Rhubarb – the vegetable that thinks it’s a fruit

Rhubarb is an amazing vegetable, although we treat it like a fruit.  One of the earlier vegetables to be available in the year, rhubarb is in season from January (forced variety grown in sheds) through to the end of May.  A very misunderstood and underused vegetable, Rhubarb is extremely versatile and can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes.  Extremely easy to grow it doesn't need a lot of time and attention to produce an excellent crop.  It's also very easy to freeze, just pick the stems (don't eat the leaves as they are high in oxalic acid and can make you feel rather unwell!) chop into pieces and freeze for use through the rest of the year.

Used in ancient Chinese medicine for stomach ailments and alleviating constipation (it's high in fibre), rhubarb can also be used in a poultice to help reduce fevers and swelling.

Rhubarb is high in vitamin K, which supports healthy bones and brain health. It is also high in vitamin C (immune system), vitamin A (eye health, antioxidant) as well as folate, B vitamins , manganese, iron, potassium and phosphorous.  Cooked rhubarb contains as much calcium as milk and is great for those on a dairy free diet.

A very tart individual rhubarb is usually stewed and sweetened before being eaten.  The best known way to eat rhubarb is with a crumble topping, it also goes really well with ginger and orange.

Putting rhubarb together with Mackerel gives  a meal packed with awesomeness from a nutritional perspective.


For the chutney

  • 75g/2⅔oz caster sugar 25g/1oz sultanas few sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2cm/¾in piece root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 sticks rhubarb
  • 5 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 orange, juice only
  • salt and black pepper

For the mackerel

  • 2 whole mackerel, gutted, filleted and pin boned
  • rapeseed oil, for cooking

For the salad

  • 1 orange, segmented
  • 2 heads chicory, separated into leaves
  • 100g/3½oz pea shoots
  • small handful celery tops
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • rapeseed oil, for dressing
  • salt and black pepper

For the garnish

  • 1 stick rhubarb, sliced into ribbons using a vegetable peeler

Preparation method

  1. For the chutney, in a heavy-based pan melt the sugar until a golden-brown caramel forms. Remove from the heat and stir in the sultanas, rosemary sprigs, ginger, shallot and rhubarb.
  2. Stir in the cider vinegar and orange juice. Bring back to the boil and cook gently for 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
  3. To make the salad, mix together the orange segments, chicory leaves, pea shoots, celery tops and dill. Dress with rapeseed oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. For the mackerel, place the mackerel fillets skin-side up on an oven tray. Brush with rapeseed oil and use a blow torch to cook evenly. Turn over and repeat on the other side (alternatively place the fillets under a hot grill). Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve a spoonful of chutney with the cooked mackerel fillets and salad. Garnish with ribbons of rhubarb.

Taken from BBC Food, a James Martin recipe


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