Our resident chef Mark Hix on why it's about time rhubarb overcame the bad reputation your mother left it with

 
Mark Hix

Some consider rhubarb the devil’s fruit. Well, allow me to correct you: it’s actually a vegetable, and the only reason you don’t like it is because your mother doesn’t know how to cook. We grew up in a lost generation of terrible rhubarb crumbles that never used enough sugar to balance the sharpness.

I’ve grown to enjoy rhubarb in my adult life, and being in the business I’m in, I’ve discovered ways to use it other than stewing and putting it in crumbles like I had it as a kid.

Interestingly, the main growing region for rhubarb has remained in Yorkshire and is referred to as the Rhubarb Triangle. We are in the early season of “forced rhubarb” right now, which is grown indoors with lights; the outdoor season is in the spring, when the flavour is more robust.

Depending on what you are going to do with rhubarb, a few sticks can go a long way. I love integrating it into savoury dishes, either pickled or lightly cooked – it adds an interesting layer of flavour to fatty or cured meats like my chop recipe below.

Bacon chop with rhubarb recipe

Serves 4
A good butcher, especially one who cures bacon, should be able to provide you with a bacon chop, either from the back or streaky. Preferably ask for it to be cut on the bone, about 1cm-thick. They have a tendency to be a bit salty, so to be on the safe side, soak the chop in cold water for a few hours before cooking.

Ingredients

  • 4 bacon chops, weighing about 180-200g
  • 200g rhubarb, trimmed
  • 2 shallots, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 150ml cider vinegar
  • 1tbsp caster sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar. Thinly slice the sticks of rhubarb on the angle and mix with the shallots in a non-reactive bowl; season to taste. Cover with clingfilm and leave for 3-4 hours, or overnight.

Heat a ribbed griddle or heavy frying pan and cook the chop for 4-5 minutes on each side. Drain the liquid from the rhubarb and spoon onto the plate with the chop.

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