Orange blossom water adds a beautiful floral note to the rhubarb in this dish. The smell takes me back to the medina in Fez, the air in the narrow streets was filled with the delicate scent of the blossoms as we walked past busy stalls selling it.
There where huge baskets of freshly picked blossoms and shops full of bottles of orange blossom water at one part that we walked through. It was such an amazing experience to wonder around the maze like streets and see all the stalls.
The area that was selling the orange blossoms was definitely more pleasant on the nose than other parts of the market, the leather tannery being one of them, that was not quite as sweet!! I will write a post all about my trip to morocco at some point I’m sure.It paired so well with the honey that I used, as it was a delicious orange blossom flavoured one, so it was a marriage made in heaven.
For this recipe I have used honey in three ways, in the labneh, to sweeten the rhubarb and for the nut clusters. I really love the delicate flavour orange blossom honey gives, but feel free to use any honey that you like.
Forced rhubarb is a little more tender than the out door grown variety, so when it is in season at the beginning of the year-until spring I tend to buy as much of it as I can. I just love that bright pink colour too. If your unfamiliar with forced rhubarb then it does taste a little different than the out door grown stuff.To get a bit nerdy with you, It starts its life grown out in the fields. It is usually left for two years so it can store up carbohydrates in its roots. Then its moved inside, to a dark warm shed. This is usually done in November after the first frost. In the dark (pitch black) sheds the plants begin to grow in the warmth and the stored carbohydrate in the roots are transformed into glucose resulting in forced rhubarb’s sour-sweet flavour. Because its grown with out sunlight it changes the colour of the leaves and stems to a fluorescent pink and green. The farmers who grow it pick it in candle light so that no light gets in. I find it so fascinating.
It could work well for breakfast or dessert. I really love sweet things for breakfast, but if your not a fan I would suggest serving this as a pudding. Its simple and doesn’t take a lot of work, but looks really pretty so its perfect for serving guests.
You may have noticed that I am a bit obsessed with honey at the moment, so expect quite a few recipes with it.
Labneh is a strained cream cheese that is made from yogurt. Its often used in middle eastern recipes, so that is what inspired me to pair it with the orange blossom water. It is so easy to make, simply just two basic ingredients; yogurt and salt. Then you can add flavours to it and go from there. It is usually served as a savoury cream cheese, plain or sometimes with spices, but it can be sweetened and turned into a completely different labneh all together. Imagine a beautifully think yogurt. This was a sweet one so after adding the salt, I added honey and orange blossom water.
To make it:
- Full fat Greek yogurt (a large tub approx. 500g)
- half a teaspoon of salt
- 3 tablespoons runny honey
- 1 tsp orange blossom water (or more to taste)
- To make it line a colander with a cheesecloth, place the colander over a bowl or in the sink.
- In a mixing bowl mix the yogurt, salt, honey and orange blossom water.
- Tip into the middle of the cloth and pull up the edges and tie with string. Squeeze out any liquid and then leave to hang in the fridge over night with a bowl underneath, or place it in the fridge in the colander with a bowl underneath.
- The next day, squeeze it again to remove any remaining liquid. Then its ready to use. It will be like a soft but spreadable ball of cheese now. For this dish I wanted it to be really smooth so I whipped it.
To do this, before serving I put it in a bowl and whipped it with a whisk and served it spread in the bowl and topped it with the rhubarb (scroll down for recipe), some of the juice from the rhubarb pan, some of the clusters (scroll down for recipe) and some honeycomb.
- 5 large stems of forced rhubarb (or normal rhubarb)
- 3 tbsp. honey
- 2 tbsp. orange blossom water
- juice of 1 orange
- zest of one orange
- 1 vanilla bean
Preheat oven to 180c 350f
Slice the rhubarb into chunks and place on a baking tray, drizzle over honey, orange blossom water, orange juice and zest. Slice the vanilla bean and scrape out some of the seeds and mix with the juice in the pan, add the pod to the tray and roast for 10 minutes. Turn the pan and bake for another 5, or until the rhubarb is soft but holds its shape.
For nut clusters (I originally created them for the lemon ricotta cheesecake here)
- 1/2 cup flaked almonds
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 table spoon runny honey (this doesn’t have to be exact just enough to coat the almonds)
- 1 tsp caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180c 350f
Mix all the ingredients together and spread on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes then toss and mix the mixture and then bake for another 2 minutes and stir them again so they will be evenly browned and bake for another 2 minutes. Once golden remove tray from the oven and while the mixture is still hot arrange the almonds into clusters and leave to cool. (serve as mentioned above)