An excess of richness is a real thing (both in food and life).
What you need every now and again is a pickle. Something to make you pucker and wince a bit. A prick of contrast to point out how indulgent everything is.
It can come in the form of realising you’ve probably missed the window on cheap flights back home at Christmas (LIFE). Or having piquant slices of rhubarb to go with roast pork or ribs (FOOD).
Having a bit of a pickle on your plate helps with perspective.
We know that even entertaining heading half way around the world twice in four months is prime evidence of how fortunate we are.
And we’ve recently discovered that a few coins of pickled rhubarb bring some important cut through to a rich feast of pork ribs or roasted belly. Without them, it can all seem a bit monotonously indulgent.
These pickles the simplest things in the world to make. Essentially it’s a sugar and salt scrub that’s tossed over thin slices of rhubarb stem. Left aside for an hour or so it steeps into the stem, softening them and bring a a zippy sting of flavour.
I first had something similar at Momofuku in New York. David Chang applies this salt and sugar principle to all sorts of fruits and vegetables; cucumbers, daikon, watermelon and radishes. His version uses less salt and less sugar and cures them for only 20 minutes; keeping quite a bit of crunch in the produce.
To me, the tough stalks of rhubarb need a bit more kick and a bit more time. I’m also quite nostalgic for the floppiness of pickle that you find nestled in a burger.
Though you might want tweak the proportions and the pickling product to your own taste.
I also like to give the rhubarb a quick rinse in a colander to remove the grit before serving. But if your life (and food) needs a bit of extra grit, feel free to leave it on.
Best eaten with roast pork ribs, though they would also be great with duck or goose.
Two sticks of rhubarb2 tablespoons of caster sugar
One and a half tablespoons of sea salt
Water, for rinsing
Here’s how we roll
1) Wash the rhubarb stalks and trim the scraggly ends. Dice the remaining rhubarb into coins.
2) Sprinkle the sugar and the salt over them. Shake about so all of the sides are covered.
3) Set aside for an hour or two.
4) When the rhubarb is floppy, drain the liquid and give them a quick rinse in a colander to remove the excess salt and sugar.
5) Serve on the side of very rich sticky meats, roast pork belly and pork ribs are both perfect.
For a good at home ribs recipe, see here.