ArchiveApril 30, 2023


I’m not the only one who gets excited about rhubarb. A recent post on our Instagram page of one of our students uncovering a forcing pot in the garden got over 3 1/2 million hits and 394 comments….
As a little girl, stewed rhubarb and custard was a favourite pudding. When I came to Ballymaloe in the late 1960’s, I discovered super delicious, rhubarb fool, which is simply softly whipped cream folded into stewed rhubarb. We love to serve it with shortbread biscuits. Try this version of the biscuit, made with half wholemeal flour and half white, it was an inspired find from a student’s experiment on the last 12-week course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Don’t waste a drop of the leftover juice, it makes a delicious lemonade or a rhubarb fizz…
Rhubarb is a kind of enigma… a vegetable masquerading as a fruit, pink and tart, plentiful, versatile and perennial. So, once you plant a few stools in your garden or flowerbed, (why not) it will re-emerge in Spring every year to delight you after the long Winter.
Older people used to speak of how it would clear the blood… We have just moved from the pale pink rhubarb forced under terracotta cloches or in dark sheds to the outdoor garden crop. The latter is tarter and a little less tender, but I love both and use it in a myriad of delicious ways, mostly cooked, but my Danish friend Camilla Plum introduced me to this raw rhubarb, cucumber and mint salad. The thinly sliced rhubarb is raw and tart, a delicious combination.
Have you tried serving stewed rhubarb with a pork chop yet? A delicious combination and rhubarb sauce is particularly tasty with a few freshly cooked pan grilled mackerel. It also cuts the sweetness of a meringue roulade. And how about rhubarb, ginger and sweet geranium jam…I’ve just filled a sponge cake with this jam and some softly whipped cream… it was a big hit to say the least…
Here are several of our new favourites to try and don’t forget to freeze a few bags of chopped rhubarb. It freezes brilliantly and it’s particularly good for jams. Combine with strawberries when they come into season for a really memorable flavour combination
If you don’t have your own homegrown rhubarb yet, seek it out in a local shop or Farmers Market but best of all swing by a Garden Centre and buy a few plants for your garden.

Raw Rhubarb, Cucumber and Mint Salad

Do try this fresh-tasting combination from Camilla Plum, you’ll be surprised how delicious it is.

Serves 4

2-3 stalks of young red rhubarb

1/2 crisp cucumber

1 tablespoon sea salt

2 handfuls of rocket leaves

1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice

local wildflower honey or sugar to taste

fistful of shredded mint leaves

Using a vegetable slicer such as a mandolin or a thin-bladed knife, cut the rhubarb slightly on the diagonal into very thin slices.  Repeat with the peeled cucumber.

Toss the rhubarb and cucumber in a bowl with the sea salt and allow to stand for 10 minutes; rinse and drain.

Toss the rhubarb and cucumber with the rocket leaves in a salad bowl.  Drizzle with lemon juice and a little honey or sugar to taste. 

Scatter the mint leaves over the top and toss gently.  It should be fresh tasting.

Serve with pan-grilled salmon, grey sea mullet or sea bass.

Rhubarb Sauce

Delicious served as an accompaniment with roast pork, duck or grilled mackerel.

Serves 6 approximately

450g (1lb) red rhubarb cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces

110g (4oz) sugar

Put the rhubarb into a stainless-steel saucepan, add the sugar and toss around, leave for 5 or 10 minutes until the juice from the rhubarb starts to melt the sugar.   Then, cover the saucepan and put on a gentle heat, cook until soft.  Taste and add a little more sugar if necessary.  It should not be too sweet but should not cut your throat either.   If you have a spoonful of really good redcurrant jelly, stir it in at the end, otherwise leave it out.   Serve warm.

Rhubarb and Custard Tart with Pistachios

We love to arrange the rhubarb in a chevron pattern but of course one can just scatter it on the base, not so pretty but equally delicious. 

Serves 10-12 

Rich Shortcrust Pastry 

225g (8oz) plain white flour 

175g (6oz) cold butter

pinch of salt 

1 dessertspoon icing sugar 

a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind (save a little egg wash for the pastry shell)


600g (1 1/4lb) or a little more rhubarb, cut into small pieces 

2-4 tablespoons caster sugar depending on how tart the rhubarb is


2 large or 3 small eggs 

3 tablespoons caster sugar  

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

300ml (10fl oz) cream 


40g (1 1/2oz) coarsely chopped pistachio nuts

1 x 30.5cm (12 inch) tart tin or 2 x 18cm (7 inch) tart tins 

Make the shortcrust pastry.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and then rub in with your fingertips. 

Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt, the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop.   Add the icing sugar.

Whisk the egg or egg yolk and add some water. Using a fork to stir, add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, shorter crust.

Wrap in parchment paper and leave to relax in the fridge for at least 1 hour before using.  It will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge and also freezes well.

Line the tart tin (or tins), with a removable base and chill for 10 minutes.  

Line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill with dried beans.

Bake blind in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. 

Remove the paper and beans (save for another use). Paint the tart base with a little egg wash and return to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes.   

Arrange the cut rhubarb close together in a pattern on the base of the tart shell (could be in lines, chevron or in circles). Sprinkle with 2-4 tablespoons caster sugar depending on how tart the rhubarb is.  Forced rhubarb is sweeter than garden rhubarb.  

Whisk the eggs well, with the 3 tablespoons caster sugar, vanilla extract and add the cream. Strain this mixture through a sieve, pour carefully into the tart shell around and over the rhubarb.  Cook in the preheated oven for 35 minutes until the custard is set and the rhubarb is fully cooked.  Cool on a wire rack. 

