Spring zing

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By Jan Bilton

Rhubarb is the essence of Spring. Young stalks are tender and their tang and texture can be enjoyed raw (in moderation), sliced into salsas or savoury salads. Mature stalks become woody and require stringing before cooking.

Technically a vegetable, rhubarb is nearly always used as a fruit. A native to Siberia and East Asia, it was used as far back as 2000 BC for medicinal purposes because of its purgative and astringent qualities. Mentions of a form of rhubarb appeared in the Pen Tsao, the works of a Chinese pharmacist of this period.

It was introduced to England in 1573 where, for two centuries, it was a gardener’s curiosity. The leaves are unsafe for eating as they are high in oxalic acid, a crystalline substance which is used as a bleach and cleansing agent for metals. The stalks though are non-toxic.

RHUBARB & RASPBERRY MUFFINS

These can be frozen. However, they need to be reheated in a conventional oven so the topping doesn’t go soggy.

Topping: 1/4 cup sugar

Rhubarb & Raspberry Muffins

1/2 cup plain flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

50g butter, melted

Muffins: 2 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1 cup frozen raspberries

2 cups finely diced rhubarb

2 3/4 cups self-raising flour

1/2 teaspoon each: baking soda, ground cinnamon, nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly brush a 12-hole muffin pan with melted butter.

Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl.

Beat the eggs and sugar until well combined then add the buttermilk, raspberries and rhubarb. Fold in the sifted dry ingredients.

Spoon into the muffin holes and sprinkle with the topping. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes then cool on a wire rack. Makes 15.

  • Jan Bilton is an award-winning, professional food writer. For more of her recipes visit her website here.

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