The appearance of rhubarb at markets after long, cold winters is always a cheerful sight. These beautiful bright pink stalks remind us that spring possibly isn’t too far away. Rhubarb was first grown in the UK around 1760 for scientific purposes, with indoor rhubarb a recent 19th-century occurrence.
It has a long history of medical usage, dating as far back as 2700 BC in China where among other uses, it was utilised to ward off plague. In 1759 a Chinese emperor forbade the export of tea and rhubarb to the Russians after a border conflict in the northern part of China. Rhubarb is classified as a vegetable and it goes well with oily fish and fatty meats. Try pairing it with mackerel or pork belly. In the UK market, the first delicate pink-hued rhubarb is forced indoors. It’s followed later in the season by outdoor-grown strains. Although it doesn’t have the same fragile flavour, it holds a well-deserved place in our crumbles and pies and works beautifully with this yoghurt-based dessert.
Yoghurt pudding and poached rhubarb
- 2 large eggs
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 vanilla pod
- 235g thick, natural yoghurt
- Zest of 1 lemon and 1⁄2 orange, finely grated
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 15g plain flour
- 4–6 sticks rhubarb
- Coarse zest strips of 1⁄2 orange and 1 lemon
- 1 star anise
- 300ml water
- 1 seeded vanilla pod
- 100g granulated sugar
- 100g honey
- Preheat oven to 180°C. Place a large baking dish or tin with a little water in the oven.
- Separate the eggs – be especially careful that none of the yolk gets left with the white (the other way round is not so crucial). Beat the egg yolks in a bowl with three- quarters of the caster sugar until thick and pale. Split the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into the yolk mixture (reserve the pod). Mix well with the yoghurt, lemon and orange zest, flour and lemon juice to taste.
- Bring a full kettle to boil.
- In another bowl add the remaining sugar with the egg whites and whisk to soft peaks. Gently fold the whites into the yoghurt and yolk mixture.
- Pour this mixture into a smaller baking dish and place this into the larger dish. Pour boiling water into the larger dish until it comes halfway up the side of the smaller dish.
- Place in the oven and bake for 30–40 minutes. Check occasionally that there is still sufficient water in the large dish.
- While the yoghurt pudding is baking, prepare the rhubarb. Put the water, zest, sugar, honey, star anise and leftover vanilla pod into a pan over a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring to the boil then set aside for about 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. Chop the rhubarb sticks into roughly 4 cm pieces.
- Check the yoghurt pudding is ready: it should be light brown on top of a light sponge, and like a custard underneath.
- Just before serving, remove the vanilla pod and pieces of zest, warm the syrup again to hot but not boiling and gently poach the rhubarb for about 2 minutes until tender but still holding its shape. Remove immediately from the pan.
Serve on warm plates: rhubarb pieces just to one side with a light covering of the syrup and the yoghurt pudding next to and around the rhubarb.