It’s rhubarb season, and I feel like an excitable little girl with a penchant for Disney and ponies every time I take a tray of the stuff out of the oven, its radiant fuschia guaranteed to perk up even the lowest of spirits, even if only for a moment. While you can bury this delicious sweet-tart vegetable under a blanket of pastry or a smothering of crumble, it seems a shame to hide it when it’s so beautiful. There’s a reason rhubarb at this time of year is called ‘champagne rhubarb’: it’s far superior to the summer stalks in colour, flavour and texture. It makes sense, then, to show it off.
While it is usually used in desserts, I like rhubarb for breakfast, particularly when it’s cold from the fridge and spooned onto hot porridge. There’s something about its bright, sweet, astringent tartness that perks up the tastebuds in the morning like nothing else. And, of course, the aforementioned aesthetic appeal. It doesn’t need any fancy treatment: just bake those stalks with a little sugar and spice (vanilla is good, as is ginger or cinnamon) and a tiny splash of water in the oven until they turn tender and release a little juice. The juicy pink mass can then be spooned over yoghurt, granola, porridge, or even piled onto slices of toast thick with delicate ricotta cheese.
It’s no coincidence rhubarb and blood oranges come into season at the same time (well, it is, seeing as they grow in totally different parts of the world, but let’s be romantic about this). The glowing crimson of a blood orange pairs magically with rhubarb in both colour and flavour (although just a note: pink and orange looks lovely in food, but is not a colour combination I’d recommend for fashion or interior design), giving a sharp citrus tang to its sweetness. Other fruits that work well with rhubarb are berries, of nearly all varieties: strawberries are very good, as are blackberries and blueberries, and raspberries (my favourite).
This is a gorgeous spring breakfast that I came up with a few days ago. I threw a handful of dried cranberries into my morning cinnamon-scented porridge instead of the usual sultanas; they have a bite and a sharpness to them that works very well with both rhubarb and blood oranges. Topped with a spoonful of gingery rhubarb compote, some segmented blood orange, and a handful of raspberries, this was an absolute feast for both the eyes and the appetite. I love the beautiful medley of colours, and the contrasting textures and temperatures. This recipe makes a whole batch of rhubarb compote, so you can keep it in the fridge and spoon it cold over the piping hot porridge for subsequent mornings; you can also make the rhubarb the night before to save time in the morning, in which case this takes mere minutes to put together.
Definitely better than a bowl of cornflakes.
Cinnamon and cranberry porridge with rhubarb, blood orange, and raspberries (serves 1-2, with leftover rhubarb compote):
(I'm a total porridge fiend, so my normal serving is 100g of oats and 500ml of milk and water. This is probably (I am told) too much for most normal people, so the below quantities may serve two of you normal types...)
- 400g rhubarb, cut into 1-inch lengths
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 4 tbsp caster sugar
- 100g porridge oats
- 3 tbsp dried cranberries
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- A pinch of salt
- 200ml milk
- 300ml water
- 1 blood orange, segmented
- A handful of raspberries, to serve
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Put the rhubarb, ginger and caster sugar in a baking dish with a splash of water and bake for about 20 minutes until the rhubarb has softened.
To make the porridge, put the oats, cranberries, cinnamon, salt, milk and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or so, stirring, until the porridge is thick and creamy (add a little more milk or water if you want it runnier).
Pour into a bowl, or divide between two bowls. Spoon over some rhubarb and its juice, then scatter with the blood orange segments and raspberries. Serve immediately.