it on the menu. If you don't want to splash out on champagne, you can also use prosecco.

200g rhubarb
60g granulated or caster sugar

For the jelly

4 gelatine leaves (12g)
600ml champagne
75g caster sugar

Cut the rhubarb into small 1cm dice. Put the sugar in a saucepan with roughly enough water to cover the rhubarb, bring to the boil, add the rhubarb and simmer for about a minute or so until the rhubarb is just cooked; then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen paper and discard the liquid.

Meanwhile, immerse the gelatine leaves one at a time in a shallow bowl of cold water and leave for a minute or so until soft, then squeeze the gelatine leaves out. Heat 100ml of the champagne in a pan, remove from the heat and stir the gelatin leaves in until dissolved. Add the rest of the champagne and put the pan of jelly somewhere cool, but do not let it set.

Divide half the rhubarb among four individual jelly moulds, or cups or serving glasses or coupes, and pour in half of the cooled jelly. Chill for an hour or so to set, then top up with the rest of the rhubarb and unset jelly. (This ensures the rhubarb stays suspended and doesn't float to the top.) Return to the fridge to chill until set.

To serve, dip the moulds briefly into hot water; turn out on to serving plates. Serve with thick cream or ice cream.

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