#0028: Hold The Custard
Updated: Jul 6
We had a rhubarb patch in the garden when I was growing up. It used to scare me a little. I was wary of what might be lurking in the cool, damp shade of the umbrella-like leaves, ready to nibble my hand if it got too close.
I wasn't afraid to eat it though. My nanna would pull fresh stalks from the patch and we'd sit together eating them in the sun, dipping the ends in sugar.
I've written before about using my garden to remember, and so it was that I planted rhubarb at the cottage last year, to keep those childhood memories alive.
This year saw my first crop. Long, pale pink stems, crowned with the shiniest, darkest green leaves. I have to say, I'm quite proud of my little rhubarb patch.
Whilst I’m still prone to heading straight to the sugar bowl once I’ve harvested my rhubarb, I tend to prefer savoury food to sweet so, inspired by regular trips to the Middle East, I've tried my hand at khoresh rivas, a Persian stew of rhubarb and meat.
I promise you have never tasted anything quite like this before. The delicate balance between sweet, sour and tart of the herb-infused broth is crying out for a big chunk of sourdough to mop it all up.
Start by slicing an onion and sautéing it with a good sprinkle of salt in a large casserole or heavy pan on a medium heat. Once the onion is golden, stir in half a teaspoon of turmeric and a generous grind of back pepper.
Now add 500g of diced stewing meat. I used stewing steak this time around, but if you like lamb, neck fillets would work brilliantly. Sauté the meat for a couple of minutes, then grate in four cloves of garlic and a thumb sized piece of peeled ginger, and continue to sauté until the meat is browned all over. Once the meat is browned, add six hundred grams of water, bring it to the boil, then cover the pan and cook over a low heat for about thirty minutes.
Whilst the meat is gently bubbling away, finely chop a bunch of parsley and the leaves of about four sprigs of mint, and sauté them for a couple of minutes. Once the meat has reached the thirty minute point, stir in the sautéed herbs, replace the lid, and continue to cook over a low heat until the meat is tender. Depending on the type and cut of meat, this will be approximately thirty more minutes.
In the meantime, wash four stalks of the all-important rhubarb. If there are any tough ribs on the stalks, they can be removed with a sharp knife, otherwise there's no need to peel it. Just cut it into chunks roughly four centimetres in length, and put them to one side until the meat is tender.
Once the meat is cooked, stir in the rhubarb, loosely replace the lid, and continue to cook for approximately fifteen more minutes, until the rhubarb is tender, but is still keeping its shape.
Once cooked, the khoresh rivas should only need seasoning with salt and pepper. However, if you find the tartness of the rhubarb too overwhelming, add a small amount of sugar to balance it out.
Serve it over steamed rice or chickpeas sautéed with ground black pepper and lemon zest, and don't forget bread to mop up afterwards.
Sure, it might take a little longer than just dipping your rhubarb in sugar but, trust me, it's worth it. Just don't add custard.