Season’s eatings: rhubarb

Enjoy this month’s pick of the seasonal crop with an exclusive recipe from one of the region’s top chefs

Text: The earliest records of rhubarb go back to China 2700 BC when it was used for medicinal purposes. It first appeared in cooking in Europe in the early 1600s. These days it’s most often found in pies and puds, hence its nickname the ‘pie plant’. Naturally grown rhubarb – it’s a vegetable, not a fruit – is in season from this month through to late summer. It has a stronger flavour than rhubarb available earlier in the year which is the forced variety. Try this simple, yet oh-so effective recipe for Rhubarb Ketchup from Hotel La Tour chef de partie Sean Parkes. It goes beautifully with pork belly and makes a wonderful, relaxed dish for weekend entertaining.

Rhubarb Ketchup (for four):

A cross between a jelly and a puree, this side dish will brighten your main course.

Method: Poach 250g trimmed rhubarb until soft. Add 100g apple juice, 8g agar agar and a sprinkle of sugar to taste. Boil for 20 seconds. Place in fridge to set.

Roast pork belly: Salt and score pork belly and roast skin side down on a non-stick tray at 180C for an hour. Turn and roast until crisp (around another hour). Once cooked drain the fat, add a ladle of chicken stock and a teaspoon of flour to make a nice meaty sauce. To serve: Blitz the rhubarb ketchup in a blender until smooth and pour into a bowl. Garnish the pork belly with watercress and a little shaved fennel. Serve with the rhubarb ketchup alongside. Yummy!

Hotel La Tour, Albert St, Birmingham B5 5JE, tel 0121 718 8000