Desserts for Spring Cooking: Rhubarb Dessert
Please welcome Royal Chef Darren McGrady. He shares his kitchen tips and tricks with us in this special guest post series. Darren was personal chef to Queen Elizabeth II, Diana, Princess of Wales and Princes’ William and Harry for fifteen years and has cooked for five U.S. Presidents. He is now a sought-after chef, author, owner of Eating Royally fine dining catering service and culinary consultant living in Dallas, Texas.
What Spring Feels like to a Chef…
My office window looks out on two beautiful Japanese maples: one green, one pink. I get especially excited around the first week of March as the tiny leaves start to ‘spring’ on the trees.
It’s usually the first sign for me that spring is here. It’s my favorite time of the year as a chef. Saying goodbye to the season of gloomy winter months, slow braises, rich sauces, stews and heavy pies--and hello to the young, fresh spring garden shoots.
As a chef, I get as much pleasure from growing fruits and vegetables as I do from cooking them. Harvesting peas, beans, lettuce, chard and rhubarb, creating a new spring menu for the new season’s crop, and then planting for the summer.
Rhubarb for a Spring Dessert
I have to admit rhubarb is my favorite vegetable. Yes, I meant vegetable. It is often called a fruit because of its main use as a dessert when sweetened, but it is truly a vegetable. It dates back to the year 2700 B.C. in China, and has been a staple in the UK for more than one hundred years. I remember as a child helping my granddad pull rhubarb in his allotment. He quickly discarded the leaves, which are quite toxic. My grandmother then prepared light crumbles, and sometimes just softened the stalks and served with cream or ice cream.
While the ‘meatier’ rhubarb is ready in the fall and perfect for pies, my favorite is the young, spindly ‘forced’ rhubarb harvested in the spring. Grown in sheds without light, it becomes super sweet and tender. It is delicious cut into ½ inch pieces and lightly softened in a little water and sugar. I still remember my granddad and I sitting on the front porch with a bag of forced rhubarb stalks and a bowl of sugar from the kitchen, dipping the ends of the stalks into the sugar and biting off sweet piece after piece. Happy memories.
Interested in how to incorporate rhubarb into a delicious spring dessert? Check out my Walkers Shortbread Rhubarb, Ginger and Honeycomb Sundaes.