Stewed rhubarb ramblings

August 8, 2006

a field of rhubarb
A field of rhubarb at Riverford

Who needs another recipe for stewed rhubarb? I hear you cry. To which I can only hang my head in shame and mutter half-hearted apologies…

Stewed rhubarb

Take rhubarb. Peel if stringy. Add one third the weight of fruit in sugar. Add a little orange juice and peel, if you fancy it. Put in a pan with a close-fitting lid and no water. NO water (Mum, are you listening?). Cook gently for 10 minutes. Take off lid and raise heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is a dryish puree.

This recipe is from Victor Gordon’s slightly batty The English Cookbook. Written in the 1980’s it was a valiant attempt to kick-start a ‘new English cookery’ movement. In some ways, this book was ahead of it’s time in celebrating local food production, seasonality and regional cuisines. In other ways, it seems like a Thatcherite attempt to defend British gastronomic traditions (an oxymoron?) from corrupting foreign influences.

Here’s Victor’s manifesto, in a nutshell:

“the new English cookery will rely on traditional farm and garden produce, wild food from countryside and northern waters, and a select group of exotics which… have become naturalised British. Tastes and ingredients which are particularly associated with, say, French or Mediterranean, tropical or oriental cooking should almost all be banned – using Pernod or Calvados, for example, the marriage of tomatoes and basil, Indian and Indonesian spicing techniques…”

Now, what do you make of that? Isn’t that the ‘local food’ movement taken to it’s logical extreme? How would a dedication to this gastro-nationalism change the way we cook and eat? Is it possibe to live without tomatoes and basil?

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8 Responses to “Stewed rhubarb ramblings”

  1. Kinson Says:

    What do I then do with the ‘dryish puree’?

    Need help with the nearly-week-old rhubarb we have – almost given up hope for the Rhubarb crumble the missus promised 😦

  2. gastropunk Says:

    Well, plenty of things you can do with stewed rhubarb. Eat it warm with ice cream, cream or custard. Adds a nice sharp fruitiness on top of breakfast cereal. Use it as the filling for a crumble or pie. There’s a good recipe for crumble in The Domestic Goddess. Still haven’t got round to making rhubarb soup yet.

  3. crzy_rgntnn Says:

    “Is it possible to live without tomatoes and basil?”
    Oh dear… give me time Toaster, need at least a couple of days to reflect on this one…

  4. Kinson Says:

    Ah! Created my own version of the above recipe last night and thought I’d share it with the fellow readers.

    It’s quite difficult to master.

    It involves fogetting about it being on the hob until it sticks to the bottom and the smoke alarm goes off.

    Yum char-grilled rhubarb. Actually I quite like it (had some on my breakfast this morning).

    Janey’s not so sure…


  5. Never mind the rhubarb. It’s just so nice to see that picture of Riverford’s Devon with the Mohican of trees on the hill. I didn’t realise it would look so much like the drawings on the box.

  6. gastropunk Says:

    A mohican of trees – I love the metaphor! More about our trip to Riverford farm and picture-postcard images of the Devon countryside coming soon…

  7. crzyrgntnn Says:

    I´ve come to the conclusion that I could live without basil, but not without my fav veg.

  8. chrisli Says:

    my favorite recipe for rhubarb compote is just like yours, except instead of orange juice i use a splash of white wine and add vanilla sugar to the caster sugar… it freezes well for a winter treat too!


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