Karen Wright: Celebrating versatile vegetable rhubarb at festival weekend!

Delicious rhubarb and custard cheesecakeDelicious rhubarb and custard cheesecake
Delicious rhubarb and custard cheesecake
From February 17 to 19 it is the Rhubarb Festival here in Wakefield. For many years now we have been celebrating the glorious pink vegetable that thrives in the nine square miles that is affectionately called “The Rhubarb Triangle”.

Rhubarb is native to Siberia and does grow well in the cold wet winters here in Yorkshire. From mid-January until April the crops of bright pink and tender stalks of rhubarb are growing in heated sheds and in complete darkness.

We used to have rhubarb in our garden when I was a child and a very fond memory is of having a stick and a small twist of paper containing sugar to dip the rhubarb into and chomp through it in its raw state. My Mum used to bake delicious rhubarb crumbles and pies with our crop from the garden and rhubarb and custard was our very favourite.

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Of course there is so much more that can be made using rhubarb, and not just sweet things. Rhubarb pairs well with oily fish, meat, game and poultry. Last year when I was in the demo tent at the festival, I made a scrumptious Persian style chicken dish with soft spices, rhubarb and honey and this year I am going the savoury route on the Sunday morning when I will be making my rhubarb paella!

Of course rhubarb is a very popular pudding ingredient but it lends itself to much more than the inevitable crumble on the dessert menu. Last year in the demo tent I made a rhubarb and custard tart and Freya from last years Bake Off made a rhubarb pavlova. If you come along to the demo tent on the Friday morning, I will be making a rhubarb and custard cheesecake. I will crush custard cream biscuits to make the base and then stir some stewed rhubarb through a cheesecake filling. The next layer will be a gorgeous crem diplomat custard and the very top layer will be a glossy red rhubarb jelly. I am on stage both Friday and Sunday at eleven am, the demo tent is cosy and warm so why not come along and say hello! The festival has much more going on than just cookery demonstrations though. Another marquee hosts musicians and comedians, there are events in the Ridings and the pedestrian precinct will be full of traders selling their rhubarb related products. It is a fabulous free event and there is something for all the family to enjoy!