Rhubarb


Tastes better than it looks

Maybe it’s the recent sun, maybe it’s my earlier attempts to force it, but the rhubarb at the bottom of the garden has gone into overdrive in recent weeks.

This causes slight problems, as I’m the only member of the family who has an unambiguous liking for the pink and green stuff. Most other members of the Drooling clan turn up their noses and jam their fingers down their throat at the mere mention of the glorious vegetable (yup, it’s veg, not fruit, gardening nerds).

One child did somewhat undermine his vehement opposition by inhaling a large bowl of rhubarb crumble the other day, but by and large I face an uphill struggle trying to get the tribe to eat the stuff.

This calls for imagination, hence my visit to this site, possibly the best rhubarb-recipe-related site on the net. Thinking I’d go for some sort of cookie-related recipe, I baked a tray-load of Rhubard Custard Bars.

Unfortunately this revealed the only problem with the encyclopaedic website: no photos. Had I seen a pic of the finished product I’d have known that – as you can see from the above – it doesn’t look fantastically appetising, and more importantly it looks very much like it contains rhubarb. This is a problem when seeking to outwit small children with a hatred of the stuff.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the bars were unanimously rejected. Even my youngest, who was screaming “Cake! Cake! Cake!” when I opened the oven, threw his slice on the floor when he saw what it looked like.

For the record, it tastes delicious. More specifically, it tastes just like rhubarb that has been baked in a sweet custard and popped on top of a base that is somewhere between cake and crumble. If that gets you interested then read on for the recipe below.

Rhubard custard bars

Crust

150g self-raising flour

120g sugar

60g soft butter

Filling

225g sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tbsp flour

4 eggs beaten

1 tsp. vanilla

500g rhubarb

Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Blend the flour, butter and sugar together. Press into a 9×13 inch baking pan that has been lined with baking parchment. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Prepare the filling while the crust is baking: blend the sugar and flour, then add eggs, vanilla and diced rhubarb and blend well. Pour the mixture over the partially baked crust and continue baking for 30-35 minutes. Serve warm or cooled.

Meanwhile the search goes on for a way to make rhubarb palatable for the rest of the family…

On the ipod while cooking: Scouting for Gilrs / I wish I was James Bond.  It’s probably never going to happen for me and the Strachan either.

Use the force. But not too much or you'll get manky-looking black leaves on your rhubarb.

It’s bloody freezing in the garden and not a lot is happening.

I’m starting to think that February might not be the best time of the year to begin a gardening blog: nothing is going to go into the soil for a while yet and there are few signs that anything interesting is going on out there.

Luckily there is some action at the bottom of the garden. Underneath a large terracotta forcer my rhubarb is heroically pushing itself upwards towards the sky.

Acutally, “heroic” might be a little generous. I slapped the forcer over the rhubarb a month ago and in that time the shoots have grown a couple of inches at best.  Not particularly inspiring.I read somewhere that forced rhubarb can grow so fast you can hear it crack and pop.

I have not heard these noises coming from inside the forcer.

Still, the rhubarb is much pinker-looking than last year’s (unforced) crop, so it’s a promising start.

The rhubarb crown has been hyper-productive for three years now, generously supplying me and several neighbours (the rest of the family can’t stand the stuff) with regular croppings. This is the first year that I’ve tried forcing it, and clearly we have something of a stand-off, me and the rhubarb.

A previous attempt to force its rhubarb neighbour ended badly: it pushed up a pair of flaccid stalks before giving up the fight for light and slowly dying. Apparently I should have waited a couple of years until the plant was stronger.

This time round things will be different. To say that the remaining rhubarb has been vigorous over the last few years is a bit like saying my children have a working knowledge of the Nintendo Wii.

Having said that the leaves look pretty sorry for themselves, and they have some unhealthy-looking black edges to them. I shall investigate further; to lose one rhubarb through cack-handed forcing would be unfortunate. To lose two would be a touch careless.

Still, I have faith that my plant will pull through. The force is strong in this one.

On the ipod while forcing: The Ting Tings / Great DJ

The drums, the drums, the drums, the….oh never mind.