New Spring Arrivals!

With the arrival of Spring, comes the arrival of lots of exciting ingredients. I love this time of year...there is a stretch in the evenings, the weather is getting (a little!) warmer and as a cook, there are lots of exciting things happening.

One of my favourite ingredients, not just for it's lovely flavour but also for the delicate and beautiful colour it brings to a dish, is Rhubarb. This week, we are expecting a delivery of Champagne Rhubarb from one of our suppliers, Vanilla Venture.

Champagne rhubarb differs from others mainly in its colour and its flavour. It is a lighter, paler pink colour and it is less tart in flavour than normal rhubarb. Champagne rhubarb is available to us slightly earlier in the year. It is grown using a special technique, where it is 'forced' to grow in what are known as 'forcing sheds'. These sheds provide warmth to encourage the early growth of this plant. Light is also restricted, and it is this that causes the rhubarb to be paler in colour, less tart and also less fibrous.

Champagne rhubarb is very easy to work with. There is no need to peel it as it is less fibrous. It needs very light, gentle cooking and as it is still slightly tart, requires some sweetening. Make sure you discard the leaves as they are poisonous!

One of the ways we will use the rhubarb is in a compote with some strawberries. It will be served with our homemade granola and vanilla flavoured yoghurt. I first made this compote when I was learning how to cook in Ballymaloe. It has been a firm favourite in our house (and many others!) since. It is such a simple recipe to follow and a great accompaniment to cakes and tarts. It is also delicious with homemade vanilla ice-cream.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote:
Serves 4
-450g / 1lb rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
-450ml / 16floz stock syrup
-225g / 8oz strawberries, hulled and sliced
-Put the stock syrup into a saucepan and add the rhubarb. Cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1 minute (any longer and the rhubarb will turn to mush). -Take off the heat and allow to cool. Add the strawberries.
-A stock syrup is made up of equal quantities of sugar and water. Put 1lb / 450g sugar into a saucepan with 1 pint water. Bring this to the boil and allow to simmer until the sugar has dissolved. This should take 5 minutes. Cool and keep in the fridge. It is very useful to have a container of stock syrup at hand. It can be used for compotes, infused with rosemary, for example, and served with a cake or used to make lemonade.

Here is a quick and easy recipe for homemade lemonade:
-juice of 4 lemons
-juice of 2 oranges
-450ml / 1 pint stock syrup
-2 1/2 pints water, to taste
-Mix all ingredients together. Add more water if necessary. Serve chilled.

I hope you enjoy trying these recipes!
Maisha x