Living sustainably by growing your own fruit and veg, with cooking tips along the way, brought to you from The Bridge Cottage garden.

Did you follow The Bridge Cottage Way blog all those years ago, before The Woolly Pedlar took all of my spare time away? Following on from an article in this week’s Observer about my yoghurt making, I thought I’d go back to writing about seasonal eating and growing your own seasonal fruit and veg in the Bridge Cottage garden. The aim is to do one of these once a month, and my dearest wish is that one day a newspaper or magazine will ask me to write a regular column, The Bridge Cottage Way!

It’s nearly the end of May, and despite having had several pickings of rhubarb already, there is a bumper crop. With the family all out for the day, today seemed the day for tackling it. I’m pleased with how the day has gone, and thought I’d share some recipes with you.

The rhubarb and ginger jam is bubbling away on the stove, and the rhubarb and date chutney has just gone into jars. Thank you to the good peeps at Riverford Organic Farmers for the recipes. (Follow these links to find them). There is a big pan of stewed rhubarb with ginger on the go, which will be frozen for breakfasts over the winter.

rhubarb gin
Rhubarb Gin

There is also bottle of rhubarb gin in the cupboard, which will be shaken daily until the sugar dissolves, and will be shared with my sister in law, Kate, at my daughter’s wedding. It was my sister in law who was responsible for introducing me to my husband, Tim, when we were at teacher training college together in Isleworth back in the early eighties. Amazingly there was enough rhubarb gin left from last year to take this photo. Apologies for the chipped glass!

It’s really easy to make your own rhubarb gin or vodka, and the same method applies for any fruit such as raspberries which is equally quaffable.

Rhubarb Gin Recipe

Just chop up slender stems of your pinkest rhubarb (if they are too fat they won’t go into the neck of the bottle). Put into a clean, empty bottle until half full. Add a good slug of sugar. I don’t like mine too sweet, so only put about 100g in. You can add more. If you have any Sweet Cicely around, you can use this instead of sugar. Top up with gin or vodka, pop the top on, and shake every day until the sugar is dissolved, then leave well alone for a few weeks. Strain before drinking It’s really that easy!

It’s goes really well with tonic, soda or Prosecco, or drink neat over ice. Cheers!

I’m told that once all the gin is drunk, the alcohol soaked fruit makes an excellent crumble.

Rhubarb Souffles

Another favourite, newly mastered this year has been rhubarb souffles – thank you to Michel Roux Jnr and Gardener’s World for the recipe! They are not hard to make and are suitably impressive. Just keep the oven hot and don’t open the door until you are ready to serve.

Did you see I got a mention in The Observer this week for my yoghurt making prowess? I found a simple recipe for making ice cream using stewed rhubarb and stem ginger, which is simply churned in an ice cream maker with yoghurt and half a tin of condensed milk. Easy peasy!

My mum is a huge fan of stewed rhubarb and it was a staple of the Sunday dinner table with rice pudding when I was a child. My husband, however, wouldn’t thank you for rice pudding, (says it reminds him of school dinners) but he does have a favourite rhubarb recipe. It is for Rhubarb and Orange Merinque.

Orange and Rhubarb Meringue

Rhubarb and Orange Meringue

(serves 4)

Ingredients

450 g / 1lb young rhubarb; 1 orange; 50g /oz demerara sugar; 40g/ 1.5oz cornflour; 2 eggs separated; 75g / 3oz caster sugar

  1. Wash and trim rhubarb and cut into short lengths. Place in shallow oven proof dish.
  2. Grate rind and squeeze juice from orange. Place in measuring jug & make up to 450 ml / ¾ pint with water
  3. Place demerara sugar and cornflour in a saucepan and gradually blend in the liquid. Bring to boil, stirring and simmer for 3 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
  4. Stir egg yolks into orange sauce and our over rhubarb.
  5. Cook in centre of a moderate oven Gas 3, 325F, !60C for 20 minutes. Lower temperature to cool, Gas 2, 300F, 150C.
  6. Meanwhile, whisk egg whites until stiff and dry, whisk in half the caster sugar and whisk until stiff again. Fold in remaining sugar.
  7. Spread meringue over mixture in dish and return to oven to cook for a further 20 to 25 minutes until it is golden brown and the rhubarb is tender.

I hope I has inspired you to have a go at growing and cooking rhubarb. If you don’t grow rhubarb, you really should! Find someone who does, and ask them to divide a crown for you in the autumn, or pop down to the garden centre to buy one. It loves a good dollop of well-rotted compost over the winter, and will serve you well for years to come. It’s the first fruit to be ready in the new season and is a very welcome crop indeed.

Thanks for reading my blog

Sue Reed Writes