In the veggie box this week, there was rhubarb. It’s a pearly light green fading to dusky pink, crisp like celery, and smells so fresh and sharp. As a rule we don’t eat puddings, and I don’t do a lot of baking. So although my very soul cries out Crumble! and Custard! my brain is saying, no, think savoury, it came in the veggie box, after all.
I asked Twitter, and it said chutney / relish / salsa, or soup. Research into soup found some amazing Scandinavian recipes for cold soups, with herbs and cream. Mint, or dill. Those do sound fab, but the weather is still just too wintry for a chilled sharp soup. Chutney? mmm, tempting. Something light and lemony, with a white vinegar. Or thick and dark brown, with added dried fruit.
Still not quite right, though. So I went and asked Teh Internetz Proper, and there was an underlying stream of Middle-Eastern recipes using rhubarb in pilaffs, sweet and sour sauces with meat, and tagine-type dishes. Of course, I thought, anywhere you would put preserved lemon, or lots of pomegranate, you could fiddle around with it and use rhubarb. Different texture, and you have to take the bulk of it into account.
In the oven at the moment, pootling along at Gas Mark 4, is a chicken and rhubarb dish. It started out as:
3 chicken thighs, skin browned in a plentiful amount of olive oil.
- 1 fat leek, chopped
- 3 giant cloves of garlic, roughly crushed
- Cinnamon stick, cumin seed, red chilli flakes, dried oregano, dried mint, black pepper
- 2 sticks of rhubarb, peeled to remove any strings, and cut in pieces, about 2 cms.
I turned the chicken over so the skin side was up, browned the other side in the now spicy oil, and added enough chicken stock to cover the veg and leave the chicken skin dry to roast it. (Which also gave it some salt.)
After about half an hour or so, I shall investigate and see how sharp it is. At that point I may add something sweet if it needs it – apricot puree, dates, straight sugar, pomegranate molasses. The leek and garlic should have mellowed it out a bit.
Or I may leave it tart, and make a sweeter couscous to go with it and balance it off.
I’ll finish it with some fresh mint, or maybe put that in a cucumber and sorrel salad.
If it works, there is more in next week’s box. I’m running through my preserved lemon favourites – duck and black olives, pork or lamb stuffed with apricots and pistachios …