Sunday 19 February 2012

Rhubarb, rhubarb!


We all love rhubarb or at least we should. It is one of the culinary joys of early spring; the earliest, slimmest, sweetest, tenderest variety is called ‘champagne rhubarb’. Its arrival in the shops and on the table heralds a host of lip smacking and comforting puddings, many of them rooted in our childhood: rhubarb and custard, rhubarb crumble, rhubarb tart, steamed roly-poly pudding, rhubarb fool, and the list goes on.
Rhubarb is not only about nursery food; its beautiful pink hue can add sophistication and its tart sweetness, piquancy to any sweetmeat; jams, jellies, mousses, cakes, panna cotta. Imagine choux pastry filled with rhubarb flavoured crème pâtissière and covered with white chocolate. Rhubarb is enhanced with the addition of orange zest, star anise and root ginger. For a double rhubarb hit try lacing puddings with Chases rhubarb liqueur or simply serve a shot on the side.

Rhubarb and triple almond frangipan tart - serves 6
For cooking the rhubarb in advance

500 g young tender rhubarb,
100 g caster sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Chase’s rhubarb liqueur (optional)
For the pastry
100 g plain flour
10 g cornflour
30g icing sugar
60 g unsalted butter
1 small egg yolk
1 tablespoon iced water or Chase’s rhubarb liqueur

For the filling

150 g marzipan roughly grated
100 g unsalted butter
100 g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cornflour
2 teaspoons baking powder
100 g ground almonds

Sieved icing sugar to serve

Equipment: 22 cm diameter tart tin

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.

To make the pastry, put all the ingredients in a bowl and work them quickly and lightly into a smooth ball with your hands. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

To cook the rhubarb, wash the rhubarb and without drying it cut into 2 – 3 cm lengths and put in a small pan with the sugar. Put over low heat and bring gently to simmering point. If the fruit is dry it may be necessary to add a couple of tablespoons of water at this stage. Cook gently until the rhubarb collapses. Add the rhubarb liqueur if using, stir well, then taste for sweetness. Transfer the rhubarb to a sieve, leave to drain over a small pan and leave to cool.

Put the pan of rhubarb juice on high heat and boil for 5 minutes or until reduced by half.

After an hour’s rest - with a rolling pin, roll the pastry out thinly on a floured surface and use to line the tart tin.

Spoon the cooled, drained rhubarb over the pastry base and scatter the roughly grated marzipan over the top.

Put the sugar and butter in a bowl and whisk until light and creamy. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well as you do so. Add the cornflour, baking powder and almonds then gently fold into the mixture.

Spoon the mixture on top of the rhubarb and marzipan, taking care to cover it all and to spoon the cake mixture right up to the pastry edge. Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top.
Transfer the tart to the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Reduce the heat to 160C/Gas Mark 3 for the last 20 minutes, or if the almonds start to turn too dark.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little. Serve warm sprinkled with icing sugar. Drizzle a few drops of the rhubarb syrup on each plate when serving.

WAKE ME UP IN THE MORNING – National Marmalade week

It may surprise you to know, given we are a nation of marmalade makers and eaters, that we are going to celebrate National Marmalade week this year for the very first time from 25 February - 3 March.
This inaugural awareness week has been created by the organizers of The World’s Original Marmalade Awards & Festival held in Dalemain mansion in the Lake District because there has been a huge increase in the number of people making their own marmalades and artisan made marmalades on the market.
If you want to have a go yourself, entries to the awards are now open and jars from every type of marmalade maker are welcomed. Further entry details including a downloadable entry form, category criteria, submission details and entry fees can be found by visiting:
However if you simply want to have a bash at making your own to celebrate this great British tradition, here is a great marmalade recipe guaranteed to wake up your palate over breakfast. Don’t forget though, marmalade makes great sponge puddings and tarts too.


The combination of lemon, lime and grapefruit makes a delicious zingy ‘good morning world’ tasting marmalade. It can be made in small quantities at any time of the year, not just when the traditional Seville oranges are in season. I have given quantities to yield two or three jars but if you want to make in bulk, then simply double or triple the ingredients. Cut the peel to suit your taste – thick or thin by hand, chunky or fine using a blender. Vary the citrus fruit to suit your taste.

