1. From another part of the world; foreign;
2. Intriguingly unusual or different; excitingly strange;
There will, no doubt, be much that fits those descriptions at this weekend’s Festival of World Cultures in Dun Laoghaire. A gloriously bubbling stew of music, dance, crafts and food from the far flung reaches of the globe. Even if food were your only interest – and who would I be to judge you for that – the festival’s International Food Traders would surely warrant a visit, as would the Global Village and the South Asian Mela Market.
All told, not a bad way to spend a few days. However, as luck and my projected geographical location for the weekend would have it, I will miss the entire thing. Clearly I will have to compensate by cooking something with a suitably international pedigree. Like ketchup. And if you suppose that such a ubiquitous sauce is too familiar to be exotic, you might have to revise your thinking when you meet the variety made from rhubarb.
See, the first thing you need to know is that, while tomato ketchup might hold a rather dominant position in the global condiment market, it isn’t even the original of the ketchup species.
What were called catsups originated in China and were discovered there by East India merchants sometime in the 17th century, who then introduced them to other parts of Asia and thence to Britain and beyond. Most early catsups were based on mushrooms and it was only when the tomato become more popular in the 19th century that tomato catsup start to emerge.
The chief virtue of early catsups was that they kept for a very long time and were thus popular on long sea voyages. In her book Curry, Lizzie Collingham reports on a recipe that Hannah Glasse provided in the 1748 edition of The Art of Cookery. The recipe, addressed to the “Captains of Ships”, called for stale beer, anchovies, mace, cloves, pepper, ginger and mushrooms in order to make a “Catchup to keep Twenty Years”.
Now, while I do expect this rhubarb ketchup to mature nicely over time, I can’t really guarantee that it will keep for 20 years. I, for one, could not restrain myself from eating such a tangy, fruity concoction for anything like that long.
I was casting around for something to do with the rhubarb from my garden, which is rapidly approaching the end of its season, when my beady eyes lit upon a recipe for rhubarb ketchup in Pam Corbin’s lovely book Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2 .
I would have to say, however, that my efforts at making this did not go according to the recipe plan – a plan which involved roasting rhubarb, onion and garlic, pushing the results through a sieve and then combining with vinegar, sugar and spices. My vegetable charges were nearly roasted into oblivion after the suggested roasting time, and pushing the results through a sieve would have yielded a miniscule amount of pulp. So I just took my roasted results, blended them with the other ingredients and adjusted amounts and the recipe accordingly.
Fortunately, I don’t think the result suffered. In fact, having opened the first batch after 3 weeks, I feel a distinct urge to make more so that I can eat it with Indian-style curries, mix with yoghurt for a tangy dip or just dollop onto the nearest plate of chips.
A word of warning: Do watch out for splashes as the ketchup simmers. My mixture was very thick and given to dangerous little eruptions, so it was important to keep it covered while simmering and to remove from the heat before checking progress.
- 1 kg rhubarb, chopped into approx. 2cm lengths
- 125g red onion, roughly chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled
- 150ml cider vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper
- 150g demerara sugar
You’ll also need:
- Baking trays for roasting the vegetables.
- A blender or food processor for blending the ketchup.
- Jars, wax seals and preferably non-metallic lids for approx. 600ml worth of ketchup (or more if you like a thinner consistency).
- Preheat your oven to 150C.
- Spread the rhubarb in a single layer on one or more baking trays, preferably lined with parchment paper. Spread the onion and garlic on a separate tray.
- Roast until the rhubarb, onion and garlic are completely soft and the onion is a little charred around the edges. Depending on your oven and on the thickness of the rhubarb stems, this may take from 20 to 40 minutes or so, so check periodically.
- While the vegetables are roasting, wash your jars in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and sterilise by boiling in water for 10 minutes and (once the vegetables are out of the oven), reduce the oven temperature to 140C and keep the jars there until ready to fill with ketchup.
- Using a food processor or blender, blend together the roasted rhubarb, onion and garlic with the cider vinegar, salt, cumin, coriander, ginger, cayenne and approx 400ml water. The mixture will be thick and pulpy.
- Place a large, non-reactive saucepan (aluminium, stainless steel or enamelled) over a medium heat. Add the blended rhubarb mixture and the sugar to the saucepan and stir to mix. If you want a thinner consistency for your ketchup, you can add a little more water if you like. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 25 to 35 minutes. The mixture will reduce a little and darken.
- Carefully pour the ketchup into your hot, sterilised jars, to within 3mm of the tops. Seal with a wax disc and cover with lids which have been dipped in boiling water.
- Leave in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks or more before using.
- I could certainly imagine adding some apples to this. If it were the right season for apples, that is.
- 600ml of thick, tasty ketchup.