What to eat in
Delicious purple sprouting broccoli is available in April – and rhubarb can be used in a range of pleasing puddings
In April, there are plenty of seasonal treats available – and one of these is rhubarb. Although it's actually a vegetable, rhubarb is nearly always treated as a fruit, cooked and sweetened with sugar or honey and added to desserts. It's surprisingly good in savoury dishes too though, and goes particularly well with duck, pork or strongly flavoured fish such as mackerel.
Rhubarb tastes too tart to eat raw, so cook it by roasting or stewing. Or try poaching 500g chopped rhubarb with a cup of orange juice and 75g sugar. When the rhubarb has softened, strain off the syrupy juice – this can be added to Champagne or Prosecco for a wonderful sparkly cocktail, while the cooked rhubarb can be used in a pie or crumble.
In sweet dishes, finely chopped stem ginger is the perfect addition to roasted rhubarb. For a mouth-watering rhubarb fool, purée roasted or stewed rhubarb and fold into equal quantities of custard and whipped cream, then stir in the ginger.
Rhubarb, pear and ginger crumble
300g rhubarb, cut into 2cm chunks
2 large conference pears, peeled, cored and chopped into chunks
2 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoon orange juice
200g plain flour
100g granulated sugar
Put the rhubarb, pears and ginger into a saucepan with the caster sugar and orange juice and simmer gently for about seven minutes until the fruit is soft but not too mushy. Pour into an ovenproof dish.
Rub together the flour and butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the granulated sugar. Alternatively, if you have one, whizz the flour, butter and sugar together in a food processor. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the cooked fruit and press down lightly with a fork.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot with custard or ice-cream.
Good for you
Purple sprouting broccoli is readily available this month. This tender, deeply-coloured cousin of calabrese, or standard green broccoli, can be cooked in much the same way. Steamed gently for about five minutes, the long, thin florets are delicious served simply with melted butter and lemon juice, and they make a fantastic alternative to toast soldiers when dipped into a soft-boiled egg. Or use to fill a quiche with some strong, tasty cheddar.
In many kitchen gardens, kale will still be growing strongly. An often under-rated vegetable – once considered only suitable as winter feed for sheep and cattle – it's now having a bit of a comeback, often appearing on the menu of fancy restaurants.
With good reason, too – kale is extremely good for you, being packed with calcium and high in vitamins A and C. Cooked correctly, kale can be delicious too. It can be boiled, like cabbage, but is so much nicer when given some special treatment – try sautéing in butter with onion, garlic and finely chopped red chilli, then add a little vegetable stock and simmer until the kale is tender.
Kale can be used in any recipe that calls for spinach – it has more body and texture than spinach so makes a robust substitute. Steamed kale can be mixed with ricotta cheese and used to stuff cannelloni or savoury pancakes.
Kale comes in several different varieties: curly green kale is the most common, but cavolo nero – an almost black, Italian variety – is worth seeking out. Then there's Redbor, a frilly red version to add a splash of colour to your plate – and which makes a tasty version of crispy Chinese seaweed when finely shredded and stir-fried in sesame oil with a little salt and sugar.
Leeks and kale are perfect together, especially when combined with strong-flavoured cheese, such as Stilton. Try adding these ingredients to risotto, pasta sauces and pies.
Little Green Space April 2016