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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Nigel Slater

Nigel Slater’s recipes for rhubarb with porridge, and sweet, hot chard

Great start: roast rhubarb with porridge and oat crumble.
Great start: roast rhubarb with porridge and oat crumble. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

I have arrived back from the shops with a tangle of stalks in my bag. Thick ribs of rhubarb the colour of seaside rock; crisp green puntarelle for a salad and a bunch of rainbow chard the colour of wine gums. The puntarelle will be trimmed and the long, pale stems tossed with mashed anchovies and olive oil, but the others need a bit more thought.

The chard was bought on a whim – I am a pushover for their long ruby and apricot stems. I think of chard as two vegetables in one, the leaves that are like tough spinach and the white and multicoloured stalks that are delicious enough if you toss them in melted butter and lemon juice after steaming. This time, I dressed the stalks with the sort of ingredients I might use to sauce fried prawns or make into a marinade for roasted chicken thighs: piercingly hot little chillies, lime juice, fish sauce and honey. We licked our plates clean.

Roasted in the oven with orange and juniper, the rhubarb was more than good enough, but the juices are dazzling, extraordinarily bright and refreshing. The juniper adds the faintest gin and tonic note, which is intensified if you smash the berries with a pestle first. They cheered up a bowl of porridge, I can tell you.

The deeply veined leaves I have trimmed from the chard stems are squeaking with freshness. They will be shredded and used in place of spinach in a thick bean and vegetable soup tomorrow.

Roast rhubarb with porridge and oat crumble

The oat crumble, a sort of sweet, oaty rubble, brings some crunch to the party. It will keep for several days in a storage jar in a cool place and is good crumbled over vanilla ice-cream. The rhubarb can be kept refrigerated for a day or two and brought out for breakfast. Serves 4

rhubarb stalks 800g
oranges 2, medium
caster sugar 2 heaped tbsp
juniper berries 6

For the oat crumble:
plain flour 75g
butter 75g
sea salt a good pinch
caster sugar 50g
rolled oats 55g

For the porridge:
water 400ml
pinhead oatmeal 100g
salt to taste

Trim any dry ends from the rhubarb and discard, then cut each stalk into pieces roughly 5cm long. Pack the rhubarb into a non-reactive baking dish (heatproof glass or china, or stainless steel).
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

Cut the oranges in half and squeeze their juice into a bowl. Stir in the sugar – it doesn’t need to dissolve, that will happen in the oven – then press the juniper berries with a heavy weight to crack them open, and add to the orange juice. Pour the juice and berries over the rhubarb and bake for about 30 minutes until soft (test with a skewer, it should slide through each piece effortlessly).

Make the crumble: put the flour and butter in a food processor and process to coarse crumbs, then stir in the salt, sugar and oats. Drop in 1 tbsp of water and shake the bowl backward and forwards until the mixture forms crumbs. Tip on to a baking sheet and slide into the oven, it can go in at the same time as the rhubarb. Bake until pale gold (about 20 minutes), then remove and set aside.

Remove the rhubarb from the oven while you make the porridge.

Bring the water to the boil, rain in the oatmeal and stir for 3 or 4 minutes while it thickens. Stir in a pinch of salt and divide between 4 small bowls. Put some of the rhubarb in each bowl, then spoon over the rhubarb juice. Scatter some of the crumble over each dish of fruit and porridge. Serve hot.

Sweet, hot chard

Sweet stalking: sweet, hot chard.
Sweet stalking: sweet, hot chard. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

I have had this as a side dish for chargrilled mackerel and with tempura-style fried broccoli, but it is also good on top of steamed rice. The cooking time will vary slightly according to the thickness of your stems, so check them every few minutes, only adding the dressing when they are beginning to soften. To thicken the dressing a little, turn the heat up and let it bubble until it has reduced and become sticky. Serves 2, as a side dish

For the dressing:
garlic 2 cloves
lemongrass 1 stalk
hot red chillies 2 small
ginger a 40g piece
vegetable oil 2 tbsp
light soy sauce 1 tbsp
lime juice 1 tbsp
fish sauce 1 tbsp
runny honey 3 tbsp
chard stalks 400g
groundnut oil 3 tbsp

Peel and crush the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt, then scrape into an empty screw-top jar. Peel away the outer leaves of the lemongrass, then roughly chop the tender shoot within. Put the chopped lemongrass into an electric spice mill or coffee grinder and process to a dry paste, then add it to the garlic.

Roughly chop the chillies and add to the garlic and lemongrass. Peel the ginger, then grate to a paste and add to the jar. Add the vegetable oil, soy sauce, lime juice and fish sauce, then spoon in the honey, tighten the lid and shake to combine to a thin, syrupy dressing.

Cut the chard stalks into short pieces, roughly 10cm in length. Warm the groundnut oil in a large, shallow pan over a moderate heat, then add the chard stalks and cover with a lid. Let the chard cook for 10 minutes, turning the stalks over occasionally, until they are tender.

Pour the dressing into the pan and toss the chard stalks in it. Let the dressing bubble for 4-5 minutes until it coats the stalks, then transfer to a serving dish.

Follow Nigel on Instagram @NigelSlater

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