What’s in a name, eh?
There have been several occasions of late where I have happened upon blog posts describing fruit compôtes and, each time, I have experienced precisely the same sequence of reactions, to wit:
- compôte – oooh, sounds fancy, quickly followed by…
- ah, you just mean stewed fruit
Now, don’t get me wrong, the compôtes described were lovely and more than worthy of gracing my web browser with their presence. It’s just that, in my head at least, the word compôte generated a mental image of something more ooh la la than an everyday bowl of stewed fruit.
The fact of the matter is, however, that there is really no difference between the two. A compôte (almost literally) boils down to some pieces of fruit stewed in syrup. What that means is that, apart from the fruit itself, there was some water and sugar involved. There may or may not have been some additional flavourings in on the act. Oh, and a saucepan and some gentle heat if you want to be really particular about it. But that’s it. It’s just fruit (as much as you want to eat) chopped up and stewed in a little water (the amount of which is invariably less than you think you’ll need) over a gentle heat with sugar added to taste. To be honest, I had to go and look it up, just to make sure that I hadn’t missed something. Other than the fact that some (but not all) definitions specify that the fruit pieces should stay intact for it to be a compôte, that is indeed pretty much it.
The point, I guess, is that how we describe food can predispose us to think of it in certain contexts and make it more or less accessible, without changing the material fact of what the food is or how it is made. The orangey stewed rhubarb I describe below is no more or less lovely or tasty than if I had described it as an orange rhubarb compôte. Purists could quibble over the fact that this particular dish did not a compôte make, the rhubarb having completely disintegrated in the stewing process, but let’s just leave them in the quibbling corner. What I’m getting at is that people’s perceptions of a dish can have a lot to do with how they relate (or not) to it and while simple food does not have to mean plain food, it is sometimes nice to let the food speak plainly.
Stewed Rhubarb With Orange Juice and Cinnamon
This all came about as a result of having gotten my paws on the first rhubarb of the season from my mothers garden and I simply thought, well, stew that! I have to thank Christie from Fig and Cherry for suggesting this particular combination. I was about to stew the rhubarb with my usual pinch of dried ginger when she mentioned (or should I say tweeted) that she loved it stewed with orange juice and a cinnamon stick. So I went with that and it was very fine indeed.
- About 250g rhubarb
- Juice of one orange, about 6 tblsps or so
- 1 cinnamon stick, approx 3cm long
- Sugar to taste
- Wipe the rhubarb sticks clean and slice into small pieces, say about 1 cm wide, and remove any stringy bits of the skin.
- Add the rhubarb to a saucepan with the orange juice and the cinnamon stick. The rhubarb will release a lot of liquid as it cooks, so you don’t need any additional liquid here.
- Place the saucepan, covered, over a medium heat, until it just starts to bubble, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the rhubarb pieces are very soft and disintegrate easily, around 20 to 25 minutes.
- You can remove the cinnamon stick now and stir in sugar to taste. I used about 25g of demerara sugar in this, which meant that the rhubarb still retained a fair amount of tartness, but it really all depends on the particular rhubarb and orange juice you use and on your own personal sweet tooth.
- You can eat this warm, cold or at room temperature. Eat on its own or as a dessert with yoghurt, cream or ice cream. Spoon it on your breakfast cereal or spread it onto some crusty white buttered bread. The possibilities are endless.
- Replace the orange juice with an equal amount of water and add a pinch of dried ginger in place of the cinnamon stick.
- This much rhubarb probably amounts to around 2 dessert portions, if that’s how you plan on eating it.