Rhubarb – I’m a fool for you! Folded into cream or Greek yoghurt roasted rhubarb puree with a touch of vanilla and rose water makes deservedly a classic dessert.
Rhubarb is actually a vegetable
Forced rhubarb first appears in January so it is the earliest of seasonal fruit. But is it even fruit? Long stalks like overgrown chard would suggest vegetable but I have never paid rhubarb enough attention to establish the genus.
Easy to guess then rhubarb is not my favourite fruit (vegetable? animal? mineral? WTF IS rhubarb?*) And I don’t think it is anyone’s. It’s stringy. It grows randomly outside the vegetable plot, not certain whether it wants to be weed or crop.
It’s distinctly unappealing with the unwieldy long stems, pink-ish in colour but not the lovely spring shade of berry pink. The colour is more greenish pink, like someone about to be violently sick.
That’s wild rhubarb; forced rhubarb is somewhat tamer. The stalks are nice pale colour, they are slim and elegant and look much more appealing as food. But until very recently its use was pretty limited.
What to do with rhubarb?
Generally, and as I say until its recently discovered Instagrammability, all you can think of in conjunction with rhubarb is a crumble.
But rhubarb crumble is one of those classic British desserts that make you think of Mary Berry, and not in a flattering way. More old-school tea rooms in an unfashionable seaside resort or, worse, school desserts. It consists of stewed fruit (eeeuw, STEWED fruit, how very untempting) covered with a thick crust of flour and sugar. It’s a cake that has lost its bottom. It’s compote made by a butcher. It’s an ‘I can’t cook and can’t be bothered to learn’ dessert.
The other rhubarb option used to always be fool: whipped cream or cream and yoghurt concoction rippled with fruit purée. Now I did use to think rhubarb fool was also hands down the fifth division of desserts. I thought fitting fruit for a fool would be raspberry or blueberry; possibly peach and possibly passion fruit. Well, what do you know, I’ve changed my mind. More fool me.
Rhubarb for fool, a fool for rhubarb
Because it really comes into its own when folded into freshly whipped cream. I also roast the rhubarb instead of stewing it. When tender, it’s puréed but I laboriously collect the roasting juice. I reduce it a little in a saucepan for a fantastic syrupy drizzle over the fool as a final touch.
There is some debate about whether yoghurt fool is better than whipped cream fool. As much as I love Greek yoghurt, I prefer the classic version. Rhubarb is tart enough even roasted and puréed so the tang of yoghurt is superfluous.
Since I’ve extolled rhubarb’s virtues so much, I shouldn’t credit other fruit but it might be useful. I mentioned raspberry and blueberry – both these berries can be fooled raw. I’d pass raspberries through a sieve to get rid of the pesky pips, but blueberries only lightly smushed will wrap themselves in whipped cream beautifully.
Peach, pureed – either cooked or raw. Passion fruit flesh scooped out of the shells can be rippled straight into cream. and though you might think it’s an odd combo, I do like a mashed banana stirred with cream and a little honey.
What to serve with rhubarb fool?
Extra spoons, he he. Seriously, a crunchy biscuit on the side will be lovely, or perhaps a sponge finger or two.
*It is actually both fruit and vegetable, the only plant to have its own legal status. Wow!