Saturday, June 29, 2013

Small discoveries

Rhubarb has been a recent discovery for me. It isn’t grown in Greece so I haven’t had the chance to taste it before moving to the Netherlands, in fact, I had no idea what it was when I first saw it at the local markets. I thought it was some kind of celery variety and never paid much attention to it.

After a while, I started noticing recipes involving rhubarb on different blogs and magazines and thought I should try it. It took me a while, the idea of it being too tart seemed to put me off, but eventually I did. What kind of food blogger would I be if I resisted a novel ingredient?

For those of you who are as unfamiliar to rhubarb as I was, rhubarb is a springtime-early summer vegetable that is generally treated as a fruit. Originating from China, where it is prized for its medicinal qualities for centuries, it is an edible plant. Beware of its leaves though, they are toxic and poisonous. The part of it that’s suitable for consumption is its crimson, red, pink, green or whitish depending on the variety, stalks.

There are two types of rhubarb: forced or hothouse rhubarb that is grown under pots in the dark and that arrives in the winter, and the field-grown variety which appears in early spring. Springtime rhubarb has a deeper red color and a more intense and tart flavor than forced rhubarb.

Being extremely sharp and sour, making it almost impossible to eat without sugar or other sweeteners, rhubarb has been dubbed as the “pie plant” because it is predominantly used as a filling for sweet pies. It pairs well with strawberries and ginger, and it is marvelous turned into jam, but it is also an excellent accompaniment to savory dishes, most harmoniously paired with oily fish, duck and lamb, with flavor profiles that can stand well against the tartness and subtle sweetness of the plant.

Making these small discoveries is so exciting to me. Like with the variety of wild asparagus I found in Holland, rhubarb was a pleasant surprise. I made a polenta cake with rhubarb which was very tasty, but I especially enjoyed it in this ice cream of rhubarb and ginger crumble.

The rhubarb is first roasted in the oven with sugar, releasing all of its juices, becoming meltingly soft and ready to be pureéd. Cream is added and the mixture is poured into the ice cream machine for churning. As soon as it’s ready, all creamy and fluffy, in goes the golden baked crumble that has been broken up into little pieces and then to the freezer to set for a few hours.

It is the most incredible ice cream I’ve tasted in a long time. Creamy and smooth, reminiscent of parfait, with the crumble adding texture and sweetness to counterbalance the sharp acidic flavor of the rhubarb, it was a true delight.

I had spoonful after spoonful and my palate was yearning for more. I’m sad that the rhubarb season is almost at its last days. I could have eaten this all summer long.

P.S As my official tester, S told me, “I’m not convinced by rhubarb”. What can I say? We can't agree on everything.

Rhubarb and Ginger-Crumble Ice Cream
Barely adapted from Delia’s Summer Collection

This ice cream is not too sweet so feel free to serve it with a topping like a chocolate sauce.
If you don't have an ice cream maker, don't fret. Below, I'm including instructions on how to make the ice cream without it.

Yield: about 700 g of ice cream


for the ice cream
450 g fresh rhubarb
230 g caster sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
430 ml cream, full-fat (35%)

for the ginger crumble
75 g all-purpose flour
50 g unsalted butter
50 g soft light brown sugar
½ tsp ground ginger

Special equipment: 1 shallow large baking pan, 1 medium-sized baking pan, food processor, measuring jug (optional), ice cream machine (optional)

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius / 375 Fahrenheit.

Trim both ends of the rhubarb and cut it into 1 cm pieces. Place it in a large baking pan and add the sugar and lemon juice on top. Place on the low rack of your preheated oven and bake undisturbed for 15-20 minutes until the rhubarb is completely tender.

In the meantime, prepare the crumble. In a medium-sized bowl, add all the ingredients for the crumble and using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour, so that the mixture resembles very coarse breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the mixture evenly in a medium-sized baking pan, place it on the middle rack of the oven (while the rhubarb is also baking), and bake for about 10 minutes or until the crumble has taken on a golden brown color. Be careful not to burn it. Once ready, remove the pan from the oven and allow the crumble to cool completely in the pan. Once cool, break it up into small pieces with your hands until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

When the rhubarb is ready, remove the pan from the oven and allow rhubarb to cool slightly. Transfer the rhubarb and all of the juices accumulated in the pan inside the bowl of your food processor and process until smooth.

