This is not a post about steak. (That’s for tomorrow).
They tell you to keep busy, but like any state of denial, busy is a front that can only be maintained for so long. Six weeks in, when all the old friends have been brought up to date, the bank account is struggling under the weight of one too many nights on the town, and the thrill of shameless flirtation has subsided to be replaced only with boredom, reality hits. It strikes first as melancholy, deepening to sadness as the hangover kicks in. It is persistent: it can be distracted, but it bides its time, choosing the moment for its next attack.
I don’t believe in wallowing, but choose instead to ponder trivialities endlessly, to stress and obsess. Even this cannot be sustained indefinitely. Dessert is clearly the answer. Not just any dessert, it will have to be stewed spring rhubarb. Poisonous and tart, rhubarb seems an unusual comfort food, but as it softens and melts into stew it is totally transformed. I’m pretty sure it takes on super powers.
I’m not the only one with a deep appreciation for stewed rhubarb. Earlier this week, Aoife at The Daily Spud posted a recipe for stewed rhubarb from Michelin-starred Martijn Kajuiter, which called for the addition of beetroot juice. I’m really looking forward to trying it, but unfortunately my juicer is packed away in storage half way across town. Or possibly, it is now back in the house but not yet unpacked. In which case, it might as well be half-way across town.
The shortbread below and general dish presentation comes courtesy of my recently acquired Cafe Paradiso cookbook. The rhubarb is classic comfort food, and 2 bunches will make enough for between 6 and 8. The shortbread recipe makes about 12 biscuits, enough for 4 with three biscuits a serving (a lá Cafe Paradiso) or 6 with two biscuits (as I did).
The Cafe Paradiso version suggests serving with butterscotch sauce, but I felt this would be overkill with my ginger-ed and orange-d rhubarb. I imagine I’ll be trying it at some stage though, so I’ll keep you posted (though I do wonder how many posts about stewed rhubarb one blog can hope to sustain).
2 bunches rhubard, washed and chopped
Zest of 1 orange
Stem ginger to taste – I use three pieces cut into small dice, but this gives quite a strong ginger flavour, you may prefer less.
Sugar (caster or muscovado) to taste.
1. Juice the two oranges and put the juice and the skins in a saucepan with the orange zest. Cover and cook on a medium heat until it reaches a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the rhubarb is tender.
2. If you’re serving with shortbread, or using as a topping for something, you should turn the heat off now. If you’re making a fool or just serving stewed rhubarb, you can keep cooking the rhubarb for another few minutes, until it gently disintegrates.
3. Add the stem ginger and sugar to taste – there’s no point in giving a precise measurement because it depends on the rhubarb and how tart you like it – just taste it! I usually add some of the syrup from the jar of stem ginger in the place of some or all of the sugar.
50g caster sugar (mine has a resident vanilla pod)
100g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
150g plain flour
Zest 1/2 orange
1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
2. Mix the butter and sugar together until pale yellow and fluffy, then beat in the flour and the orange rind. I needed to use my hands at the point (shortbread sin!) to get everything to combine.
3. Wrap in clingfilm and let rest in the fridge for half and hour. (I like to think this counteracted the aforementioned sinning).
4. Roll out the shortbread to about 5mm thick. If like me, you get to this point and realise not one of the three rolling pins has made it home from storage yet, a glass works adequately, if not quite ‘well’ for this. Cut round biscuits of about 8mm diameter (I used another glass).
[Note: I have no idea how big 5/8cm actually is. In case like me, you’re lax with a ruler, judging from the pictures in the cookbook, I’d describe this size as slightly bigger, but thinner than a digestive].
5. Bake the biscuits on an oven tray lined with baking parchment for 20-25 minutes. They should be pale brown. Remove to cool on a wire rack, they will crisp up as they do so.
(The recipe doesn’t say if this timing is for a fan oven or not, but I suspect not. One of my trays was done in 15 minutes, the other took 20).
Serve with creme fraiche, cream or yoghurt spread over the biscuits, topped with decadent amounts of rhubarb.