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Honest Recipes: Exploding Rhubarb Soda


Cookery writers want you to believe they were born knowing how to cook, that making mayonnaise from scratch was something they picked up in the womb, and they learned hollandaise roughly around the time they learned to walk. Some things took longer, like boning a duck, but they had still mastered cooking to a professional standard long before the rest of us could tie our shoes.

I want to see a recipe that tells the truth for once. Something along the lines of “well, I had this deadline looming, but I thought I’d try sausages. I’ve never done it before, and I totally f***ed up the first time. The second time was a little better, and the third time, I nailed it. Tah dah!” Because that is what cooking really is. Improvising, and staying cool.

It’s photoshopping in the kitchen. We are starting to wake up, as a society, to the fact that the girls in the adverts don’t really look like that at all, and get wise to the reality. Because it is simply not OK to raise our girls with the idea that there is some kind of über-human race that looks nothing at all like the normal people you see in the shops. And I don’t want to trivialise that issue at all, but cooking is important to me, and I’d like a bit more honesty please. I want Jamie Oliver to tell me that the first time he made the chia pudding it tasted like cold snot, for Gordon Ramsey to confess that one time his mixer broke down and it was a total shambles.

About a month ago, I was visiting my husband’s family in France. I desperately wanted to impress with my cooking, and give them a taste of British-Asian Fusion cuisine. I overreached myself badly and was standing in the kitchen at five in the afternoon, with guests due at six, covered in flour and sausage meat, shouting at my poor husband. My aubergine samosas had exploded and were a huge soupy puddle in the oven. My mother in-law came in and saved the day, scooping the gunk together into arty-looking little towers, and they tasted great. I served them smugly and said nothing about the shouting. If I had then written the recipe up later, I would loftily command “be sure not to overstuff the samosas” because of course, I’m a cookery writer, and I just know this.

This is important to me, because some things are difficult to make, and no one should feel like the failed because thier galantine was a huge meaty mess. Scoop that s**t up and call it burgers.

My first honest recipe was adapted from Emma Christiansen’s book True Brews. It’s a wonderful book, and she totally warned me this would happen, but I ignored her.

Exploding Rhubarb Soda:

500g Rhubarb

7 Tbsp sugar approximately

A pinch of yeast (Wine yeast is best, but baker’s yeast will do, although leave a slightly bready scent.)

You will also need: an attractive glass bottle if you want it to explode, a normal 1.5 litre plastic soft drinks bottle if you don’t.

  1. Chop your Rhubarb, add just enough water to cover, and simmer it over a gentle heat until it falls apart.
  2. Strain the Rhubarb of its juice and add enough water to make 1 litre of liquid.
  3. Taste the juice. It will be very sour. Warm the juice up and add the sugar one tablespoon at a time. Taste after each spoon until you reach the level of sweetness that you like. You will then need to add one extra spoonful to give the yeast something to eat. You do not need to boil the juice, just warm it so the sugar dissolves, although it will not hurt if you do boil it.
  4. Let the juice cool, then pour into the plastic bottle. add the yeast, screw the lid n well and give it a good shake.
  5. There should be a lot of headroom in the bottle (1 litre in a 1.5 litre bottle) Put the bottle in a warmish place overnight.
  6. Come back and check it in the morning. There should be very little give in the bottle. If you can still squeeze it, put it back and leave it a little longer. As soon as the bottle feels firm, put it in the fridge.
  7. When it is cold, serve the soda. Open it carefully over a sink, allowing it to burp out some of the trapped air before opening it completely. If you want to serve it to guests, put it in a pretty bottle, but REMEMBER: put it back in the plastic bottle, store it in the fridge and use it within one week.
  8. Honest alternative: Don’t put the soda back in the bottle (as I did not), put it in the fridge and forget about it. BOOM! Glass everywhere.