It is almost impossible to find fresh rhubarb stalks on Italian markets, unless you live in the deepest Northern Italy. Rita Banci therefore decides to grow it herself.
By Rita Banci
Those of you who happen to have visited or who are lucky enough to live in England have surely tasted, at least once in your life, stewed rhubarb or rhubarb jam. This pink-stalked, slightly tart and refreshing vegetable is the perfect ingredient for an incredible amount of desserts: tarts, pies, crumbles, puddings, jams. I clearly remember the very first time I tasted rhubarb: my aunt from England had packed some stalks she had picked from her mother’s garden in her suitcase. She stewed them together with orange and had made the most delicious tart I had ever had in all my life. This happened at least fifteen years ago or even more. Since then, rhubarb has become my secret love. Of course, like in any complicated relationship, we have had our problems.
Stewed rhubarb is probably the least Italian dish in the world. Though you can find rhubarb in the form of cough-drops as bitter as gall, it is almost impossible to find fresh rhubarb stalks on markets, unless you live in the deepest Northern Italy. For those like me who live south of the Apennines, there is no other choice than to grow it yourself. This is what I did. I’ve grown my own rhubarb plant in large pots in my garden so that I can have a fresh harvest every year.
Stewed rhubarb, besides being a lovely dessert, is quick and easy to make. You can even prepare it at the last minute if you have unexpected guests. Serve it with double cream, ice cream, crème fraîche or, in my case, mascarpone sweetened with honey. A triumph of taste.
- 14 oz fresh rhubarb stalks, chopped
- 1 cup brown sugar
- Juice and zest of 1 orange
- ½ cup water
- 8,8 oz mascarpone
- 1 tbsp honey
- Toss the chopped rhubarb into a saucepan together with the sugar, the orange juice and zest, and water.
- Bring to the boil and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the rhubarb is soft and tender.
- In the meantime, beat the tablespoon of honey into the mascarpone.
- Serve the stewed rhubarb with the honeyed mascarpone.
Rita Banci is the author of the blog the Culinary Taste. A former textile conservator, she now divides her time among family, gardening and cooking. As many Italian women, she has learnt to cook watching her mother and grandmother, both housewives, preparing meals for the family. Rita is a fanatic of jams and jellies and lives in Prato, Italy.