I was scrolling through my Instagram feed last week and saw a photo from New York City of bunches of rhubarb piled high at a farmers’ market. ‘Rhubarb is at the Greenmarket!’ the caption read. ‘Just one stall is selling it. Get here quick before it sells out.’ Commenters on the photo were rushing over to get some, with one eventually saying, ‘I got the last bunch!’
After a long, dark winter, rhubarb is one of the first things to come back to life in the garden. While people in Manhattan might be dropping everything to get their hands on some, it’s old news in Ireland by now — it’s been in the markets since February. When I see it in the shops again, I like to make a quick and easy compote* before the inevitable crumbles, tarts or cake. The rose water makes this compote heady and exotic and is a nice change from the usual pairings with ginger or citrus. I think the rhubarb and rose combination would also make a gorgeous jam.
This compote is endlessly versatile. Spoon it over granola and yoghurt for breakfast or vanilla ice cream for dessert, serve it alongside a plain panna cotta or shortbread, fold it into whipped cream to make a fool or even strain it and use the syrup for an elegant rhubarb and rose Bellini. If you want to brighten it up a little, try adding a squeeze of lime juice. No matter what you do with it, enjoy one of the first tastes of spring.
*Love compote? Try this gooseberry and elderflower compote when the berries and flowers are in season soon.
Rhubarb and Rose Compote
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) rhubarb
75 g (1/3 cup) sugar
2 tablespoons rose water
Top and tail the rhubarb and cut it into 3 cm (1 inch) pieces. Place the rhubarb, sugar and rose water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. This will keep in the fridge for 1 week stored in an airtight container.