Award winning chef Tim Bilton is urging more of us to pick pink sticks for our partners this Valentine’s Day ““ and woo them with rhubarb!

“Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb is a gem in the county’s food crown: a true ‘food of love’ grown right here on our doorstep ““ and it has many more uses than just desserts,” says Tim, chef proprietor of The Spiced Pear restaurant and tearoom in Hepworth.

The Spiced Pear is located close to Wakefield’s famous ‘Rhubarb Triangle’, an area between Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford where growers have forced rhubarb in candle-lit forcing sheds, using painstaking, hand-crafted techniques, for generations.

Tim, who is passionate about using local produce from within 75 miles of the award-winning restaurant, runs wild with rhubarb in February, with dishes such as Pan Seared Scallops with Black Pudding, Yorkshire Rhubarb and Herb Dressing and Assiette of Rhubarb, and believes that with its Protected Designated Origin status, delicate Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb rivals delicacies such as Parma Ham and Champagne for flavour and wow factor.

“It’s even thought to have aphrodisiac qualities,” adds Tim. “And with its sweet and sour flavour and beautiful pink colour (not to mention its erotic shape), it’s the perfect ingredient to serve up at a romantic meal. In fact we are even treating the ladies to Molton Brown’s Rhubarb and Rose Handwash and Hand Lotion in the ladies cloakroom, to celebrate the day”.

It’s definitely the case of saying ‘I love rhu’ this Valentine’s Day!

*Tim’s Romantic Rhubarb Recipes*

*Mushy muddle*
Boil up 1kg washed and chopped rhubarb in a pan with a little water and 300g sugar and simmer until soft and the sugar dissolves. Strain and sieve the rhubarb, squishing with the back of a wooden spoon to collect the juice, or whizz in a blender to get a ‘smoothie’ texture (whichever you prefer). You can also experiment with adding vanilla, ginger or cinnamon to the mix if you wish. Allow to cool in the fridge and use as a cordial (one part cordial to two parts liquid) with lemonade or water, or as a mixer with gin or Prosseco.

*Romantic relish*
Make a flavoursome chutney to serve with pork or roast duck by simply simmering 450g washed and chopped rhubarb stalks with 1 finely chopped apple, 3tbsp water, a sprig of fresh rosemary and a pinch of chilli flakes. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil, before simmering for 25 minutes or until thickened ““ take out the rosemary and serve hot or cold.

*Seductive salad*
Roast whole baby beetroot in a little oil, wrapped in foil, in the oven for 40 minutes to 1 hour at 200C, or until cooked through. Once cool, peel and cut into wedges and set aside. Cook 100g rhubarb chunks with 1tbsp sugar (or to taste) until just tender, and set aside. Cool and deglaze the pan with a good glug of Port and pour into a jug. Mix 1tbsp oil with the zest of ½ orange, 2tbsp freshly-squeezed orange juice, a squeeze of lemon juice and 1tsp honey and pour over mixed salad leaves before adding a crumble of goat’s cheese or feta. Add the rhubarb chunks and drizzle over a little of the glaze.