Rhubarb Rhubarb

17 March 2006

I remember it took a while before I first tried this colourful-celery-like vegetable, which I wasn’t familiar with when I was in Japan. I still wouldn’t say it’s my favourite ingredient, but since I started this blog I’ve been converted to trying ingredients that I’m not mad about per se. So I decided to give it a go with rhubarb this time, which I got from a farmer’s market last weekend. Because I didn’t really want to use it as a core component, this recipe for chilled rhubarb soup with rose parfait, strawberry sorbet, candied pistachios, strawberries and rhubarb chips from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming seemed perfect.

Although this dessert has quite a few parts, each was straightforward to make and you just need to be a bit patient :) I started with the rhubarb soup and strawberry sorbet – as I churned the sorbet in the machine, I cooked rhubarb in syrup with a little ginger, mashed it as it cooked and sieved. For the rose parfait, lightly whisk double cream, creme fraiche, a touch of rose preserve and rose water together, then fold in some Italian meringue and freeze. The rhubarb chips were good fun to make – cook chopped rhubarb with a little sugar until it’s quite dry. Push through a fine sieve (discarding the solids) and spread thinly on a baking sheet, then bake in the oven at about 120ºC until leathery (it takes about half an hour).

I was really excited to try the finished dessert – and I absolutely loved it! The tangy flavour of rhubarb and zing of ginger was balanced by the fragrant, extra light parfait and the sweet strawberries. The candied pistachios (coat the nuts in syrup first, toss them in light brown sugar and roast in the oven) add a nice contrast too – all the flavours work so well, I think it’s a really refreshing and elegant dessert :)

Oh just one thing – I like The Last Course and I think it’s a beautiful book, but I’m not sure about the use of a lot of corn syrup in her recipes. If I have to, I use a lesser amount of golden syrup instead (it’s a bit hard to find corn syrup around here), but it seems to me that she suggests using it even when perhaps it’s not necessary. Because I’ve never learnt pastry making, I don’t know the science behind it – I’ve actually tried some of the recipes without, or making my own syrup with sugar and they turned out fine (or have I just been lucky?). I’d be grateful if someone could tell me a bit more about it, thank you…

It’s been really cold here for the middle of March (my chilblains are still active!), but I was happy taking pictures of this dessert, the vibrant colour made me feel that the real spring is definitely on the way :) I’m sorry I’m being slow at writing back to the comments and messages, I’ll try to get back soon.

Food - Sweet        50 comments    Permalink

  • your dessert looks wonderful. and photos beautiful as always.

    Posted by Kat & Satoshi | 17 March 2006 #
  • Ditto! fantastic photos, yummy food. I especially like the top photo, it is a work of art.

    Posted by hag | 17 March 2006 #
  • *sigh* no rhubarb here for years, and i’m never anywhere where it’s available and in season.

    Posted by santos. | 17 March 2006 #
  • I love the vivid colours of this dessert especially the redness of the rhubarb. I’m not that keen on them mind you but i would definitely eat this dessert because of the gorgeous presentation.

    Posted by mae | 17 March 2006 #
  • Nice pictures indeed, and I love love this fruit (funny to see you mention it is a vegetable) as I grew up with big big "pied" (plant) of it in the garden. When you have one, it becomes massive and most often, you have to cut half of it so that it does not spread everywhere.

    It looks delicious and very refreshing. To be tried for sure. My birthday cake (I am a May girl!) would always have both strawberries and rhubarb!!

    Posted by Béa at La Tartine Gourmande | 17 March 2006 #
  • hi keiko, exquisite pictures of an exquisite dessert - the very essence of spring ;) there’s also a similar combination of flavours in the p.h book (rhubarb and strawberry soup with creme fraiche and strawberry ice cream) - although the claudia fleming recipe sounds much more intriguing and the presentation, more elegant. we never see rhubarb of the pristine quality as in your pictures - the specimens that make their way here are always a very sorry sight, soggy and bruised. also, can i ask what type/which brand of rose preserves you used?

    Posted by Joycelyn | 17 March 2006 #
  • Having had the pleasure of eating this very dessert at Gramercy Tavern a few years ago, I loved that you recreated it. It looks absolutely lovely, and I know it tasted delicious... Interesting note about the corn syrup - I’ve had that book on my shelf for years but confess to have only used it for perusing and not cooking. Go figure!

