It seemed appropriate that with Spring in air (even here in the grim north the daffodils have been out for a while) I would abandon the fry up for something a bit more seasonal. My mind was made up when I saw that the rhubarb in the veg patch was just about ready to eat, and given that Yorkshire is the spiritual home of rhubarb, it seemed a good idea to give it a try. This was the first outdoor rhubarb that I've had this year, although the forced stuff from the famous 'Rhubarb Triangle' has been in the shops for a while, and delicious it was too.
Rhubarb is a bit of a funny plant really, apparently its leaves are toxic and the stems require a large amount of sugar to make them even vaguely edible, so not on the surface all that promising. But I think it is one of the most delicious fruits / vegetables out there (not sure how its classified, more of a vegetable I suppose) and it can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes to great effect - Jamie Oliver has some excellent ideas in his book Jamie at Home.
|The mighty rhubarb plant|
The breakfast I decided upon was 'American Style Pancakes with Rhubarb Compote', which was very easy to make and very pleasant to eat. The recipe for the pancakes comes from an old cookbook called The Cooking of the USA by Patricia Lousada, I assume its out of print now but the recipe below works well and isn't complicated.
225g Plain Flour
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 dessertspoon Sugar
pinch of salt
Makes approx 24
- Combine all the dry ingredients into a bowl (sifted if you can be bothered) and then make a well in the centre and add the eggs.
- Use a fork to slowly combine the eggs with the flour etc. until you have something that resembles wallpaper paste.
- When that's done add the milk a little bit at a time, stirring all the while with a fork or whisk. When you've added it all you should have a relatively lump free batter with a consistency close to double cream.
- Using the frying pan you're going to cook the pancakes with to melt the butter and then pour that into the batter and give it another whisk.
- Put the frying pan back onto the heat and when its pretty hot drop dessert sized spoonfuls of the batter into the pan, but don't overcrowd the pan or you'll end up with one big pancake.
- When the pancakes look dry at edges and they've turned a golden brown flip them over for another minute or so's cooking on the other side. Then when they're ready you can put them somewhere to keep warm or straight into the mouths of hungry breakfasters.
- You can then move on to the next batch and repeat the process. A couple of tips here: Sometimes I felt my pan was getting too hot, so once you've got it hot enough turn down the heat a bit to maintain a constant temperature; also you might need to add some more butter to lubricate things a bit after the first few batches, but try not to let it burn if you do!
- Finally serve the pancakes with the compote and some plain yoghurt. If your compote runs out before the pancakes do (as ours did) they also taste great with maple or golden syrup.
This is very easy to do and not really worthy of a proper recipe! I just pulled up some of the fresh rhubarb from the plant, trimmed the stalks and chopped them into approx. 3 cm pieces, put them in a baking dish, sprinkled them with sugar, covered the whole lot in foil and baked it in a medium oven for 25-30 mins. Regarding the amount of sugar, I just guessed and luckily got it pretty much spot on (I am a Gastrolad after all). But in general I would err on the side of caution as I don't think you want the rhubarb too sweet and prefer a bit of the residual tartness to come through, and as my Mum always says "you can add, but you can't take away". It's good if you can cook the rhubarb just enough so that the pieces are nice and soft but have kept their shape and not turned into mush - something I only just about managed this time.
|Note the irony in the text round the side of plate?|
So this is what the finished dish turned out like, and of course my Mum was delighted with it!