1 lemon
1 small pink grapefruit
1 lime
500 ml water
1 kg sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
3 clean, dry, warm 259 g jam jars with lids
1 pack jam pot covers and waxed discs

Makes 500g 750 g
Scrub the fruit and prise out any stalk ends still attached. Put the fruit in a pan and cover with cold water, set over low heat and cook until tender – this will take 11/2-2 hours. The fruit is ready when it ‘collapses’. Lime zest is generally tougher than other citrus peel, so you must make sure it is tender at this stage otherwise it will taste woody.
Transfer the fruit to a chipping board, reserving the water) and leave until cool enough to handle. Cut in half, scrape out the pips and add to the pan of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Cut the zest into strips as finely as possible or put in a blender and whiz until chunky. Strain the water from the pips and flesh and return it to the pan, adding the chopped zest and the lemon juice. Discard the pips and the debris.
Add the sugar to the pan and bring slowly to simmering point, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Because the sugar content is high this will take quite a long time. When the marmalade has become translucent, you will know the sugar has dissolved and you can increase the heat. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until setting point is reached – 5-10 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and test for set (see below). If the marmalade is not ready, put the pan back on the heat to boil for a few more minutes and test again. Repeat this process if necessary and remember to take the pan off the heat during testing as over boiling the marmalade will ruin it.
When setting point is reached, return to simmering point, then turn off the heat. Skim with a perforated spoon, stir well and let stand for 20 – 30 minutes for the fruit to settle. Stir and ladle into clean, dry, warm jars and wipe the necks of the jar with a clean, damp cloth if necessary. Seal at once with waxed paper discs and covers.
Let cool, label and store in a cool, dark cupboard until required.
Testing for set
Before you start put a saucer and 2 – 3 teaspoons in the fridge to cool. When the marmalade is ready take it off the heat and using a cold spoon put a teaspoon full in the fridge on the cold saucer and leave for five minutes. After this time push the marmalade with a finger – if it offers resistance or crinkles it is ready, on the other hand if it is still liquid the marmalade needs to be boiled up again.


After the excitement and excesses of Christmas, it is always a relief to get back to normal. By the time the New Year celebrations are over I look forward to cutting back the feasting style meals, the snacking and to feeling hungry again.
The palate needs livening up with lots of fresh vegetables, crisp salad ingredients, colour, textures and exotic flavours. The worst of the winter is to come and so we still need hot comfort food; but it needs reinventing to wake up our taste buds.
Reaching for the wok is a great solution and so is lightening the diet with plenty of fish, shellfish and poultry. Wok style cooking is quick, which means ingredients cooked in it retain their integrity; their colour, flavour and good-for-us factor.
When we cook in a wok we look towards the East and are reminded there are myriad cuisines to bow down to. Indian, Malay, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese to name a few – and with them come infinite spices and sauces to help kick away the January blues.
If you would like to learn more about cooking in a work Shaun Nean our Malasian chef will be back at the Chef’s Room in January with “fish in a wok.”


This is a simple aromatic seafood recipe that I used to make frequently at this time of the year. I had actually forgotten about it until a recent chance meeting on Face Book when an old friend of my son’s described a dish of yellow mussels and then I remembered the rest. Here it is and Badge I hope you see this because it is for you.

Vegetable oil
150g shallots finely chopped
1 egg sized lump of ginger
8 small cloves of garlic
½ chili
100ml water
1 level tablespoon turmeric
1 level tablespoon cumin
1kg mussels
400ml coconut milk
2 tablespoons chopped coriander

Heat enough vegetable oil to cover the base of a wok over low heat, add the chopped shallots and cook gently until soft. Put the ginger, garlic, chilli and water in a small blender and reduce to a paste. Add the paste, turmeric, cumin and salt to the pan, mix well and leave to fry for a minute or two. Add the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until they have all opened. Serve at once sprinkled with chopped coriander and hot crusty bread