In the UK we think of rhubarb as exclusively a sweet ingredient but there is a tradition in Scandinavia of serving a tart rhubarb sauce with pork (as we do with apple sauce) and it’s used in eastern cookery as a means of flavouring and tenderising meat.
Recipe for Qorma-e-rawash (rhubarb stew)
A traditional Afghan recipe from Helen Saberi’s “Afghan Food & Cookery”. She writes ” Rhubarb is considered a ‘cold’ food and is used medicinally as it is considered good for cleansing the blood and purifying the system.”
3 medium onions, finely chopped
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 and 1/2 lb boneless lamb, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) water
1 teaspoon char masala (a mixture similar to the more familiar Indian garam masala of ground spices including 4 of the following: cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black cardamom seeds, black pepper, coriander seeds, green cardamom seeds)
salt and black pepper
1 lb rhubarb
small bunch fresh coriander or mint, finely chopped
Fry the onions in the vegetable oil over medium heat until soft and golden brown. Add the meat and continue frying until brown. Stir in the tomato purée and fry for a minute or two. Add the water, char masala, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer until the meat is cooked.
Meanwhile wash the rhubarb and cut into 2 inch lengths. Boil in a small amount of water until soft but not disintegrating.
Just before serving, drain the rhubarb and place over the top of the qorma. Garnish with the chopped herbs.
Serve with chalau (Afghan pilau rice).
Recipe for raw rhubarb, cucumber and mint salad
I tend to visit London on the train these days and, if there’s time, en route to Euston Station I make a small detour to Ottolenghi in Islington to pick up a box of salads to eat on the journey home. I was recently delighted and surprised to find a salad perked up with thin rounds of raw rhubarb. I don’t have the exact recipe for that particular salad, but here’s a similar idea from Paula Wolfert’s “The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen”.
2 rhubarb stalks, ideally young and pink
1 medium cucumber, peeled
1 tbsp fine sea salt
2 handfuls rocket and/or baby spinach
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup shredded mint leaves
1. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, cut the rhubarb slightly on the diagonal into very thin slices. Repeat with the peeled cucumber.
2. Toss the rhubarb and cucumber with the salt and let stand for 10 minutes, rinse and drain.
3. In a salad bowl, toss the rhubarb and cucumber with the rocket/spinach. Drizzle with lemon juice. Scatter the mint leaves on top and serve.
Once you start thinking about rhubarb as a savoury ingredient, the sky’s the limit – who’d have though of turning rhubarb into a salsa to perk up fried fish or meat?. The recipe idea comes from the New York Times where it was paired with chicken liver tacos.
1½ cups rhubarb in 1/4 inch dice (about 2 medium stalks)
1/3 cup finely minced spring onions
1 medium hot green pepper, seeded and finely shredded
1/2 cup pickled cocktail onions, halved
2 tsp. honey
3 tbsp. cider vinegar
pinch cayenne pepper
Prepare a medium bowl of iced water and set aside. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Blanch for 10 seconds, then scoop out with a slotted spoon and refresh in the iced water to preserve colour and texture. Drain and dry and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the spring onions, pickled onions and shredded pepper. Mix the honey with 1 tbsp of the vinegar. Add to the bowl and season with salt and cayenne pepper.
Medallions of pork with rhubarb salsa
A recipe from the sheet handed out by Mrs Oldroyd at the end of the Yorkshire rhubarb tour. Original provenance unknown but I think this was the result of a challenge issued to local chefs to come up with some new ideas for rhubarb. A salsa implies crunchy raw chopped ingredients to me so I would probably call this rhubarb accompaniment a sauce or a chutney rather than a salsa but that’s just me.
The idea of acidic fruit with meat is a good one – think pork and apple sauce – so why not rhubarb?
Piece of pork loin big enough to cut into 8 medallions (2 per person)
Alternatively you could use 4 larger pork steaks
1/2 oz butter and 1 tablespoon light olive oil
For the salsa
8oz forced rhubarb (original recipe suggests Winter Gourmet variety)
2 fl oz white wine
2 rounded dessertspoons redcurrant jelly
2 heaped dessertspoons crème fraîche
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Begin by making the salsa. Wash the rhubarb and cut into small pieces. Place in a saucepan with the wine and cook until tender. Cool, then purée using a food processor or fine sieve.
Gently melt the redcurrant jelly in a saucepan. Add the rhubarb purée together with the remaining salsa ingredients. Mix well, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Cover and set aside.
Now prepare the pork. Trim the meat of excess fat and slice across the grain into 8 oval shaped emedallions approximately 1 inch thick. Batten the meat out slightly to tenderise and make thinner. Coat each piece in seasoned flour.
Melt the butter and oil in a frying pan and, once hot, fry the meat for approximately 2 minutes on each side until cooked through but not dry. You may need to do this in 2 batches, keeping the meat warm until you are ready to serve.
Serve with the salsa which can be gently reheated.