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Berwick, North Northumberland: Food-Travel-Culture-Community

Rhubarb? Go on, force me!

We found a dustbin without a bottom in the garden when we moved to Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland. There were all sorts of quirky upcycled and useful repurposed things left for us around the house and garden, so I figured the bin must have a purpose.

I stuck it behind a bush until I decided what that might be. Several years later I realised it was for forcing rhubarb. Out it came and up came the treasured pink branches of delight. Eat your heart out Wakefield triangle!

I love rhubarb – as does the eldest daughter – stewed, crumbled, pickled: we’ll eat the lot. I think of forced rhubarb as very cheffy. Stylists and chefs can’t get enough of the vibrant stalks, they just love to showcase its pink, tart gorgeousness.

Meera’s vegan tart is superb. I think it may be the nicest tart I’ve ever eaten.

The chef contributors to Guardian Feast are no exception. As regular readers will know, I’m celebrating my love of the food columns and supplements in The Guardian by trying to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021. Find out a bit more about that here.

Lockdown lunches (or any workaday lunch) can become a bit samey. Of course, you can wrap a wrap or slice a cheese sandwich many ways but, even so, it’s nice to inject a thrilling new element every now and then. Enter Yotam Ottolenghi’s rhubarb, chipotle and lime jam (in a cheese toastie) from March Feast Issue No.164 – which I have not cooked from yet.

The jam is quick and easy – although mine is more the consistency of a sauce (fine by me!) than a jam. Hibiscus tea bags aren’t something we have kicking around so I omit (Yotam says that’s okay!). The making of the sarnies falls to The Husband who positively quivers at the idea of frying slices of sourdough filled with grated cheddar and taleggio (we didn’t have gruyere) slathered in mayo – ON BOTH SIDES!!!

The jam is sensational. Smoky, sweet, sour, smooth with pings of salt – it’s got the lot. I thought the colour of my beautiful forced rhubarb would be lost in the process, but take a look at it oozing out of that sarnie above. Gorgeous.

Rhubarb really is the gift that keeps on giving, forced or not. Meera Sodha’s rhubarb and pistachio tart was calling out to me. It’s in much-loved Feast Issue No.162 (we’ve cooked five recipes from that Issue – Felicity Cloake’s the perfect keema twice!).

Meera’s vegan tart is superb. Seriously, I think it may be the nicest tart I’ve ever eaten. Three harmonising elements: the crumbly, crunchy, melty pastry; the orangey, cardamommy, nutty, gooey frangipane; and the sparkling, tangy rhubarb topping. We loved it.

It’s also super-easy to make. Although, I’m no pastry queen and you’ll see the flaws in my method if you look closely at the pics. I love how Meera talks you through the helpful practical stuff like pricking the pastry with a fork before blind baking and scrunching up the sheet of greaseproof paper before you line the case – it makes the paper sit better (why have I never known this trick before???).

I got sucked in by the idea of tessellating the rhubarb. Hands-up, I am a chuck-it-all-in sort of gal and I wasn’t about to get out a protractor to ensure accurate angles on my rhubarb cuttings. Even so, I’m pretty pleased with my approximation of tessellation. I’ll be making Meera’s tart again – due to popular demand.

My version of Meera Sodha’s rhubarb and pistachio tart – photo credit: the youngest daughter

Original recipes:

Yotam Ottolenghi – rhubarb, chipotle and lime jam (in a cheese toastie)

Meera Sodha – rhubarb and pistachio tart

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