    Posted by Luisa | 17 March 2006 #
  • Your pictures are magnificent and the dessert looks ever so yummy!

    I love rhubarb and I’m waiting forward to eat tons of it!!! It’s only a pity that it grows only during a short period of time...

    Posted by Rosa | 17 March 2006 #
  • http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/rhubarb-history.html

    I too have rhubarb on the mind. I wrote about Claudia and rhubard this time last year and I hope to write a more extensive piece dedicated to these vibrant stalks in a few weeks. We are just getting it here.

    The link above reminds us that, strangely, rhubarb is a fruit. {An informative page for the rhubarb geeks.}

    I am too tired to go into length about corn syrup except to say that as an invert sugar it acts to keep certain sugars from crystalizing. Oftentimes in professional kitchens we use other, not so politically incorrect invert sugars, but those would be impossible to find on a supermarket shelf so the recipes are re-written for the home cook.

    Golden Syrup is lovely! In America we wish this were the prevalent sugar but we’re not as lucky as you...

    Posted by shuna fish lydon | 18 March 2006 #
  • Hi Keiko,

    Wow! It is so interesting. I never try rhubarb yet in desserts coz it is very very hard to find here and very expensive if they do have it.I wonder how it tasted together with rose, Iam sure its really good. There is a recipe in the chocolate book Pierre Herme named White chocolate rhubarb charlotte which sounds really delicious.Thanks

    Posted by Cathy | 18 March 2006 #
  • I have never seen such colourful rhubarb. I love your photos of it.

    Posted by bonheursdesophie | 18 March 2006 #
  • Ok, I’m back. If this posting isn’t worthy of an award due to the story and photography than nothing is.

    You are such an inspiration to me on so many levels. I look at this entry and feel as if it’s just so completely above and beyond the world of blogging.


    Posted by matt armendariz | 18 March 2006 #
  • hi k,

    been having rhubarbs around this end of the world but not ones as vibrant as yours! the dessert looks adorable. take care & keep warm, c.

    Posted by chika | 18 March 2006 #
  • Hi Keiko,

    So glad that you were able to email me back : )

    Annnnnd, I’m glad I’m a food studies classes can help you out with the corn syrup question. Basically, people who are food-conscious avoid corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup whenever possible, which is everywhere and hence, another reason to avoid most packaged foods. In the 1970s, the U.S. was cutting agricultural costs further and found that they could use corn (a starch) to develop as a very cheap sweetener - one that was cheaper than ordinary sugar known as sucrose.

    It is substituted almost everywhere... look at your breads, sodas, ketchup, ice creams, etc.

    But the effect on your body is that corn syrup is really glucose rather than sucrose, and glucose bypasses the digestive step sucrose would otherwise take, and almost instantly streams into and affects your bloodstream and most importantly, your liver, where glycagen - energy - is stored. This is dangerous because uncontrolled amounts of glucose is absorbed directly by the liver, a suspect of the overwhelming pattern of type II diabetes.

    A great book is Fat Land by Greg Critser!

    Posted by Melissa Hom | 18 March 2006 #
  • Keiko, I love your post, especially because I love rhubarb.

    As for the science behind using corn syrup, well, Harold McGee appears to have the answer. In "On Food and Cooking" he writes: "corn syrups are alone [among sweeteners] in providing long carbohydrate molecules that get tangled up with each other.... It’s largely these long tangly molecules that have made corn syrup increasingly important in confectionary and other prepared foods. Because the tangling interferes with the molecular motion, it also has the valuable effect of preventing other sugars in candy from crystallizing and producing a grainy texture.... Another consequence of corn syrup’s viscosity is that it imparts a thick, chewy texture to foods.... corn syrup helps prevent moisture loss and prolongs storage life of various foods.... Finally, all corn syrups are somewhat acid... so in baked goods they can react with baking soda... and thus contribute to leavening."

    And I’m spent.

    I hope that answers some of your questions.

    Posted by rob | 18 March 2006 #
  • As usual your photos are wonderful Keiko and the recepie fabulous I’ve got a lot of rose paste and rose Arom, very good quality so I’ll try the "parfait à la rose " very soon with the association stawberries and rhubarb it"s surely great !

    Posted by mercotte | 18 March 2006 #
  • i’m not a fan of rhubarb, but your photos have me salivating for it. your photography is exceptional and a real inspiration to me (i’m trying my hand at food photography). looking forward to more.

