Rhubarb is a plant from my childhood. A country girl, we had a huge garden that comprised an orchard, a huge chicken run, room for ducks, a cow and a rambling vegetable garden. Along one fence grew rhubarb, tons and tons of it. Sadly, my mother was not an adventurous cook, and the rhubarb was always sour and stringy. I have never understood people’s passion for this ruby red stalk. It has never made it into our kitchen.
However, this recipe from our current project of cooking through the Ottolenghi cookbook, Plenty More, is intriguing, and the rhubarb is roasted rather than simmered into oblivion (sorry Mum). It is also part of a salad, with no pretensions of being a dessert. The recipe mixes roasted beetroot with the yoghurt and a dressing of maple syrup and pomegranate molasses. Lastly, the rhubarb and gorgonzola cheese are added. Gorgonzola seems such an unlikely addition, but the bite of the cheese and its creaminess pulls the dish together. Magnificent! The cheese adds lively highlight notes to the earthy-sweet-sour of the beetroot and rhubarb.
We’re coming into beet season, and all the different varieties mean you can play with colours and subtlety of flavour. Get golden, red and candy beets (which go pink on cooking) and you’re in for a dazzle.
As mentioned, this is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area.
It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
Similar recipes include Sweet Barley and Ginger Poached Rhubarb, Beetroot, Yoghurt and Preserved Lemon Relish, Sweet Spiced Rhubarb, Roasted Beetroot with Maple Dressing, Roasted Beetroot with Roasted Garlic Salad and Walnuts, and Roast Beetroot with Cumin Seeds.
Rhubarb into and out of the oven
Beetroot and Rhubarb Salad
800g various varieties of beetroot (if you can’t get them, one type is fine)
300g rhubarb, cut on an angle into 2.5cm pieces
30g palm sugar (use caster sugar if palm sugar is not available0
2 tspn sherry vinegar
0.75 Tblspn pomegranate molasses
2 Tblspn maple syrup
2 Tblspn olive oil
0.5 tspn ground allspice (pimento)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
20g picked parsley leaves
100g creamy gorgonzola or similar blue cheese, torn into small chunks
sea salt and black pepper
Set the oven to 220C.
Wrap the beets individually in foil and bake for 40-70 minutes, depending on size. To check, push a sharp knife through to the centre of each one – it should be soft all the way through. Set aside to cool, then peel and cut into a rough 2cm dice.
Toss the rhubarb with the sugar and allow to sit while the beetroot cooks. When the beetroot is cooked, reduce the oven to 200C. Spread the rhubarb over a foil-lined oven tray and roast for 6-10 minutes, until soft but not mushy. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, molasses, maple syrup, oil, allspice and some salt and pepper. Add the onion, set aside for a few minutes to soften, then add the parsley and beets. Stir to combine, season to taste and, just before serving, gently fold in the rhubarb, its juices and the cheese.
recipe notes and alternatives
Add a few toasted and roughly chopped walnuts to the salad.