Sprinkle a 2.5cm (1 inch) rim of coarsely chopped pistachios around the edge of the tart.   Serve warm with a bowl of whipped cream. 

Good to know…

A little reduced rhubarb syrup or redcurrant jelly painted over the top enhances both flavour and appearance

Meringue Roulade with Roast Rhubarb, Rosewater Cream and Crystallised Rose Petals

A gorgeous combination of flavour and textures – always a wow for a dinner party.  Rosewater varies in intensity, add 1 teaspoon first, taste and add more if necessary.

Serves 6 – 8

4 egg whites

225g (8oz) castor sugar


300ml (10fl oz) softly whipped cream flavoured with 1-2 teaspoons rose water

Roast Rhubarb (see recipe)


sprigs of mint, lemon balm or sweet cicely


Crystallised Rose Petals *see note at end of recipe

Swiss roll tin 30.5 x 20.5cm (12 x 8 inch) or 33 x 23cm (13 x 9 inch) for a thinner roulade

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

First make the Roast Rhubarb (see recipe).

Put the egg whites into a spotlessly clean bowl of a food mixer.  Break up with the whisk and then add all the castor sugar together.  Whisk at full speed until it holds a stiff peak, 10 minutes approx.

Meanwhile, line a Swiss roll tin with parchment paper, brush lightly with a non-scented oil (e.g., sunflower oil).

Spread the meringue gently over the tin with a palette knife, it ought to be quite thick and bouncy. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. 

Put a sheet of parchment paper on the work top and turn the roulade onto it.  Remove the base paper and allow to cool in the tin.

To Assemble

Spread the whipped cream and drained roast rhubarb over the meringue, roll up from the wide end and carefully ease onto a serving plate. Pipe 6-8 rosettes along the top of the roulade, decorate as you wish with crystallised rose petals and mint leaves.  Serve, cut into slices about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick.

Note:  This roulade is also very good filled with fresh raspberries, loganberries, sliced ripe peaches, nectarines, kiwi fruit, bananas, or mango and passionfruit.

Roast Rhubarb

A dish of roasted fruit couldn’t be simpler – rhubarb, plums, greengages, apricots, peaches, apples, pears.  Once again, I love to add some freshly chopped herbs, e.g., rose geranium or verbena to the sugar or the accompanying cream.  

I’ve become a huge fan of the sweet and intense flavour of roast rhubarb

Serves 6

1kg (2 1/4lb) red rhubarb

200-250g (7-9oz) sugar

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/Gas Mark 6.

Stainless steel or non-reactive ovenproof dish, 45cm x 30cm (18 inch x 12 inch) (size depends slightly on the thickness of the rhubarb)

Trim the rhubarb stalks if necessary.

Slice the rhubarb into 2 1/2cm (1 inch) pieces and arrange in a single layer in an oven proof dish.  Scatter the sugar over the rhubarb and allow to macerate for an hour or more, until the juice starts to run. Cover loosely with a sheet of parchment paper and roast in the pre-heated oven for 10-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the stalks – until the rhubarb is just tender. 

Serve alone or with ice-cream, panna cotta, labneh or thick Jersey cream…

Good to know – uncover the rhubarb after 10 minutes for more caramelisation

Rhubarb Fizz

Purée the roast rhubarb, put 1-2 tablespoons in a glass, top up with Prosecco or Cava or sparkling water or soda water for a non-alcoholic fizz.

*Crystallised Rose Petals

Break up the egg white slightly in a little bowl with a fork. Using a child’s paintbrush, paint the egg white very carefully over each petal and into every crevice. Pour the caster sugar over the flower with a teaspoon. Arrange the crystallized flowers carefully on silicone paper so that they retain a good shape. Leave to dry overnight in a warm, dry place such as close to an Aga, over a radiator or in an airing cupboard. When properly crystallized, these flowers will last for months, even years, provided they are kept dry. We store them in a pottery jar or a tin box with an airtight lid.

Rhubarb Fool

This simple combo is amazingly delicious for little effort.

Serves 6 approximately

450g (1lb) red rhubarb, cut into chunks

175g (6oz) sugar

2 tablespoons water

225 – 300ml (8-10fl oz) softly whipped cream

Put the rhubarb into a stainless saucepan with the sugar and water, stir, cover, bring to the boil and simmer until soft, 20 minutes approx.  Stir with a wooden spoon until the rhubarb dissolves into a mush. Allow to get quite cold. Fold in the softly whipped cream to taste. Serve chilled with shortbread biscuits.

Ruth’s Wholemeal Shortbread Biscuits

Thank you to Ruth O’Connell who recently attended our 12-Week Course for sharing this recipe – simply divine!

Makes approx. 20 biscuits

100g (3 1/2oz) wholemeal plain flour

75g (3oz) plain flour

110g (4oz) butter

50g (2oz) caster sugar

vanilla sugar

Preheat oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and rub in the butter until a pastry-like dough is formed. Knead lightly. Flour the work surface. Roll out to approx. 7mm (1/3 inch) thick. Cut into rounds. Place on a lined baking tray. Bake for 9-11 minutes, turning the tray in the oven halfway through baking. You want the biscuits to be golden and slightly crispy. Remove to a cooling rack and sprinkle with sieved vanilla sugar, while still warm.


The scraps of dough can be re-rolled easily, and any extra dough can be stored in the fridge until ready to use.


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