Sunday 9 January 2011

Chicken with Baked Rhubarb and Cucumber and Radish Salad

Chicken with rhubarb

I love the way rhubarb unfurls out of the spring soil to display a Mateus flushed shard of swollen stem and tough, poisonous leaves. I love the ritual of forcing rhubarb in darkened conditions to beat your neighbours to serving the first rhubarb of the season. I think back longingly of my grandmother’s hit or miss rhubarb fool that was always delicious, if a little stringy. And will almost always order a rhubarb dessert if I see it on the menu. Unfortunately, we don’t eat much rhubarb as a family because the acid gives us all joint ache. But it’s worth the discomfort.

Up until now I’d not thought too much about rhubarb (shocking I know). But the more I read, the more interesting it becomes. For starters who knew that rhubarb is actually a vegetable and is in the Rheum family and is therefore closely related to sorrel? Or that in America it is legally a fruit because a judge said so in 1947? Or that it originated in Asia and has only been cultivated in the western world for the last two or three hundred years? Or that the roots can be dried and used as a tonic to cure constipation and circulatory issues? Or, more importantly, that this enigmatic stem is amazing with chicken?

Trina Hahnemann’s recipe for “chicken with baked rhubarb and cucumber -radish salad” immediately stood out from her Nordic Diet cookbook, partly because of the stunning photograph but more significantly because of its weirdness.

Nordic Diet-4

But when you think about it, the idea makes a lot of sense. Chicken is great with lemon and other acid driven accompaniments, so long as it is balanced by something sweet to take the tartness away.


Chicken legs
2 stalks of rhubarb
A few spoons of honey (she uses raw sugar – but I prefer honey)
1 Cucumber
10 Radishes
Yoghurt (preferably goats’)
1 clove of garlic
Chopped mint


Season the chicken legs and roast for 30 minutes. Meanwhile chop the rhubarb into 2 inch long batons and lightly coat in honey. After 30 minutes add the rhubarb and cook for a further 15 minutes.

To make the salad finely slice the radishes and de-seed, then finely slice the cucumber. Mix with just enough yoghurt, a finely minced clove of garlic and the chopped mint. Season.

Serve the chicken with the salad and garnish with a sprig of mint. It’s a great way to use up a glut of rhubarb in late spring or as a way of causing a bit of Steingarten-esque debate about the differences between fruit and vegetables. I think it is a fantastic idea and am looking forward to experimenting further. I wonder what a rhubarb-ified version of honey lemon chicken would be like?

Further reading

Other rhubarb chicken recipes on Rhubarb Compendium including roast chicken stuffed with rhubarb and the psychopathically named chicken smothered in rhubarb

Rhubarb as an accompaniment to fish in the Independent

Mackerel with roasted rhubarb from Nigel Slater

Savoury recipes for rhubarb on Chowhound

Jeffrey Steingarten’s Man Who Ate Everything (including a spellbinding chapter called Ripeness is All about the differences between fruit and vegetables)

Trina Hahnemann’s – The Nordic Diet on Amazon

The science of rhubarb poisoning

This post is part of little series dedicated to The Nordic Diet cookbook which was sent to me by Quadrille.


Unknown said...

I love rhubarb but would never have thought of pairing it with chicken - have heard of duck and rhubarb dishes but this sounds quite different.

Food Urchin said...

We moved a fair few of our rhubarb plants around the allotment last year but hopefully they'll come on with a flourish. If they do, I'll have to try this

Unknown said...

I made this last spring and it was GOOOOD... love the sweet/sharp of the rhubarb with the roasty schmaltz of the chicken.... sooooo good!... enough oooooo's?

Jonathan said...

@Gourmet Chick - Duck sounds like a good accompaniment. Looking forward to trying it with some spices.

@Food Urchin - Ah, a rhubarb cultivator. Looking forward to hearing how you get on.

@Dom - Can you ever have enough "ooooooooooooooos"?

Alex said...

What an intriguing combination. Can see why it works though - lemon and chicken are natural bedfellows so no reason why rhubarb can't work really well

Jess Shanahan said...

I'd never thought of rhubarb with chicken but it sounds bloody delicious.

Gin and Crumpets said...

Love the idea of rhubarb with chicken. You;re right, it does just make sense. Looks fabulous.

Jonathan said...

@Alex - Intriguing indeed. Very tasty.

@Jess Shanahan - Worked really well. And healthy too.

@Gin and Crumpets - I'm sure there are lots of ways to use rhubarb as a vegetable and am going to explore them in the spring.


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