Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

It is once again the time of year when the rhubarb crowns go from “tiny new spring-announcing shoots” to “enormous rhubarb-triffids” pretty much overnight. Rhubarb crumble is good, as is rhubarb jam, but I thought I’d try something different this spring, and make rhubarb juice.

I used this recipe (summary: chop stalks into inch-ish chunks, cover with water, add a teaspoon of honey, boil for half an hr, then pour off the juice), and got 700ml of juice from maybe 10 decent-sized stalks. A teaspoon of honey was plenty (I might not bother with any at all another time).

The juice is nice neat; but even better with a little vodka, a couple of icecubes, and a sprig of mint. Very refreshing.

I turned the leftover pulp into rhubarb bread, using this vegan banana bread recipe. I estimated the volume of rhubarb pulp at about 2 bananas’ worth or a little more, so halved all the other quantities, and cut out the water as the rhubarb was pretty damp. Cooked for an hour at 180oC, it came out wonderfully. A bit like rhubarb crumble in cake form.

Next time I might try rhubarb liqueur.

A most relaxing week

I spent an incredibly relaxing week over Easter at the Ecolodge in Old Leake, Lincs, with my partner doop and Sidney-the-dog.

The Ecolodge belongs to a lovely couple called Geri and Andy, who live in the house next door to it (the houses are sufficiently separate that you don’t see them unless you want to). It’s entirely offgrid: the electricity comes from a wind turbine and solar panels, there’s a compost loo, rain-water is collected for showering (although there is one tap in the kitchen which has mains drinking water), and heating and hot water are handled by a wood-stove in the main room. The stove is obviously usable for cooking as well – we did 90% of our cooking on it, but did use the little two-burner gas ring to boil the kettle.

One of the major attractions for us was the lack of ‘proper’ electricity. All the plugs in the place are 110V DC, so you need a special sort of plug for them, and you can’t just plug in your usual electrical kit. Which means no phones, no laptops, no iPod speakers… Instead, we read, knitted (in my case), did one of the jigsaws we found on the shelves, cooked, and chatted. A couple of times I switched the battery-operated radio onto Radio 3, but mostly I was happy just to listen to the birdsong and the subdued roar and crackle of the stove.

There’s a couple of acres of mixed woodland and meadow out the back, which Sidney particularly appreciated as it featured pheasants. If you are a 1-year-old lurcher cross who’s never been out of the city before, pheasants are, apparently, about the most fun it is possible to have. Happily she didn’t actually catch any, in large part because even the dopiest pheasant would have heard her coming from some distance away as she crashed merrily through the undergrowth. doop and I followed behind more sedately, watching the process of spring springing, with the trees bursting into leaf and the flowers starting to appear.

There are a couple of flattish local walks, or you can go a bit further afield if you’re not limited by having to take the dog along. We also spent an afternoon in the Art Stop, a slightly battered caravan equipped with pencils, crayons, paints, paper, and a box of fossils. I had enormous fun playing with colours like a 4-year-old. There’s also jigsaws (we completed a 500-piece one over around 6 hours and felt immensely proud), kids’ games, and a box of dominos (although neither of us could remember the rules).

Cooking on the wood stove is a slow process. It sometimes felt like our days revolved pleasantly around food (planning it and minding it), but the actual work involved was minimal. Just chuck another log or two on the stove every 45 minutes or thereabouts. We made one stew that was in the oven for over 24 hours (although not actually being cooked overnight), and it was sensational. Veggies were provided by the local organic farm, and there’s free-range eggs available locally as well. When we needed anything, doop set off on his bike to the Co-op in the village, 4 km away. Apparently cycling in this part of the world is a little bracing (read: windy).

I came back feeling incredibly relaxed and peaceful, and determined to spend more of my time not plugged into the internet. Indeed, I wrote this on my first no-wireless-at-home day on Wednesday (and have only just got around to posting it). Just switching off from everything was fantastic, and I felt so much better for slowing down. I may not be able to spend all day every day kicking back on the sofa while I’m back in London, but I do want to recreate some of that peace here. I’ll update with how it’s going after a month.