Growers of rhubarb – of the assertive and open-air type rather than tender and under wraps – will have already witnessed the wonder that is its growing habit. From a tight-fisted angry bunch, bursting through cold soil, near-tropical leaves unfurl and cover anything under its considerable umbrella. This bulky plant – a vegetable actually – takes up considerable room but rewards not only with its flavourful and versatile stalks, it keeps on going right up until the first frosts.
Spring and summer acid-green stalks often give way to deepest pink as it approaches the leaf end, but not always. Some of the best examples of rhubarb wear their green with pride. Raymond Blanc, as much aesthete as chef (he is French, after all), prefers the assertively acidic, and frankly quite monstrously large, open-air rhubarb to the paler, more uniformly pink varieties of winter. I quite agree. And it is much more affordable too.
As with the last few rhubarb recipes I have posted, I am emphasising its mouth-watering tartness. Feel free to sprinkle on – or cover – in more sugar, but do add the citrus and also the pomegranate, if you have the latter, as they really bring out the best of summer rhubarb. Strawberries are much more of a summery treat to most, but of course their lifespan is not so generous. Pick up the sweetest berries and you can get away with less added sugar; the suggested lemon verbena heightens and brightens things further still (but not shown as I used dried and it was quite ugly). I have just planted out a lemon verbena plant, as well as lemon bergamot, so I will soon have fresh leaves to tear into any likely summer dish. Right now the dried leaves given to me by Karen (she is the Maggie’s Edinburgh gardener and garden designer) go into every morning cup of hot lemon water. Delicious, and naturally sweet.
I do hope you enjoy the tart-sweet flavours of this simple salad. The dots of Scottish full-fat crowdie cheese are obviously a bit specialist, but best quality soft cheese or goats cheese would also be superb and offer a slightly salty yet soft edge to the mix. Best creamy yogurt of any description (plant or dairy) would be welcome too: rhubarb loves yogurt. Fabulous on its own, or perhaps with a fillet of grilled fresh mackerel, we are loving this naturally cleansing and fresh way to eat summer’s “steady-eddie” of a veg(gie). Enjoy xx
Rhubarb and Strawberry Salad with Almonds, Mint and Lemon Verbena
This salad doesn’t last long once made up so keep it to just the amount needed for your meal. Having said that, a slightly wet but still delicious bowlful was had the next day and enjoyed very much. Oh, and don’t bother making this unless your berries are tip-top and sweet. I love Scottish berries best.
adapted from bon appetit.
80g (scant 1/2 c) blanched almonds (I use Marcona)
1 stalk rhubarb, thinly sliced, on the angle
2 tbsp sugar of choice (I used coconut blossom sugar but brown, or golden caster, will be good too)
2 tsp pomegranate molasses/syrup/grenadine – optional, but really works here
1 tbsp each of lemon and orange juice – fresh please
5-8 lemon verbena leaves, slightly bruised – optional
400-500g (1 lb) juicy strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
Small handful of mint leaves, torn or sliced
Soft cheese, such as Scottish crowdie or goats curd – amount up to you. Optional but nice.
1. Toast the almonds on a tray in a 180C/350F oven for eight minutes. Remove and let cool.
2. Toss the rhubarb slices, sugar, pomegranate molasses, citrus juices and verbena leaves in a non-reactive bowl (I always use Pyrex) and leave to macerate for up to one hour. You want those juices to run!
3. When you are ready to eat, pour the rhubarb into a serving bowl (pick out the verbena leaves) and add in the strawberries, mint and almonds, and dot with cheese. Serve immediately.
Other deliciously unusual ways with rhubarb from others:
Maple-tossed Rhubarb, Strawberry and Lentil Salad – Recipes From A Pantry
Potato Salad with Rhubarb and Balsamic Dressing – Tinned Tomatoes
Roasted Rhubarb, Watercress and Feta Salad – The Botanical Baker