Whether you choose the cold month’s forced rhubarb or summer’s seasonal variety, rhubarb is low in calories but can taste a little sharp, so it’s best paired with naturally sweet foods
1. Custard meringue pudding
Chop rhubarb into 5cm chunks, put in an ovenproof dish in a single layer, then drizzle with a little honey. Bake at 190°C/fan 170°C/gas 5 for 15 min or until just tender. Make a meringue by whisking 2 egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually whisking in 50g golden caster sugar. Pour a tin of low-fat custard over the cooked rhubarb, then top with spoonfuls of meringue. Return to the oven until golden.
2. Rosewater fool
Classic rhubarb fool, made with whipped cream, is high in calories. To make it healthier, sweeten lightly cooked rhubarb with a little agave nectar, then fold through 0% fat Greek yogurt with a dash of rosewater. Decorate with a few chopped pistachios.
3. Savoury sauce
The tartness of rhubarb is an ideal match for oil-rich fish, such as mackerel, and richer meats, such as duck and pork. Put chopped rhubarb in a pan with some grated fresh ginger, a little orange zest and a splash of water, then simmer until tender. Add a little sugar and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly.
4. Juice mixer
Simmer chopped rhubarb with a split vanilla pod and just enough water to cover until the rhubarb is soft. Strain, then leave the juice to cool (keep the fruit for another recipe). It’s a bit tart on its own but delicious mixed with apple juice. If you’re not going to use the rhubarb juice straightaway, freeze it in ice cube trays ready to add to drinks.
5. Roasted fruit fro-yo
Chop about 750g rhubarb into chunks, then put on a large baking tray with 250g hulled strawberries. Sprinkle with 4tbsp light muscovado sugar, then bake at 190°C/fan 170°C/gas 5 for 15 min or until tender. Leave to cool, then mash with a fork. Halve the mixture, then stir into two large pots of low-fat vanilla yogurt. Freeze until just firm (or churn in an ice cream maker). Serve a scoop with a sprinkling of crushed ginger biscuits.
6. Adult-only jelly
Simmer rhubarb in a little water until tender, then strain the juice into a jug (keep the fruit for another recipe). Sweeten the juice with a little agave nectar. Dissolve a sachet of sugar-free jelly (blackcurrant, strawberry or orange flavour all work well) in 150ml boiling water, then top up with 75ml Pimm’s and the rhubarb juice until you have the amount of liquid recommended on the jelly pack. Pour into glasses, then chill in
the fridge until set.
7. Tangy salad
Shavings of raw rhubarb (made by running a vegetable peeler along the stem) make a delicious addition to salads. Try mixing with beetroot and spinach – and add a sweet dressing to combat the tartness of the rhubarb, if you like.
8. Fruit chutney
Put 500g chopped rhubarb, 1 chopped onion, 100ml cider vinegar, 1cm grated fresh ginger, 100g chopped dates and 100g light muscovado sugar in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 min or until slightly thickened, then transfer to a sterilised jar, cover and leave to cool completely. It will keep in the fridge for up to a month.
9. Zesty bread pudding
Spread fruit loaf slices with a mix of ricotta and orange zest, then cut into triangles and layer in a dish with lightly cooked rhubarb. Beat 3 eggs with 300ml semi-skimmed milk and 2tbsp caster sugar, then pour over the bread. Bake at 170°C/fan 150°C/gas 3½ for 30 min or until set.
10. Compote with toasted oats
Simmer equal amounts of chopped rhubarb and chopped pears in a little apple juice until soft (add light muscovado sugar to taste, if needed). Spoon into glasses, then top with 0% fat Greek yogurt and a drizzle of runny honey. Toast a handful of oats in a dry frying pan, cool slightly, then sprinkle over the yogurt.
What’s so good about rhubarb?
HFG expert Bridget Benelam says: ‘Rhubarb is a source of manganese, a trace mineral needed to get energy from food, for healthy bones and to protect cells from oxidative stress. It’s easy to think of rhubarb as a British food – thanks to classic tarts, pies and crumbles – but it’s originally from Asia, where traditionally it was used to treat constipation! Although there’s no evidence to prove the effectiveness of eating rhubarb to treat constipation, extracts of active compounds from rhubarb species have been shown to ease the condition.’