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RHUBARB ROSE WATER POSSET

4 February 2016

 British rhubarb is a tale of two seasons. In summer, luscious and sturdy green rhubarb flourishes. Huge, elephant ear leaves give shelter to dappled stalks, speckled pink and brilliantly tart in flavour. This rhubarb is a bit of a battle-axe - growing profusely, unfazed by the elements, abundant to the point of exasperation for its growers.

But in the bleakness of January and February, delicate forced rhubarb comes to the fore. Traditionally grown in Yorkshire by candlelight, this variety is denied the sunlight that nourishes its wild relation. Encased in darkness then 'forced' out of the ground with artificial light, the result is a more slender, pinker and sweeter version of this wonderful plant.

The season for forced rhubarb is short, and it's not as cheap to buy as the summer variety. But delicately poached, there are few things more beautiful or delicious. My grandparents force their own rhubarb with a steel bin and a good dose of determination, and I am resolute to follow their lead if I ever succeed in securing an elusive London allotment.

As for this recipe - it's simple, elegant, pretty and delicious. My mum's go to dinner party pudding was always lemon syllabub, and these pastel pink possets are a seasonal version of the classic.
THE INGREDIENTS 
150g forced rhubarb
150ml water
75g caster sugar
250ml double cream
1 tsp rose water
1/2 a lemon, juiced

Trim the ends away from the rhubarb, and cut the stalks into 3cm batons. Arrange in the base of a saucepan, sprinkle with 25g of the caster sugar, then pour over the water. Gently bring to the boil over a medium heat, then simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat when the rhubarb is soft and pink throughout, and the liquid has reduced to a thick, pink syrup. Leave to cool.

Pour the cream and the remaining sugar into a milk pan, mix, then bring to the boil. Allow it to bubble for a few seconds, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Drain 75ml of syrup from the rhubarb, then add this to the cream along with the rose water and lemon juice. Mix quickly, then pour the cream into 3-4 ramekins. Leave to set in the fridge for 3-4 hours. Serve topped with the rhubarb and a drizzle of the remaining syrup.

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