Sweet heat for your sweetheart

I’m beginning to think there’s nothing you can’t do with rhubarb, the vegetable that thinks it’s a fruit

RhubarbThis month at RHS Garden Wisley – and right through until 3 May – we are celebrating its many culinary uses in our Rhubarb Fest. Wisley holds the national collection of rhubarb after all, and it is a very special spring crop beloved by the British in particular.

In the lean, early months of the year we cook with Yorkshire’s prestigious forced rhubarb until the Wisley crop comes in, usually in early March. Forced rhubarb, which we source from the expert growers of the famous ‘rhubarb triangle’, is recognisable by its vibrant pale pink colour; outdoor-grown rhubarb has a much deeper hue.

At Wisley we like to roast rhubarb with a sprinkle of sugar, some diced stem ginger and its syrup – the sweet heat of the stem ginger works brilliantly with the dry tartness of the rhubarb, and has a more rounded and balanced flavour than fresh ginger. In the Food Hall we are using this rhubarb and ginger compote to fill our traditional Victoria sponge cakes (not forgetting the cream of course!).

Delicious duck confit with rhubarb and beansThe duck confit with Madeira sauce, pickled rhubarb and salad that we serve in the restaurant at Wisley has quite a fan base. It’s a perfect dish to enjoy for a Valentine’s weekend lunch. People are sometimes surprised that a salad would come with warm jus-style sauce but the whole thing works together beautifully thanks to the sweet-sour sharpness of the rhubarb pickle.

Our recipe is reminiscent of Turkish pickle recipes in that we cure the raw vegetable rather than cook it. The stalks are shaved into strips and steeped in a mix of thyme, fennel, sugar and vinegar (below). The result is punchy yet delicate and complex at the same time.

Rhubarb strips being mixed with thyme, fennel, sugar and vinegar for the duck confitVisitors to Wisley will be able to try our own-made rhubarb lemonade (very refreshing!) and rhubarb-apple cordial. The lovely colour of rhubarb drinks makes them perfect for Valentine’s Day and other seasonal celebrations.

Why not make our Wisley rhubarb bellini at home? You just take the liquid of some fresh stewed rhubarb and chill it, then when ready to enjoy, put a little in the base of a champagne flute and top up with prosecco. Simply delicious! At home I like cooking rhubarb with a small amount of pomegranate juice, and maybe a splash of rosewater. What’s your favourite rhubarb recipe? Why not enter it in our competition below – we’re looking for a great rhubarb dish to put on the menu in the Food Hall. The winner will receive a celebratory lunch for four people in the Restaurant.

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Competition Details

We would love to see your favourite rhubarb dish. Simply send us your recipe, including an ingredients list, method and snapshot. In return you will be entered into a competition where your entry will be judged by a panel of Taste of Wisley experts. The winning dish will be featured in the Food Hall and the winner invited for a complimentary celebratory lunch for four in the Restaurant.

How to enter

To enter, send your name, address and telephone number to us with your complete recipe and an image, either by post or by email by 30 March, 2015.

Enter by post:

Rhubarb Competition, Taste of Wisley, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, GU23 6QA.

Enter by email:

Send your entry with the subject title Rhubarb Competition to [email protected]

T&Cs: Entries must arrive by 30 March, 2015. Winner will be contacted by 19 April, 2015. Responsibility cannot be accepted for entries arriving after the closing date. The judges’ decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. This competition is not open to employees of RHS or Taste of Wisley.

Get involved

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