Roast Rhubarb with Honey and Orange
The glorious weather of the past week has proved somewhat of a mixed blessing: as the sun beats down outside, I’ve been in the library, trying, often unsuccessfully, to condense a year’s learning into a few pithy notes. Thursday presented a welcome distraction, when I was lucky enough to attend the #irishfoodies event organised by Maeve and Klara from Bord Bia (who supplied the lovely quality-assured Irish pork featured last week) and Donal Skehan of Good Mood Food.
Caroline has written an excellent and highly comprehensive review of the day over on Bibliocook so I won’t bore you by repeating it, but it truly was wonderful to be able to put faces to the blogs I’ve enjoyed reading so much over the last few months, and also to discover some new finds.
For me, the most illuminating session was the demonstration on food styling and photography by Erica Ryan and Jocasta Clarke. We listened as they talked about their experiences, saw them set up a shoot, and even learnt a few tricks of the trade. Pasta looking flat and lifeless? Prop it up with some kitchen towel. Tomatoes lacklustre? Glycerin’s your man. And as for that little bit of herb crust that stayed in the pan? Don’t worry, just superglue it back on. While not all the tips were the most practical for a dinner you might actually want to eat (and preferably while it’s still hot) some were highly applicable: the rhubarb photos in this post were shot the afternoon before the demo or I probably would have tried using a mirror to improve the lighting.
What can I say about the roasted rhubarb? It perplexed me. I’d heard people singing it’s praises for its intense, and indeed superior, ‘rhubarby’ flavour and the way the rhubarb chunks retained their structure. I’d found recipes for rhubarb roasted in wine as well as slow-roasted rhubarb with ginger. I was certain stewed rhubarb would be a thing of the past. But in while it looked very pretty, roasted rhubarb just wasn’t the game-changer I anticipated.
I started with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Roast Honeyed Rhubarb recipe, but halved the amount of honey and added the juice of an orange after cooking, which took a lot longer than the 30 minutes advised. It tasted great, but the skin of the rhubarb never really softened, making for a contrast in texture I didn’t really think added much to the dish.
Now, my rhubarb had been sitting in the fridge for a few days by the time I got around to cooking it, so it’s possible this was simply the result of it being a little past its prime. I’m inclined, however, to think this is probably the feature of the dish which allows the rhubarb to keep it’s structure. Served with a bowl of butterscotch ice-cream, this was still delicious, but I can’t help but think that like the super-glued chicken breast, roasted rhubarb is a dish where the aesthetic takes pride of place.
What do you think? Was it my use of inferior rhubarb? Are The Mammy and I the only people who find a slightly fibrous rhubarb skin offensive? Or do you just hate people who entirely ignore a recipe and then proceed to complain when their expectations aren’t met?