KCC’s Revolutionary Rhubarb Recipes

25 April 2022

While walking through the market in Samarkand recently we came across tables laden with something we hadn’t seen for quite a while – rhubarb, those colourful stalks that instantly evoke childhood memories of rhubarb crumbles served with custard. In Samarkand, the favoured way to eat the stalks is raw.

Rhubarb is a classic harbinger of spring, with its short growing season over by summer. Often thought of as a fruit because of its use in puddings, complete with lashings of sugar to counteract its tartness, these stalks are in fact a vegetable.

Rhubarb has a long history in Chinese traditional medicine. It started to be imported into the west, where it was prized for its medicinal properties, along the Silk Roads in the 14th century. Transport costs, along with its popularity and relative scarcity, saw it command a higher price than cinnamon, saffron, and opium at one point.

Its high price spurred efforts to localise its cultivation and by the 18th century it was being successfully grown in Europe. The edible stalk’s greater availability, combined with the arrival of affordable sugar, led to it becoming a culinary staple in the world of desserts.

Rhubarb also has its uses in savoury dishes with its sharp flavour adding an interesting note to a lentil dhal. We served our dhal with a fruity plov and some flat bread. Any leftovers can be mixed with chickpea flour to make a fritter as part of an unusual brunch.

Ingredients (makes four servings)

  • 200 g rhubarb
  • One large onion
  • 150 g red lentils
  • 75 g spinach
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 500 ml vegetable stock 
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon cinnamon
  • One teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • 50 g chickpea  flour

Method

  • Heat the oil and cumin seeds in a heavy-based pan. When the seeds start to sizzle, add the chopped onion. Cook for five minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the cinnamon and red chilli flakes and the rhubarb stalk, cut into 1 cm slices – do not use the leaves as these can be bad for your health.
  • Cook for three minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally, and then add the washed lentils and the vegetable stock. cook over a low heat for 20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the washed spinach and serve hot with rice or flat bread (or both!)
  • To make rhubarb fritters, mix leftover 200 g dhal with 50 g chickpea flour. Form into eight walnut-sized balls and fry in oil on both sides until starting to brown, flattening with a fish slice as they cook.

The Golden Soup of Samarkand

23 January 2020

This week’s offering – a soup made from chickpeas and carrots, was inspired by a recent visit to a funky Central Asian restaurant called Saksaul in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. This soup appeared on the menu, but unfortunately there wasn’t any left that day. Spotting yellow carrots on sale in the market after returning home, we decided to cook up our own version.

KCC’s Golden Soup of Samarkand featuring yellow carrots and chickpeas

Our soup contains two ingredients that are common in the cookery of Samarkand in Uzbekistan – chickpeas and yellow carrots. Not all carrots are orange in Central Asia, you can even find black ones on occasion, but we find these yellow ones particularly sweet and tasty.

Yellow (and a bit green!) carrots on sale in Kazakhstan

This famed Silk Road city of Samarkand provided further inspiration for our golden potage with spices such as cumin, coriander and turmeric that are still bought and sold along this ancient trade route.

Ingredients (makes 4 portions)

  • 500 g yellow carrots
  • 500 g chickpeas
  • Two yellow onions
  • Two garlic cloves
  • Two teaspoons mustard seeds
  • Two teaspoons chilli powder
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • Two teaspoons coriander seeds
  • Two teaspoons turmeric
  • 50 ml vegetable oil
  • One litre vegetable stock

Method

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over a medium heat for five minutes. Add the other spices and mix well.
  • Next add the diced carrot and stir to coat the carrot with the mix. Cook for five more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chickpeas and stir well, then add the stock and reduce to a low heat and simmer the soup for 30 minutes or so.
  • Using a stick blender, liquidise the soup. Pour into bowls and garnish with chickpeas and a sprinkling of cumin seeds. Serve with bread – we used a flatbread but any crusty bread will work just as well.