OOf all the things I can’t grow—cauliflower, lavender, artichokes (the list is longer than I’d like)—rhubarb remains the most frustrating. When I was a child it grew in every garden; a complimentary pudding with some crumble on top. And when a bunch of asparagus seems cheaper than ever, I’m now asked the most ridiculous price for a stalk or two of rhubarb and I’ll keep paying, if only for its gorgeous, mood-boosting color and kind of tart lipstick almost impossible to find anywhere else .
Aside from being the mother of all sprinkles, I love to serve rhubarb chutney with the rich, sweet fat of a pork chop or a massive butcher’s sausage. A rhubarb (brown sugar, vinegar, chili peppers, and mustard seed) chutney pairs well with cheese and is a scintillating complement to a grilled mackerel. It’s also surprisingly good when eaten hot.
The pink sticks weren’t the only things sparkling on the kitchen table this week — a bag of blushing Turkish apricots, the first of the season, lacked their usual honey sweetness until I boiled them down with orange juice and some sugar to make it fudgy, stick-to -the-fork cheesecake.
Baked sausages, rhubarb chutney
You can bake the sausages without first browning them on the stovetop, but I find sizzling them well before they reach the oven gives a juicier result. Opt for fat, open pork sausages with lots of pepper in them – a real breakfast sausage. Served 4
thyme 8 small bushy branches
fat butcher sausages 12
peanut oil 3 tbsp
For the chutney:
Red onions 2
granulated sugar 200 g
white wine vinegar 250ml
pepperoni 4, small and hot
star anise 2, whole
mustard seeds 1 tablespoon
coriander seeds 1 teaspoon
sea-salt ½ tsp
orange 1, small
For the chutney, roughly chop the onions. Place them in a stainless steel or other non-reactive skillet with the sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil.
Add the whole chillies, star anise, mustard greens and coriander seeds, then the salt and simmer over medium heat.
While the onions continue to soften, peel the orange in short pieces, then slice each into fine matchstick-like strips, as thin as possible. Stir in the onions and cook an additional 15 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
Cut the rhubarb into pieces about the size of a cork, add to the onion mixture and continue to cook for 10 minutes until soft but not completely wilted. Remove from the stove and serve hot or cold.
For the sausages, preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Remove the leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme and stir into the oil. Place the sausages and thyme oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole dish (I use a shallow cast-iron casserole dish) and lightly brown on all sides over medium-high heat. Add the remaining sprigs of thyme, then place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the sausages are golden brown. Serve with the hot rhubarb chutney.
Creamy cheesecake with apricots
The cheesecake is done when the outer edge is firm but should still quiver in the middle when you shake it lightly. Allow to cool in the oven, then place in the fridge overnight. The texture changes during this time to give a firm but exceptionally creamy texture. The accompanying fruit should not be too sweet to provide a contrast to the cake. Served 8
sweet oatmeal cookies 200 g
oatmeal 3 tbsp
Full fat cream cheese 200 g
golden powdered sugar 150gr
Big Eggs 3 plus 1 yolk
double cream 150ml
vanilla extract ½ tsp
For the apricots:
orange juice reserved from above
powdered sugar 50g
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Crumble the biscuits into a fairly fine powder. You can make it the traditional way with a plastic bag and rolling pin, or in a food processor. Add the biscuits and oatmeal to the melted butter and stir briefly to coat. Set the oven to 140°C/gas mark 1. Press two-thirds of the buttered crumbs into the bottom of a loose-bottomed cake tin, 20-22 cm deep. Set aside in a cold place to set. The freezer is ideal.
Put on the kettle. In the bowl of a food processor (you will need the flat beater attachment), combine mascarpone, cream cheese, sugar, eggs and additional yolks. Finely grate the lemon and orange zest into the cheese and sugar, then beat until well combined. Squeeze the lemon (save the orange). Fold the cream, lemon juice and vanilla extract into the cheesecake mixture.
Wrap the bottom of the cake pan in foil, cover the bottom and sides with a single piece without seams, then pour in the cheesecake mixture. Lower the cake pan into a roasting pan. Pour enough boiling water from the kettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the pie pan. Slide carefully into the oven. Bake for 50 minutes, then turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool in place.
After cooling, place in the fridge for a few hours. (Overnight won’t hurt.) Unsnap it from its tin and slide onto a plate. Press the remaining crumbs to the edge of the cake.
Meanwhile, halve the apricots and remove the stones. Put the orange juice, powdered sugar and 100 ml water in a stainless steel pan. Add apricots and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle bubble and let the fruit cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Take it from the stove and let it cool off. Store in the refrigerator until completely cold. Serve the apricots with the cheesecake, either on the side or on top of the cake, drained of the juice. Serve the juice in a small pitcher.
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