"Rhubarb in New Zealand is a back yard essential, to the point that even if there was nothing else edible growing in the yard there always seemed to be rhubarb."
With a change of seasons I have been spending time in the greenhouse and garden surrounded by seedlings and planting nut and fruit trees to add to the orchard selection. During my pottering it was hard to miss the size and abundance of the rhubarb plants in the veg garden and it got me remembering a recent wine tasting evening and conversation about food and wine matching. One of the best and most unusual and surprising matches I have done for a wine maker involved rhubarb.
There are plenty of safe wine and food matches, but this wasn’t one of them, which of course is why the wine maker liked it so much – taking a risk. Rhubarb clafoutis with white pepper ice-cream to match an Alberino. Dessert to match a typically savory food matched wine! The successful recipe (see below) is a departure from classical clafoutis which is heavier and made with cherries.
Rhubarb in New Zealand is a back yard essential, to the point that even if there was nothing else edible growing in the yard there always seemed to be rhubarb! It was invariably stewed for breakfast or made into rhubarb crumble or pie for dessert. In professional culinary terms despite being classed as a vegetable it is highly versatile, used in both sweet and savory applications, much of this versatility owing to it tartness of flavour. It works well to cut through the richness of buttery pastries, cakes and desserts while conversely I have even seen rhubarb used in beef stew!
Recently I used it in a recipe developed to showcase Westgold butter – Roasted rhubarb and almond frangipane tart. Tartness of the roasted rhubarb pieces balanced the richness of the surrounding frangipane while a thin layer of rhubarb and vanilla jam under the frangipane added color while also serving to keep the pastry case crisp.
I don’t know how many varieties there are but the plants in my garden are of a heritage variety, cuttings donated to me by a neighbor after I commented on the extraordinarily brilliant color of its stems. I was surprised to find that none of this brilliance was lost in the cooking process whether roasting or stewing it making it a chef’s treasure from a visual perspective – from bright pink rhubarb and vanilla jam to savory pickle to decorate salads and grilled meats and vegetables, or a sauce to add color and cut through the richness of many pork dishes.
I have just noticed a recipe shared by a culinary friend sitting on my desk, so while you try out the clafoutis recipe below, I am off to harvest some rhubarb and brew up a pot of rhubarb chutney!
1 tbsp Caster sugar
2 Egg yolks
35g Caster sugar
1 tsp Vanilla essence
70g Soft flour
2 Egg whites
2 tsp Caster sugar
Butter and sugar for preparing baking dish
Lightly butter and sugar a 25cm diameter ceramic dish or rectangular dish of equivalent size. Dish to be at least 1 inch deep.
Chop rhubarb into 2-inch lengths, place in a pan, sprinkle with the tbsp sugar and lightly roast in 200°C oven to soften.
Whisk yolks, egg and the 35g sugar. Gradually whisk in flour, then cream and vanilla.
Whisk egg whites with remaining 2 tsp sugar to stiff peak meringue.
Temper batter by folding in a couple of spoonfuls of meringue then fold in rest of meringue.
Scatter rhubarb over base of dish reserving some to scatter over the top at service.
Pour batter over rhubarb and bake for 15-20minutes until lightly colored and just set (will be slightly puffed in the middle and remains firm with a gentle shake).
Dust with icing sugar and arrange the reserved rhubarb on top. Serve with Westgold whipped cream!
The rhubarb may be substituted for with other soft fruit such as plums, cherries, or apricots – preferably something with a bit of tartness.