Rhubarb Dahl

I love rhubarb as a savoury ingredient, especially with lamb or chicken. And I’ve used it in Persian-inspired food, but I never thought to take it further east. I came across the concept of rhubarb dahl, and experimented…

Ingredients

  • Oil or ghee or butter or a mixture
  • Whole spices – 8 cloves, 1 stick cinnamon, 1 tablespoon brown mustard seed
  • Fresh garlic, ginger, chilli – I used 2 heaped teaspoons garlic/ginger paste from a jar, and 1 small red chilli chopped fine.
  • Veg – 1 red onion, 2 sticks of rhubarb, chopped
  • Powdered spice – 2 teaspoons each turmeric and ginger
  • 250 gms red lentils
  • Water
  • Salt
  • 8 curry leaves
  • Large pinch asafoetida (hing)

You’ll need a heavy bottomed saucepan or casserole that can go on the hob, and a small frying pan or saucepan for the tempering.

Method

  1. Cover the bottom of your pan with fat, to a depth of a few millimetres. Get it quite hot, but not enough to burn the butter if you’re using it.
  2. Add the whole dry spices, the mustard seeds should sizzle and pop.
  3. Turn the heat down, add the wet spices, stir for a minute or two.
  4. Add the onion and rhubarb. Cook until they soften up a bit.
  5. Stir in the powdered spices, then the lentils.
  6. Add water. The quantity depends on the size of your pan and how much attention you want to pay to it over the next half hour or so. The lentils need to be covered in water, at least. If you add more than that, you won’t have to be checking it every few minutes, even more and your end product will be soupy rather than firm. So your choice.
  7. Bring to a boil, then turn it down low, or put it a low oven or a slow cooker.
  8. The lentils usually take 20-30 minutes to actually cook on the hob. You can leave it longer and it will get more tasty and mushy. Check every so often, especially towards the end, so it doesn’t stick and catch.
  9. When you’re ready to serve, stir in salt to taste, and take out the cinnamon stick.

Tempering

Dahl is best with a hot oil drizzle. I fried curry leaves crisp in butter, with a pinch of asafoetida, and poured a tablespoonful over each serving.

Serving

We had this with a Bengali salmon dish garnished with fresh coriander, turmeric bread, natural yoghourt, and aubergine/brinjal pickle. It would serve 8 as a hefty side, 4 as a veggie main. It’s lovely cold.

Notes for next time

It was very refreshing and delicate. It could easily take more heat, and/or ginger. More rhubarb? Coconut milk as part of the liquid? Add poached or fried eggs on top would make an excellent breakfast.

Chutney Weather

This week is damp and chill, especially after the last month of sun. Time to huddle in the kitchen with some overblown opera and make chutneys.

Peach Chutney

I made a lovely one earlier in the year and lost the notes, boo. Peach chutney for me should be like the Sharwoods one used to be, thick and dark and ultra-sweet. But with a bit of a kick. Which means a standard chutney, made with dark sugar and a heavier vinegar, and cooked that little bit longer. So in today’s pot there are:

  • 8 medium size peaches, slightly past their eating best, cut in half and stones removed
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 huge teaspoons garlic puree
  • 2 huge teaspoons ginger puree
  • 1 fresh red chilli, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 oz dark muscovado sugar
  • 200 mls cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt

Cooked down to a thick consistency, peaches cut up a bit with a spoon, with a few spoonfuls of liquid left to stop it drying out in the pot. Yeech, that’s hot. Put up in a sealed jar and leave for a few weeks to really settle in. Chutneys like this are good in cheddar cheese sandwiches, with cold ham salad, or as part of an Indian pickle tray.

Rhubarb / Apple Chutney

I have 2 sticks of rhubarb left to play with, and a couple of baking apples left over from a dinner last week. I’m aiming for a light wet chutney, where the bulk of the fruit has turned to a puree with some tiny onion pieces for texture.

  • 2 sticks rhubarb, cut in half lengthways then into 1″ pieces
  • 2 Bramley cooking apples, cored and cut into pieces a similar size to the rhubarb, not peeled
  • 1 small white onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 tsp each pureed garlic / ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 oz white sugar
  • 200 mls white wine vinegar, split into 150/50 ml portions

Put the bigger amount of vinegar in the pot, add rhubarb, sugar, onion, garlic, ginger, salt. Stir about a bit. and bring to simmer. Add apple pieces, sprinkle with the remaining vinegar (so raw apple doesn’t brown). Put the lid on the pot and leave it for about half an hour. Stir it up briskly, raise the heat, and cook it until it is a thick sauce, and all the big pieces of fruit have turned to mush. It’s like a super-tart apple sauce with threads of greeny-pink rhubarb running through it.

Again, I’m going to pot up in a sealed jar, but I’m tempted to keep it in the fridge in case it doesn’t have enough preservative in it. It’ll be brill cold with roast pork, blue cheese, even a good old fried breakfast with black pudding and thick bacon.

Rhubarb Rhubarb

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.

Plus:

  • 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 …

Rhubarb and Ginger Sorbet

Thought I might as well rescue the other recipes from the Umrat Cookbook. We made this originally as one of seven courses for a Scottish Baronial Dinner.

 

Rhubarb cooked in sweet syrup (poach your own or buy a tin)

A jar of ginger preserved in syrup. If you can't get this, although you can in most mainstream supermarkets now, reheat some of the rhubarb syrup with some powdered ginger or chopped fresh ginger root.

an ice-cream maker or a freezer, a food-processor helps too

Drain the rhubarb, keeping the syrup, and process it, or mash it as finely as you can.

Add syrup from the ginger jar, a dessert-spoonful at a time, tasting as you go.

You want to end up with a puree that is substantial but definitely liquid – like Vichyssoise is more than cream but less than mashed potato. The sugar is necessary not just for sweetening the rhubarb but in the final texture of the ice, and freezing will reduce the sweetness.

When the puree is gingery enough for you, add a bit more for luck. If it still isn't wet enough, add the syrup from the rhubarb.

When the puree is wet enough, if it isn't gingery enough for you, finely chop some of the preserved ginger and add.

Put through the ice-cream maker and either eat immediately or store in the freezer to ripen, remembering to take it out and put it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes before you want to serve it to get the best texture and flavour.

If you haven't got one, and you're freezing it, you could gently stir in a couple of stiffly whisked egg whites before freezing it, which should help with the texture. Note: I haven't tried this! but it is often recommended in ice-cream books. Put it in a freezer-proof container with a lid, freeze, taking it out after about 2 hours and stirring gently to scrape ice crystals from the edge into the middle. Do this again later on if you feel like it. This is not as crucial as it can be in thinner smoother liquids, as the ice will form less regularly anyway.

This is a great palate cleanser between rich main courses in winter (between the haggis and the venison, say), or can be used to make gin or vodka slushes in the summer …

It will vary each time you make it, especially if you're like me and add a bit of lemon juice, or turn it into ice-cream and serve it with hot rhubarb crumble.

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