The English forced-rhubarb season has begun. Up in Yorkshire, growers such as Janet Oldroyd-Hulme, whose family owns one of the world's largest rhubarb forcing sheds in Carlton near Wakefield, make up what is commonly called the rhubarb- or pink-triangle in a 30-mile area, between Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield. Farmers here grow the country's finest rhubarb and until the 1960s, 93 per cent of the world's forced rhubarb came from here. Another great Yorkshire winter food is parkin, a rich, dark, spiced loaf-shaped cake traditionally eaten on Guy Fawkes Night, but as ginger and rhubarb are perfect partners, the parkin is great eaten warm with rhubarb and thick cream or custard.

October up to Christmas would have been the traditional time to use spices in cooking and a way of being a little extravagant. Now they've become less of a luxury we can use them all year round. In a Dorothy Hartley book from 1954, which I have in my collection, she suggests it was popular practice to make extra parkin to serve hot with apple sauce, almost like an early version of what's become sticky toffee pudding.

800g-1kg rhubarb, cleaned and cut into 2cm pieces
150g Demerara sugar
Thick cream or custard to serve

for the parkin

225g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp mixed spice
1/2tsp salt
110g coarse oatmeal (pinhead oatmeal)
175g dark muscovado sugar
115g butter
50g golden syrup
115g black treacle
150ml milk
1 large egg, beaten

Pre-heat the oven to 175C/gas mark 4. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt into a bowl. Stir in the oatmeal and sugar and make a well in the centre.

Meanwhile melt the butter, golden syrup and treacle over a low heat, whisking to emulsify, then remove from the heat and leave to cool a little. Mix into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon then beat the milk and egg together and stir into the mixture until well mixed. Pour the mixture into a greased, preferably non-stick loaf tin and bake for 45-50 minutes, leaving the mixture slightly soft to the touch. Leave to cool for 30 minutes or so before turning out.

Wrap in cling film and store in a dry place if you're not going to use it on the day.

Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Put the pieces of rhubarb into a baking tray and scatter with the sugar. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, or until tender, basting with the cooking liquid every so often. Leave to cool and serve with the warmed parkin and thick cream, or custard.

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