Scott Paton, head chef of Àclèaf in Plymouth, shares a few tips on how to source, prep and serve rhubarb
Rhubarb season starts in early April and continues until July. If you haven’t grown it yourself, you’ll find it in supermarkets, however, I’d recommend sourcing it from a local farm shop so you know exactly where it was grown.
Forced rhubarb is available earlier (from January to March) and is easy to spot by its neon-pink stalks.
Start by discarding the leaves, trimming off the very bottom of the stalks and rinsing the remaining stalks in cold water.
I prefer to retain the texture of the rhubarb so, instead of stewing it and losing the bite, I peel it – like you would celery – and poach it. Of course, you can cook it down for a sauce or puree, but you will forfeit some of the flavour.
When I worked at The Jack in the Green near Exeter, head chef Matt Mason used to dip the raw stalks in sugar and eat them as a mid-service treat.
Rhubarb is a hugely versatile vegetable and a brilliant flavour enhancer in both sweet and savoury dishes. It pairs well with fatty meats such as pork and duck, as its tartness cuts through their richness – try swapping roast pork’s usual sidekick of apple puree for a rhubarb version. It also makes a great alternative to orange sauce with duck – slowly cook down the rhubarb with a little sugar.
From March, we’ll be making the most of the season with a few rhubarb additions to the Àclèaf menu. The first will be duck terrine served with rhubarb puree and poached rhubarb. Then, for dessert, we’ll poach rhubarb in hibiscus tea and serve it as an accompaniment to duck-egg custard. I like to think of it as a refined take on the classic rhubarb and custard pairing.
Browse our rhubarb recipes here.