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Rhubarb’s Back and Everyone Is Losing Their Minds

It’s pink! It’s pretty! It’s forced!


Welcome back to Insta Stories, a column examining the London restaurant scene through the often-problematic medium of Instagram. This week’s filter is flawless.

News of the week

And just like that, the slow crawl out of winter’s doldrums begins. The appearance of Yorkshire forced rhubarb on menus and on so, so many Instagram feeds may not quite be a sign that summer is around the corner just yet, but its popularity indicates just how starved our palates / palettes can become after months of staring at beige carbs and worthy brassicas.

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A few thoughts on the matter of cooking forced rhubarb: 1. Actually, the main things I suggest you take from this are (a) *if* you do cook forced rhubarb, you should *barely* cook it; plus (b) some good things you can do with forced rhubarb don’t involve heat. (See 2nd picture — detail to follow). ••• 2. I write in the context of wanting lipstick pink rhubarb that’s still of discernible shape & with a little bite. The kind that’s ideal next to panna cotta, topping a tart or meringues & cream, or on your muesli and yoghurt. Like in fancy pants restaurants. This might seem a bit precious but, well, so is the result. ••• 3. (Whether you’re after , or going for a slushier compote/baking a crumble/pie, as a general rule IMO the right percentage of (caster) sugar to rhubarb is 10%. You can add a bit more to taste afterwards … but you can’t take away). ••• 4. Soft, stringy & pale happens because you cooked too aggressively. The aforementioned restaurants pop theirs in flat plastic pouches & place in water baths; a step too far for a breakfast topping, so at home I find gently heating in a saucepan best — as you can monitor progress. ••• 5. For 100-250g rhubarb, find a large non-reactive heavy-bottomed saucepan that fits your haul in ideally 1, max 2 layers. Cut into pieces of the same size (2cmish is good), add 10% weight sugar, mix, leave for 20 mins, then 50% weight in water, place over a very low heat and warm v. gently for c.4-6 minutes. Barely (not even) a simmer. When the first piece shows sign of softening (prob at outside of pan), remove from heat, lid on for 2-3 minutes, checking to ensure its not stewing. Then lid off. Shuffle the rhubarb so most pink edges are submerged (& so share their colour). Leave to cool completely. Transfer to smaller non-reactive container so syrup covers fruit (it’ll continue to transfer colour) & refrigerate. ••• 6. For bigger quantities you can bake at a low temperature in an (again, non-reactive) oven dish. Try 4-5cm pieces this time and a touch more water. Remove from oven when the base of the rhubarb is softening, flip each piece over and let residual heat cook through.

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Roast Pork Belly & Rhubarb

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Yorkshire Rhubarb Tart, brown butter, stem ginger ice cream.

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Infiltrator of the week

Is pink and green; is photogenic; is not forced; is not rhubarb; please do not serve in a cake, ever.

Logic problem of the week

Every year, Veganuary creates an interesting problem for itself. The (tired, absurd) argument that vegan food is bland and terrible is, of course, trotted out by the anti-vegan brigade from around January 3rd; year-round vegans roll their eyes and proceed with business as usual. But then big chains get involved, jumping on the bandwagon created by Veganuary’s fixed duration and introducing spurious vegan options to punters dipping their toes into the water for a month, only for them to conclude, based on the uninspiring options offered by most places, that vegan food is bland and terrible. For reference, here’s how to do it right.

England, our England of the week

In these uncertain, mostly genuinely distressing times, it can be hard to cast about and find literally anything about our nation to instil pride. But once in a while, something comes along to remind us there is something about Britain worth saving. Cue the Elgar, let the Welsh valley choirs sing and strike up the brass bands. Our highly specific, otherwise entirely useless gift for formally constructed, devastatingly petty insults is alive and well.

Prognostication of the week

Many miles of column inches have already been dedicated to identifying the “trends” that will “define” how we eat in 2020 (inevitably, this is definitely the year that everyone will finally get into insect protein). But based on their gradual infiltration not just of Modern British places but restaurants serving other cuisines as well, is this the year the confit potato finally goes mainstream?

Further prognostication of the week

To be fair, it’s a pretty ideal accompaniment to what will no doubt be identified as the burgeoning Pie Trend, too.

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Steak and Ale pies on from tomorrow night

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Pheasant and trotter pie

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Cursed recipe of the week

But they’re hand-filled!

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No, thank you.

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Pun war of the week

Whoever wins, we lose.

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There is a craic in everything ☘️@darbyslondon.

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Mouthful of the week

Gets to the centre of the gender politics of the post-recessionary gourmet burger boom better than any thinkpiece ever could.

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Prefer hot dogs personally

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Cryptic caption of the week

Ron Burgundy can take this one.

Homage of the week

I love this bean pot and its curvy body. As a teenager, I was often teased by my friends for my attraction to cooking vessels on the thicker side, ones who were shorter and curvier, pots that the average (basic) bro might refer to as “heavy” or even “dense.” Then, as I became a man and started to educate myself on issues such as effective heat dispersal and how the media marginalizes pots by portraying a very narrow and very specific standard of conduction (thin, metal, lean) I realized how many men have bought into that lie. For me, there is nothing more efficient than this pot right here: thick sides, big bottom, cute little side roll, etc. Its shape and size won’t be the one featured on the cover of Bon Appétit but it’s the one featured in my life and in my heart. There’s nothing better to me than a pot that is both curvy and solid; this gorgeous vessel I acquired fills out every inch of the hob and is still the most beautiful one in the room. Guys, rethink what society has told you that you should desire. A real piece of cookware is not a Le Creuset or a hard anodized nonstick copper pan or part of a 3-ply stainless steel induction set. It’s real. It has beautiful stretch marks on its sides and cute little dimples on its bottom. Pots, don’t ever fool yourself by thinking you have to fit a certain mold to be loved and appreciated. There is a guy out there who is going to celebrate you for exactly who you are, someone who will love you like I love my pot belly bean pot.

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I love my pot belly bean pot. #fagioliera.

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Dish of the week

Coming soon to a branch of KFC (the K stands for Krill)

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Shrimp Fried Chicken

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Shot of the week

One final prediction for 2020: what if it’s the year of the macro snack? Single-bite dishes scaled up to sharing size? If so, totally here for it.


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