Stalk of the town

Rhubarb has arrived to brighten our days and tide us over until a wider selection of fruit becomes available in early spring.

Rhubarb is a vegetable, but its high acid content makes it work better in sweet rather than savoury dishes. Warmed and balanced by the addition of sugar and vanilla, it loses much of the sharp taste that can make it a little unpalatable.

At this time of year, it is forced rhubarb that is available to us: paler, softer and more delicate in flavour than the more fibrous variant that comes later in the year – and it is the one that I prefer. Simply poached or lightly roasted, it is wonderful with vanilla ice-cream, baked custard or panna cotta.