Ah spring! Must be one of the best times to be in Kent. No jokes here, the weather has been lovely, lots of sunshine, little rain. And the people here look after their gardens almost religiously, it is just great walking around the neighborhood and looking at the works of art some people have created in their front and backyard. So many flowers are out at the moment, and the first fruit and veg are appearing as well. Happy times! One of my favourite spring vegetables (or fruit – this is not uncontested) is rhubarb. My parents have a big bush of it in their garden and I grew up with rhubarb cakes and compotes in spring. So when I saw rhubarb at the farmer’s market here in Canterbury I had to get some.
I made this compote a few times last year and also gave it away as little presents, because it is SO good! Of course it is super easy to make, no surprise there. The almond aroma of the amaretto and the spices go really well together, but because it is a spring veg/fruit you don’t get that Christmas-y feeling. The compote goes really well on vanilla or plain yogurt, on pancakes, into cakes, over a nice scoop of ice cream or on top of a chocolate mousse (try this homemade easy recipe).
Here is what you need (yields about 4 cups of compote):
4 stalks of rhubarb
1 cup sugar (either white or soft brown)
1 organic lemon (lime will work as well)
2 small cinnamon sticks, broken in half
3 whole star anise
1/2 cup amaretto liqueur
At first you need to peel the rhubarb and trim the ends on both sides off. Then cut it into pieces of about 1 cm (a little less than 1/2 inch). Put the pieces of rhubarb in a big pot and cover them with the sugar. Let them sit for about half an hour so the sugar can extract some of the water from the rhubarb. If you are in a hurry you can also skip this step and should be fine. Next, with a potato peeler (or if you are good with a knife, do it freehand) peel off a few strands of the lemon peel and add to the pot. Then give the lemon a good squeeze and add the juice to the rhubarb. Now just throw the spice in and you are set.
Heat the mixture over medium heat and stir once in a while. Do not add any extra water, the rhubarb will release enough moisture. Cook until the rhubarb is really soft and falls apart and the sugar starts to thicken the mixture. Then add the amaretto and let it simmer for a few more minutes until it thickens again. And you are done! You can fill the hot rhubarb compote into sterilised glasses and preserve it to enjoy later. I actually like it that way, because the compote has more time to develop flavours and the spices will come through really well. Of course you could preserve some, and enjoy some straight away. Hope you have a great spring!