Wednesday, 18 March 2015


I did not grow up where rhubarbs grow. I hadn't seen a single stalk of it till we lugged our life and luggage to England. Then, suddenly there they were, lying in their market stall. These lounging, stretching, graceful stalks. Pink and slender and as foreign as flamingoes. So, I admired their beauty, and skirted around them the way one skirts around beautiful, foreign things.

But when you live in this country, rhubarb will find its way to you. Rhubarb in ice-creams, rhubarb in pies, rhubarb with its feisty kick aimed at the corners of your jaw. Who'd have guessed? That this slender thing in its pink cocktail gown could kick like a ninja.

I loved it. I loved the coy exterior and the tart within. Rhubarb has personality. It is what it is; you either like it, or you don't. It's Marmite vegetable.

And to me, it's as English as Marmite too. In my technicolour rhubarb-imagination, I can see it's delicate stalks stewing on an AGA in an English country kitchen, then put in a pie and served to a lady, who, as the camera zooms in, I see is Beatrix Potter putting the finishing touches to Tabitha Twitchit's prickles.

But what if you invited this English Rhubarb into a different kitchen, into my kitchen? I bought six pink and well-mannered rhubarb stalks last week. D and Chotto-ma used half of the stalks to bake me a lovely cake on Mother's Day.

And I had my way with the other half.

Rhubarb & Red Lentil Soup with Ras-el-hanout

This soup! It's a very, very, very fine soup. We've had it on a loop for a week. It's a great example of why rhubarb needs to be thrown into savoury recipes more often. The recipe was inspired by a tangy dal we had growing up - a simmered mix of red lentils and raw mango. This soup has the same tart edge, balanced by the natural sweetness of carrots. The ras-el-hanout, which we carried back freshly ground from Morocco adds a beautiful North African moorishness. (You can, of course, buy ras-el-hanout, as well as the turmeric in the recipe, in almost all supermarkets and Middle-Eastern grocers.)


250 gms red lentil, washed
2 stalks of rhubarb
2 carrots, chopped into small cubes
1 medium onion, also chopped small
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp coarse black pepper (crushing a few with a pestle is even better)
Bunch of parsley, chopped (or coriander - both work well)
1 1/2 tsp ras-el-hanout
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbs olive oil

Cut off the head and tail of your rhubarb stalk; the leaves are toxic, so must always be trimmed off. Not cut your stalks in 1-inch pieces. (Usually, I leave my rhubarb unpeeled and pink, but for the soup, white looked better than the final watered-down pink, so I peeled the stalks. Feel free to leave the pink on with rhubarb that is very fresh and firm.)
Heat the olive oil in a deep pot. Throw the onions, garlic, carrots in together. Stir for two minutes, then add 4 cups of water.
Add the lentils, rhubarb, half of the parsley (or coriander), ras-el-hanout, bayleaf, pepper and salt.
Cover and simmer till the lentils have split evenly. Add more water if needed.

Taste for salt, simmer for a minute more giving it a good stir.
Serve hot garnished with the rest of the chopped parsley (or coriander).

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  1. I have read about rhubarb being used in cooking, and have been quite intrigued by it too, but have never had a chance to see how it looks. Thanks to your pictures, now I do. :) Would love to taste it some day.

    1. Its taste is quite similar to raw , cooked mango. And it's a beautiful vegetable! I could put it in a vase :)

  2. "Pink and slender and as foreign as flamingoes"...what a beautiful way to describe something Pia...

  3. It turns out that Bavaria is a rhubarb loving place too thankfully or else I would miss it! Here they have rhubarb juice with fizzy water, which is actually really nice. I have never had it in soup though! My Mum used to make us jellies with it in, as we didn't like it otherwise as young children! :D

    1. Rhubarb juice with fizzy water sounds lovely for the summer!
      You must try the soup sometime, Emma - savoury rhubarb has a fantastic flavour, and this one makes a great warm-weather soup too x

  4. Your writing is like the crimson stalks, graceful, leisurely but sink deeper and you feel the punch. How's that for a compliment? :)

    1. You're killing me! I'd blush crimson if I wasn't brown :))
      Thank you, sweet girl *muah!*

  5. The "coy exterior and the tart within" could well describe an Indian Plum too! Loved the descriptions!!

    1. Thanks, AD :)
      Indian Plum, yes, amongst other things!

  6. Hi, does this freeze? I have a glut of rhubarb, LOVED your chutney so thought I'd give this a bash.

    1. It should freeze, Jules - I haven't haven't tried freezing this, but I've frozen dal, and this is pretty much dal with rhubarb.
      Love that you enjoyed the chutney!

    2. Fab, that's this afternoon's activity planned


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