    Posted by lorissa | 18 March 2006 #
  • I love NordlJus,

    I look forward to each new post.

    Adding corn syrup to simple syrup and cooked sugar helps prevent crystalization, but so does using clean equipment and not moving the sugar while it cooks. Some cooks add an acid (cream of tartar, lemon juice) to sugar to prevent it from crystalizing as it cooks Corn syrup is an inverted corn sugar made by treating corn starch, usually from genetically modified corn, with enzymes, that are also often genetically modified, to extract the sugar glucose and then convert some of it into fructose. which is then mixed with an acid. Some cooks brush the insides of the pan with water when cooking sugar. I just start with a clean pan and wet the sides of the pan with clean hands before cooking sugar.

    Corn syrup also helps retain moisture in baked goods and can extend the "shelf life" of the product. But when eaten fresh, home baked goods do not need any added moisture if a good recipe is used and care and love is put into the baking process

    It also disolves easy and blends into batters and mixes. But other natural sweeteners blend well when added at the proper stage.

    Corn syrup is often cheaper than cane or beet sugar because the US over produces corn and the government subsidizes corn syrup production and many other corn products and imposes tariffs on cane sugar imports.

    High fructose corn syrup raises insulin and blood sugar levels which stimulates the appetite.

    Posted by Rani and Raja | 18 March 2006 #
  • its easy to find corn syrup here... and I have my golden syrup from UK.

    Learned a lot from the comment box about this syrup.

    Keiko do you offer photography course? hmm I dont know yet if I come to UK soon. i am off for France next week then might take a weekend off coming April.

    as for the rhubarb, i have love hate affair with that... we dont have rhubarb here in Athens. but when I was living in Hampshire it was pretty abundant in the garden.

    perhaps the way you presented this dessert wil make me go for this

    Posted by sha | 18 March 2006 #
  • keiko-san! yummyyummy sweets!! .....sorry, I don’t know "rhubarb".

    but beautiful!:)

    Posted by azu | 19 March 2006 #
  • Hi Keiko, I became a converted rhubarb fan during one of my trips to Australia. I’m glad you’ve discovered what this nice vegetable can do - its one of the few vegetables that tastes good in dessert. Love the contrast of ruby red with the black in your photos!

    Posted by steffles | 19 March 2006 #
  • woah! you painted your blog RED this time. this is uttering sexy!

    is rhubarb sour? sorry, never had rhubarb before. jamie oliver uses rhubarb in his creme brulee recipe. i wonder why as well.

    And information about corn, golden syrup & sugars here were so informative & useful. thks!

    Posted by slurp! | 19 March 2006 #
  • Keiko, incidentally I also have some rubharb in need of cooking.I love your post - as always. Beautiful photographs, excellent choice of recipe and everything wonderfully put together. You are on a league of your own. I had not heard of the book. you mentioned.

    Posted by valentina | 19 March 2006 #
  • Keiko, I love rhubarb, so this is a particularly entrancing and beautiful post -- among all your other gorgeous work on Nordljus, of course. We don’t yet have fresh rhubarb in the Northeast US -- but your post has just increased my craving level exponentially!

    Posted by | 19 March 2006 #
  • whoops, that was me above -- didn’t mean to comment anonymously!

    Posted by Julie | 19 March 2006 #
  • Hi Keiko, I love rhubarb too! But that has to be the reddist rhubarb I’ve ever seen. I have a huge clump growing in my vege garden, it’s mostly green with only a little red though, yummy all the same.

    Posted by Bron | 20 March 2006 #
  • keiko, it looks absolutely gorgeous! we don’t get rhubarb much in my little part of the world, but i’ll definitely pounce on it next time i see it - the colours look just amazing!

    p.s. thanks for stopping by my blog! i’ve been a big fan of nordljus for a while now, it was definitely a wonderful surprise!

    Posted by hinata | 20 March 2006 #
  • Keiko - your rhubarb dessert looks gorgeous! I love rhubarb, but only make cakes with it, or use it for a sweet dessert soup. You’ve really inspired me to make something more delicate and fancy next time.

    Posted by pille | 20 March 2006 #
  • As usual, gorgeous photos.

    Rhubarb always takes me back to being five years old and my neighbour/surrogate grandma’s garden...strawberry-rhubarb pie.



    Posted by Jasmine | 21 March 2006 #
  • oh, sexy sexy rhubarb. my mouth is watering, Keiko. As usual, gorgeous pics. Rose parfait? You’re killing me!

