Monday, April 30, 2012

Rhubarb


Roasted rhubarb on granola. Towpath Cafe, East London


After a couple weeks of Intoxicating Gnawa music, camels, blush-colored sand, and tender braised meat in a cumin-saffron ballroom of flavors.... it was again time to exit the incredible country of Morocco.

I flew to London.

First of all, let me tell you that two of my most incredible discoveries happen in this trip to London:

I flew BMI for the first time. Possibly the ONLY airline on the planet anymore that not only allows 30 free kilos of luggage in economy (as opposed the normal 22-25 kilos.) Which is extremely helpful in supporting my ever growing leather-baboosh and spice tagine collection.
But also............ All drinks are free in economy class.
Qu'est-ce que c'est?!
drinks.are.free.

Peggy and I settled into our seats (with a surprising amount of leg room, might I add) and dug through our purses of change, separating out the Euros and Dirhams and Dollars, to find the Pounds needed to buy ourselves a gin a tonic. But alas, all drinks are free on BMI flights! Make note!




Now the other incredible discovery was the sweet canal-side cafe of a dear friend of Peggy's.
Towpath Cafe  is located in East London. It hugs the canal, as small miss-matching tables and chairs pour out onto the sidewalk. You place your order in with Lori, the owner and dreamer of this adorable cafe. Leaning up against the wood counter to order a cappuccino, and lusting over the olive oil cake, dark chocolate walnut brownies, marmalade almond tart, and spice cake. There are few things as beautiful in my world than to find a perfectly constructed, intimate, and tasty cafe.

A chalkboard menu reads:
Fresh blood orange juice
Porridge with apple compote
Granola with roasted rhubarb 
Grilled cheese sandwich with chili jelly
Bread and house-made preserves

Items served on tin plates or mix n match diner-style porcelain. Simple and inviting. I order the granola, a cappuccino..... and a slice marmalade almond tart.



Roasted Rhubarb- Towpath Style
Rhubarb
2 Bay leaves
Zest of 1 Orange
1T Peppercorns
1/2 c Lemon juice
4 Cinnamon sticks
1 Vanilla bean
1/4 c honey


Clean rhubarb well, and peal off any tough, stringy bits. They tend to not soften quite right. Cut rhubarb into 2" chunks and place into desired roasting pan. Zest the orange into thick, wide strips, with very little white pith. Split the vanilla bean down the center, and scrape out the seeds from the middle, placing all in the roasting pan. Add the remaining ingredients, and mix all together well to coat the rhubarb chunks. Place on the middle rack of a preheated 325 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. You can lightly mix or shake the pan once during the roasting, but be careful not to mix it very often as the integrity of the rhubarb may change. Serve at room temperature atop granola and yogurt. (This is my favorite granola recipe to use.) Or even enjoy it on ice cream, scones, in a trifle...... whatever tickles your rhubarb fancy!




We sat for hours lingering over pots of tea, and recounting stories from recent trips to India, Morocco and Jamaica. Trying to gather our words and experiences while the essence from those trips begins to slowly fade away and melt off our skin. After days of meeting at the Towpath and and sipping coffee cups dry, Peggy and I separated ways and I took a train to Bristol to meet an old friend.



Even though It's pouring rain in Florida as I write this, and that I currently live in a hotel room (sans cooking possibilities...) Still,  the thought alone of rhubarb and English market stands has me remembering that this really is spring time. And that soon enough, my granola will be topped with roasted, red rhubarb in celebration of the winning discoveries of late in London.

Cheers,
-A


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