For July I’ve chosen one of my favourite seasonal ingredients – Rhubarb. It is versatile, healthy and inexpensive; it can be used in so many ways from pickling to puds. It doesn’t seem to care too much about the appalling weather we’ve been having and many gardeners I know have a glut at this time of year. I thought a couple of ideas on how to use some of it up, besides the classic pie and crumble may be helpful. In America it is actually called “Pie plant” due it almost exclusively being used as a pie filling, either on its own or with strawberries. I’ve created an American style muffin recipe, but with a very English pairing of Rhubarb and Custard. Birds Custard Powder only came in to being because Mrs Bird (aka Mrs Custard) was allergic to eggs, so she dispatched her Husband Mr Bird, a gifted chemist and old Etonian to invent her custard without eggs! Custard Powder was born!
Botanically rhubarb is not actually a fruit but a vegetable, but in 1947 the US Customs Court at Buffalo, New York ruled that it was a fruit because that is how it’s normally eaten! There are accounts as far back as 2700bc that it was being used in Chinese medicine. In ancient Greece and Rome it was imported as a dried root with medicinal qualities. In 16th Century England it was used only for medicinal purposes, it would seem that eating the stems didn’t occur to people until much later. You start seeing recipes for rhubarb pies and tarts from early 19th century cookbooks onwards, such as Mrs Rundell’s cook book dated 1806.
Try and choose rhubarb that is nice and young, not old and stringy and has been locally grown and not long cut before you use it. One of our lovely customers Pat gave me a nice bag full of her home grown rhubarb – so thank you Pat; I shall save one of the muffins for you! Be aware that the leaves are poisonous, so throw those away, trim off the ends as we are only interested in the stalks. My first recipe is for roasting rather than stewing, as this intensifies the flavours and gives a better texture. I add in some ground ginger as this classic combination also brings the flavour out. My second recipe makes uses of your roasted rhubarb and is for Rhubarb and Custard Muffins. These are easy to make, can be frozen, are great for packed lunches and absolutely delicious. You could even serve them warm with a dollop of custard on top as a pudding. Your left over roasted rhubarb can be frozen or chilled in the fridge to use as a topping for thick creamy yogurt or ice cream.
1kg Rhubarb after preparation
100g Caster Sugar
1 heaped tsp Ground Ginger
Preheat oven to 170c fan
Line 2 baking trays with parchment
Wash and trim the rhubarb
Cut into 1 inch’ish chunks
Mix well with the sugar and ginger
Spread a single layer over both trays and roast for 30min
It should be tender and have yielded a bit of juice and still hold its shape without being mushy.
Allow to cool on the trays, that way it will keep its shape better.
Either freeze or cover and chill until needed.
Rhubarb and Custard Muffins
225 g Plain Flour
115g Birds Custard Powder
1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
½ Tsp Bicarbonate Soda
¼ Tsp Salt
½ Tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ Tsp Ground Ginger
¼ Tsp Ground Nutmeg
150g Dark Brown Muscovado Sugar
2 Local free range Eggs (I used Fairburns)
284 ml pot of Buttermilk
120ml Rapeseed Oil (I used Ownsworths)
300g of Roasted Rhubarb
Granulated sugar to sprinkle on top
Preheat oven to 190c
Line a muffin tin with 12 muffin cases
Sieve all the dry ingredients together
Whisk all of the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl, except the rhubarb
Gradually mix the wet into the dry
Just mix it enough to bring it together, don’t overmix it.
Gently fold in the rhubarb
Fill the muffin cases up to the top, that way you git the classic domed muffin top
Sprinkle tops with sugar
Bake for 25-30 minutes, they should be springy to the touch and nice golden brown.
Sadie Hirst is a member of The British Society of Baking and Select Lincolnshire. Along with her Husband Russell they have multi award winning artisan butchers shop – RJ Hirst Family Butchers in Woodhall Spa. Sadie is passionate about preserving our rich culinary heritage and is often asked to speak for local groups with her talk “Off the Beeton Track”. You can follow Sadie on Twiter Sadie Hirst@RJHirstbutcher or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This recipe is not to be used, copied, published or reproduced for commercial purposes without the permission of Sadie Hirst