Pour the pureé into a measuring jug (or bowl with pouring lip), cover with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge so it gets really cold. Once chilled, add the cream to the rhubarb pureé and mix well with a whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into your ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions until the mixture has the consistency of softly whipped cream. Immediately empty the ice cream into a container suitable for the freezer, add the ginger crumble and using a spatula, stir it in the ice cream. Place in the freezer for a couple of hours or until the ice cream is firm enough to serve.

Alternatively, if you don't have an ice cream machine, empty the ice cream mixture into a container suitable for the freezer. Place the mixture in the freezer, take it out after 40 minutes and whisk it very well. You can also use a blender, or even a stick blender.
Continue doing the same thing every half hour, until it's too thick and frozen to beat or whisk. The whole process will take 2 to 3 hours, depending on how strong your freezer is.

You can keep the ice cream in your freezer for a week.


  1. It surelly looks delicious. Rhubarb is not very easily found in Portugal and when you find it, it's price its a little bit prohibitive. But I like its acidic taste :)

  2. I was raised in Edmonton, Canada. Rhubarb was one of the things that actually grew well in our garden that far north. It would begin to push up in early spring through the snow on the ground. When the stalks were long enough, my mum would cut one off for me and give me a small cup of sugar to dip it into. Needless to say, I loved it.

    I'm very intrigued by your recipe. Your ice cream looks amazing and I imagine the ginger crumble would be so good in there!

  3. I love rhubarb, Magda - and this ice cream (with the ginger crunch) sounds amazing. You should make something for S. that isn't a dessert - like a rhubarb chutney or compote to serve with roasted meats. So good! ~ David

  4. Rhubarb was the first crop out of our New England garden, a welcome sign of spring. My mother would can it as jam - a rather slick texture not unlike okra, but bright pink and sweet/tart. In the depths of winter, a colorful dollop of it was very welcome on a simple desert of plain blancmange, a nice counterpoint of tart brightness with silky smoothness.

  5. Rhubarb ice cream (w/ Ginger Crumble) oh, this is so perfect! It grows like crazy all over the state of Oregon and I made a rhubarb infused vodka with some - the color is so beautiful. Thanks for the recipe and this is my favorite rhubarb recipes I've seen on the interwebs this season. Maybe it takes someone who didn't grow up with the stuff to do something like this.

  6. I am still resisting rhubarb; but your post is so convincing I will be trying it soon, in ice-cream!

  7. I am a huge fan of rhubarb and this ice cream looks fantastic. I love the idea of incorporating ginger crumble.

  8. Beautiful post on Rhubarb which I really like. Earlier this summer I did a post on a cocktail I made using Rhubarb Syrup which was just the best.
    Rhubarb has such an intense color. Your ice cream is one to add to my file to try next year when the Rhubarb is available locally.

  9. I love rhubarb! When I cook it, I tend to leave a lot of space in between each piece!

    1. Is there a reason you do that? Does it cook better?

  10. I'm in the U.S. (Montana) and have rhubarb growing at my home plus I buy a bit of extra from a local farm. I freeze some and it does very well - chop and freeze.

    Often rhubarb is combined with strawberries for pies, etc. but I have a rhubarb torte recipe that is all rhubarb and this year I made a wonderful rhubarb chutney - twice!

    Yesterday, having just bought a flat of strawberries from the farm, I decided to try your ice cream recipe with a rhubarb and strawberry mix. I don't have an ice cream machine so used the technique you described and it came out beautifully! I used 1/4 rhubarb to 3/4 strawberries but I would probably go 1/2 and 1/2 next round as the strawberries overwhelme the rhubarb. But I am very happy to know this technique which makes so much sense after seeing it. I used a stainless steel bowl and made sure both it and all utensils were very cold before putting the chilled cream & fruit puree in it and into the freezer. The texture is perfect.

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hello Liz! I'm thrilled you made the ice cream and enjoyed it. You should have gone for 100% rhubarb ;) I'm sure it was great with the strawberries as well. Thank you for the feedback!

    2. Hee... you are right...100% rhubarb next time.

      I am going to try a custard base also.

  11. i had never tried rhubarb myself until i went to holland - my mother never used it at home, despite its populaity in nz - i really like it as a crumble - and what a lovely colour it gives to the ice cream