    Posted by vanessa | 21 March 2006 #
  • You have the most amazing website. We love your photography and look forward to the next post.

    Posted by Amanda and Debbie | 21 March 2006 #
  • Hi there, thank you so much for all your feedback!

    Mae, Sha - I’m still not mad about it, but serving like this makes it more palatable and it really has delicate flavours.

    Bea - looking forward to seeing your birthday cake!

    Joycelyn - oh I should check PH book too :) I got the rose petal jam from a local shop, nothing fancy and I think it’s imported from Pakistan, it’s very rose-y and I’m not sure if I can use it all.

    Luisa - you’re a lucky girl to have tried the original! I find the book easy to follow, well, except for the US measurements and terminology :)

    Rosa - I know, but it’s nice to be able to appreciate seasonal produce...

    Shuna - thank you for the rhubarb site, it’s really interesting! (thought rhubarb was a vegetable) Thanks also for the corn syrup tip, I knew it prevents crystallising but I wondered if you really need it when you make meringue. It’s fascinating to know that you worked for her, I look forward to hearing more about it some time (and seeing your gorgeous rhubarb creation of course)

    Cathy - must check it out :)

    Matt - your site is such an inspiration to me, look forward to more of your gorgeous posts!

    Melissa - just realised that I’ve got Fat Land, need to read it properly :) Knowing that corn syrup isn’t exactly good for you, any substitute suggestions?

    Rob - thank you for the info, it’s really interesting... tangly molecules!

    Mercotte - looking forward to seeing your beautiful springy creation!

    Rani and Raja - thanks so much for another interesting tips!

    Azu-san - I’ve never seen it in Japan, but maybe you can find it in a very posh supermarket in Tokyo ;)

    Steffles - your pictures in Australia were great :)

    Slurp - yes, it is sour and very English (rhubarb and custard!).

    Valentina - I think you would like the book, it covers quite a wide range and the flavour combinations are really inspiring.

    Julie - looking forward to seeing your beautiful rhubarb creations!

    Bron - I took the reddest part :) I’ve seen green ones, how lovely that you can get super fresh rhubarb from your garden!

    Hinata - thank YOU for stopping by :)

    Pille - your soup must be lovely, although I’m still not fully converted... Looking forward to seeing your beautiful creations soon.

    Jasmine - oh you’ve grown up with it...

    Posted by keiko | 22 March 2006 #
  • wow.. definitely yummy. Pics with instruction on how to made it is definitely my cuppa tea. Thanks.

    Incidentally, I have a post of ice skating video of the Silver medal winners of the recent Winter Olympics.

    Posted by Robin | 22 March 2006 #
  • またわたしですー




    チョコレート・オブセッションの本のほうはわたしも試そうと思ってるものがいくつかあるんですけど、なかなかたどり着きません~(そんなんばっか)。相変わらずお忙しいのでしょうか?まだ寒いみたいですけど、お体にはお気をつけてお元気で! XOXO

    Posted by ちか@まだ | 22 March 2006 #
  • Hi Keiko - oh my gosh. I have never seen such gorgeous photos of rhubarb. Talk about food porn!

    Posted by Elise | 22 March 2006 #
  • fantastic fantastic photos.... i absolutely love rhubarb and it’s tartness... so classically wonderful with strawberry.

    Posted by Vanessa | 22 March 2006 #
  • Hi Robin - thank you for your notes!

    ちかちゃん - 私もちょうど1年くらい前にアマゾンUSに注文して、さんざん待たされた挙げ句「ない」ってあっさり言われました(汗)で、親切なカナダの彼(!)が代わりに送ってくれました。さすがタワレコだねぇ、うん、確かにちかちゃんが好きそうなものは少ないかも。私もまだ流し読み程度なので(ってほとんどそれで終わるんだけど)何かトライしたらアップします。オブセッションは、もっと値段高かったら買わなかったと思うけど、ちょっとよさげなアイスクリームのレシピを見つけたのでゲットしてみました…。


    Hi Elise - thank you for your notes, I didn’t mean to take ’that kind’ of shots but they turned out rather sexy...

    Hi Vanessa - thanks for dropping by, I’m looking forward to seeing your beautiful rhubarb creations!

    Posted by keiko | 23 March 2006 #
  • keiko-sa~n!

