Monday 14 April 2008

Relishing Rhubarb

I love a farmers’ market. I want to buy all the wonderful fruit and vegetables spread before me but I often get the cooks equivalent of writer’s block. My mind is blank as I search for ideas about how to make good use of such bounty.

This was my experience yesterday at the Farmers Market at the Collingwood Children’s Farm. I really wanted to buy the gorgeous rhubarb but was at a loss for how I would use it. There are only so many desserts and cakes I can make. Then I remembered Pixie and Rosie’s event, Putting Up. It was the excuse I needed. You will see from my picture that I managed to get home with quite a swag of goodies from the market (and the shops on the way home).

I had seen a rhubarb relish by Kai when browsing the In the Bag event on Rhubarb a few months back. Aren’t blog events wonderful things? They help justify buying food from markets by providing inspiration for uses and even suggesting recipes.

Pixie and Rosie’s event is a good prod for me as I would like to make jams and chutneys and other preserves more but I worry about sterilizing jars and not having a huge pot like my mum’s to make preserves in. But Kai’s picture of the brilliant ruby spread convinced me I must make this rhubarb relish.

Wikipedia says relish is a condiment made of fruit or vegetable pieces in a sauce which is a little chunky and complements another food. So why is it a relish and not a chutney? According to Crosse and Blackwell, the difference between chutneys and relishes is that you put fruit in chutney and vegetables in relish. Which initially seems to make a mockery of rhubarb relish until I read that rhubarb is actually a vegetable. I was also pleased to read that in India chutneys are made to be eaten fresh. So I didn’t need to be anxious about sterilization.

I loved the idea of Kai’s relish but I didn’t check the ingredients list til I got home. I realised I would have to make some substitutions to avoid heading back out to the shops. I also heeded Kai’s advice about it being quite sweet and reduced the sugar. People who like spicy will no doubt want to increase the chilli but as I have said before, I am a chilli wimp! I am still a little unsure about using brown onions on relishes or chutneys but it was what I had on hand. The recipe I have given is what I did with a few suggestions for substitutions.

The relish was tart and tangy. It was a fine companion to the nut roast and gravy, and I have been enjoying it with Applewood smoked cheese and Schwobs rye bread. I often find smoked cheese a little strong but the relish is intense enough to balance the smokiness. And it is a vibrant red colour that cheers up any plate of food and reminds me of the blood in a Hammer Horror movie! How can you resist that!

As well as discovering how wonderful rhubarb relish is, I also discovered that a cup of rhubarb make a very small dent on a bunch of rhubarb. So for those like myself who have plenty of rhubarb left over, I am including a second rhubarb recipe for muffins that I have made a stashed in the freezer for morning tea at work. I used my mini-muffin trays and ended up with many satisfying spicy stodgy morsels. Not quite as good as my favourite rhubarb cake but worth remembering next time I see rhubarb at a farmer’s market.

Rhubarb Relish
(adapted from Kai in London)

- 1 cup rhubarb chopped
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp onion, finely chopped (I used brown but shallots or red onion might be a good alternative)
- ¼ tsp chilli paste (or fresh chilli)
- juice of 1 lime (or ½ cup orange juice)
- 40g candied orange, finely chopped (or zest of one orange with additional sugar)
- 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes or until pulpy and soft. Taste for sweetness. Add a little vinegar if too sweet. Cool and serve. Leftovers can be refridgerated. Mine only lasted a couple of days!

Oaty Rhubarb Muffins
(adapted from here)
Makes 58 mini muffins

2 cups rhubarb
3 tbsp raw sugar
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk and 1 tsp lemon juice)
1 egg
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
2½ cups wholemeal self raising flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
40g candied orange, finely diced (or a tbsp orange zest)

Place rhubarb and raw sugar in a small saucepan and gently heat until sugar melted. Boil and simmer for approximately 2 minutes so the rhubarb is still holding its shape. (I overdid the rhubarb a little but ignored the recipe’s instruction that I drain the liquids off.) Cool a little. Whisk buttermilk, egg, oil and brown sugar til combined and then stir in rhubarb.

In a large bowl mix flour, oats, spices and salt. Toss the candied orange in to coat with flour and stop clumping. Pour in the combined wet ingredients and stir til combined. Spoon into lined, greased or silicone mini muffin pans and bake in moderate oven for about 20 minutes or til a skewer is inserted and comes out cleanly. Remove from muffin pans and cool on a wire rack.

On the Stereo:
Rosa Duet: Barb Walters


  1. When in doubt, make muffins!! (At least that's what I say). I haven't had rhubarb since I was small, so I don't remember what it tastes like, but I love muffins so much I would be quite inclined to try this!!

  2. I'm like you when it comes to rhubarb--like it when I have it, but can never think what to do with it! This relish sounds very interesting. And the photo is GORGEOUS--what a beautiful hue! The mix of sweet and spicy sounds like it would go with almost anything. (And the muffins sound good, too.)

  3. Oooh Yum Rhubarb Relish! This is exactly what I need to make with the rhubarb I currently have in my fridge. Or perhaps, I should go for the muffins. hmmmm

    As for sterilizing jars, you can also sterilize them in the dishwater, oven or boil a few at a time in a pot.


  4. That rhubarb relish looks mighty fine indeed, such a gorgeous colour and a good choice to go with cheese! I like smoked applewood too, but unfortunately so do my cats, desperately. They always hound me to share it! Humph!

    Well done for tackling it though!

    The muffins looks good too and I have to say I really like the rubber monster, who was sadly missed out from this post! Who was he for?

  5. Oh. Yum. So beautiful... and so tasty!

  6. thanks Romina - muffins are great - but I often find them huge so am pleased to have discovered my mini muffins pans - and rhubarb does go well in muffins - the recipe said not to cook them but I wasn't brave enough after an undercooked rhubarb crumble last year

    thanks Ricki - I think part of my problem with rhubarb is that I will only use it in cooking and don't need excuses to cook more sweet food! Also I think it is one fruit that I don't think goes that well with chocolate! But it is superb in a relish :-)

    thanks Pixie - I would recommend the relish - it is fantastic - the muffins are good but you don't get the intense rhubarb hit like the relish. I think a dishwasher would help with sterilisation if I had one but I need to get myself around my worry of melting the seals of jam jar lids! Hopefully I will do so with your great event inspiring me!

    thanks Holler - how bizarre that your cats like smoked cheese - the rubber monster is actually winging his way over to Scotland for E's nephews (but he wanted to keep it)

    thanks Smita

    thanks Ann

  7. I love rhubarb and these ideas look delish! I love the vibrant colour of it too, fab.

  8. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and using my recipe. I am actually really excited that something I made, someone else made too!

  9. thanks Helen - I think the colour draws me to rhubarb - does it always look so beautiful in the shops and markets?

    thanks Kai - your photos really stayed with me after seeing your gorgeous relish and I am so glad I finally go to try it

  10. What magnificent Rhubarb Relish!! A great entry for the event and thank you SO much for taking part :D Just loving your muffins too!

    Rosie x

  11. thanks Rosie - I was so happy to participate - will be looking forward to the round up

  12. Hi Johanna,

    the event is now up and running thanks again for your entry!


  13. Oh MY...rhubard relish sounds so good right now!


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