Hot pink, sweet, tart, versatile: new season rhubarb is the complete edible antidote to all the woes of January. It’s absurdly vivid colour is a beautifully stark contrast to the grey of the season, bold and daring and a little bit exciting to cook with. Its sweet-sour flavour is guaranteed to perk up the tastebuds after all the rich heaviness of Christmas fare.
Isn’t Mother Nature clever? Just as Christmas fizzles into the New Year, horrendous weather is battering the country and we never want to see cheese, meat or dried fruit again in our life, with a flourish, she brings out rhubarb.
New season rhubarb is a little more special than the kind you can find throughout the summer. It’s grown by being forced in dark sheds, which makes the stalks much more slender, brighter, and sweeter-tasting: it’s sometimes called Champagne rhubarb to denote its superior qualities. Later, naturally grown rhubarb is tougher, woodier, greener and much more sour. Sometimes you don’t even need to sweeten these tender Champagne stalks; other times just a couple of spoonfuls of sugar will do. It makes an absolutely beautiful addition to so many sweet things, particularly where dairy is involved, providing a snowy canvas against which to highlight its vivid colours.
This recipe is made with quark, a virtually fat-free cream cheese, lifted with vanilla and rippled through with a beautiful hot pink rhubarb puree. This sits on a gorgeous crunchy ginger biscuit base, again made with less butter than your average cheesecake but still retaining that moreish crunch from being baked in the oven. Chilled and set with gelatine rather than baked, this is much fresher-tasting than a baked cheesecake: the perfect dessert for a light new year meal.
here's what you'll need...
- 400g rhubarb, cut into 3cm lengths
- 14 gingernut biscuits (use ‘light’ ones to make it even more low-fat)
- 50g butter
- 500g quark
- 150g light cream cheese
- 1/2 tsp vanilla paste or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 150g icing sugar
- 60ml boiling water
- 1 sachet gelatine
- A punnet of blackberries