    > very posh supermarket in Tokyo


    look! I like MUJI.:D


    Posted by azu | 23 March 2006 #
  • azuさん、リンクありがとー。すごーい、無印でルバーブケーキが買えるなんて知りませんでした!azuさんはもう試してみましたか?さすがポッシュな無印だけありますね(笑)思わず他のお菓子もチェックしてしまいますた。試しにググってみたら、結構ルバーブ絡みなサイトあるんですね「食用大黄」って名前らしいですが(ダイオウって…)ほんとう、身近に買えるようになる日も近いのかもしれませんね。でも日本には美味しい果物、野菜がたくさんあるしなぁ(ホームシックで終わる例のパターンです…)

    Posted by keiko | 23 March 2006 #
  • I love rhubarb, this is one of my favourite ! And mixed with strawberry oualala !! that treat must be a wonder for the soul. Great pics as always (but I’m sure that noux you know !!).

    Same as everybody for the corn sirup (that we call glucose sirup in France) : avoid cristalistion, add moisture.

    Bye and thanks again for the beautiful springy recipe.


    Posted by | 23 March 2006 #
  • Hi Keiko: In Europe, you can find glucose in pastry-supply stores or stores that cater to the restaurant trade, like ’Metro’. Or ask your favorite pastry chef to order you a small tub! It lasts for a long, long time and it’s very similar to light corn syrup. I know a place in Paris where we can get some for you as well.

    Posted by David | 23 March 2006 #
  • keikoさん、先日はいらしてくださって、どうもありがとうございました。







    Posted by nonshi | 24 March 2006 #
  • hola keiko, i’ve always been tempted to use this vege but have yet to take up the challenge! btw, thanks for checking out my site. if you try the thai pumpkin soup, let me know how it turns out. un bisou, k

    Posted by kel @ Green Olive Tree | 25 March 2006 #
  • hi keiko, it’s indeed very cold still the past couple of weeks, and wet and miserable... your post does wonder in perking me up for sure, and here’s to a beautiful upcoming spring whenever it decides to come along... :)

    Posted by Lil | 25 March 2006 #
  • This looks fabulous! I have some growing in my garden...I cant wait to use it like you have. Your photos are amazing!!

    Posted by Riana | 26 March 2006 #
  • What a lovely website by obviously a perfectionist! I am trying hard not to make ’spelling mistakes’ LOL as I think it might just get on your nerves, since little mistakes spoil the site a little.. If it was me I’ll wish the others were more careful :)

    I have never seen Rhubarb for sale too when I was in Japan! Hmm this is one of those rare vegetables but for use mainly on desserts. Now I live in Australia and this seems like a popular enough ingredient and surprisingly some of the best tasting desserts I ever ate utilised this.

    I have some trouble making really smooth sorbet/ice cream like yours. Wish you can make dessert for me ! おしいそう!

    Posted by Omotesando | 26 March 2006 #
  • Hi there, thanks very much for all your kind notes again.

    Fred - do you use lots of glucose too?

    David - thank you, I feel like I’m already in Paris ;)

    Nonshi-san - ありがとうございます、nonshiさんの美しいブルーベリータルトを拝見して「ぜひ作らねば!」と思いました。これからも楽しみに伺いますね。

    Kel - I’ll let you know when I do!

    Lil - I’m much happier that it’s finally getting warmer... I’m looking forward to planting more herbs this year :) Take care.

    Riona - it must be fantastic using your own rhubarb for this, let me know when you try.

    Omotesando - have you lived in Japan for a long time? (did you live around 表参道? :)) I assume you can get rhubarb preserve there, but not fresh rhubarb. I know it’s a common ingredient in Australia, what’s your favourite recipe with it? Are there any particular Australian dishes?

    Posted by keiko | 31 March 2006 #
  • Hi Keiko

    I also didn’t grow up with rhubarb and have never cooked with it, but your dessert looks sooooo fabulous! I love the idea of rhubarb and ginger - and the pictures look phenomenal! The perfect antidote to this horrible winter that doesn’t want to end...

    Posted by Jeanne | 7 April 2006 #
  • Hi Jeanne - I’m still on the way to being converted :) I’m happy it’s finally getting warmer, take care and hopefully see you soon.

    Posted by keiko | 10 April 2006 #
  • Hi, Just came across your blog and had to leave a message. Love it, and absolutely awesome images!

    Posted by The French Life | 11 October 2011 #

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