Poached Rhubarb with Orange and Walnut Shortbread

This is the simplest of seasonal recipes but perfect for the first days of spring, whatever the weather is doing outside the kitchen window. Brilliant pink forced rhubarb, poached with blood oranges and fresh ginger, served with orange and walnut shortbread. And joy, it’s all quick to make, allowing you (me) more time to prune the roses you (I) should have done a month ago.

The shortbread is an adaptation of a recipe from the late, great Katie Stewart, always my standby for traditional food of the sort my mother used to make. The touch of rice flour gives extra crunch. As for the rhubarb, it’s best mates with orange and ginger. Just don’t overdo either if you’re using forced rhubarb as it’s gentler in flavour than the more robust stuff that’s already beginning to poke its head up in the kitchen garden.

Please note you’ll need to start this a day ahead, because you’ll have to macerate the rhubarb overnight. Well, you don’t have to, but it holds its shape better if you do. And although you can add more sugar later in the process if you like, bear in mind forced rhubarb isn’t as sour as the later stuff.

Anyone with a nut allergy can omit the walnuts in the shortbreads – the biscuits are good either way.

Poached Rhubarb with Orange and Walnut Shortbread

Image of glass dish with pink rhubarb poached with blood orange and ginger, served with a finger of orange and walnut shortbread.

Ingredients for the poached rhubarb:

A quantity of forced pink rhubarb (I had three enormous stalks)

2 tbsp sugar

4 blood oranges

1 thumb of ginger

Ingredients for the shortbread:

100g plain flour

50g rice flour

100g butter

50g caster sugar

50g chopped toasted walnuts

Zest of 1 small orange (or 1/2 a larger one)


Wash and trim the rhubarb, cut diagonally across the stem into large chunks, toss with the sugar and macerate overnight in the fridge. It should produce quite a bit of syrup, but if not, add the juice of an extra orange at the next step.

Next day, place with its syrup in a single layer in a wide pan, one with a lid. Add two of the blood oranges, sliced into rings, and the ginger, peeled and thinly sliced. Put the lid on, heat until the syrup is bubbling then reduce the temperature and poach very gently for around five minutes.

Image of a pan of rhubarb and blood oranges ready for poaching

Remove from the hob, keeping the lid on, and let it continue to cook in the residual heat. It’s important not to overcook the rhubarb or you will end up with soup. Once the rhubarb has cooled, remove the peel from the remaining two oranges and slice into segments, leaving the membranes behind. Add to the rhubarb. (I discarded the bigger orange slices and ginger but you may have other uses for them.)

For the shortbreads, heat the oven to 190C/170 fan, Gas Mark 5. Place the two flours in a bowl and add the chopped, toasted walnuts and orange zest. Whisk gently to mix.

In another bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until soft and light. Add to the dry ingredients and work together with your fingers until you have a smooth dough.

Pat or roll out to a rectangle 1cm thick, place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and using a knife, mark into fingers without cutting through the dough. You should get around 12. Prick with a fork and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 160C/140 fan/Gas Mark 3 and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack. Cool completely before breaking into fingers along the marked lines.

Serve the rhubarb and orange segments with some of the syrup and with the shortbreads on the side.

11 thoughts on “Poached Rhubarb with Orange and Walnut Shortbread

  1. Good morning Ms. L. I don’t comment ahead of making your recipes nor do I like rhubarb but this looks fabulous. It is on my April calendar though.
    “…work together with your gingers…” creates a large flashing warning sign so I will leave it at that.

  2. I know you meant ‘fingers’ but a bit of ‘ginger’ might be nice in the shortbread too.
    Sounds lovely all round except I’m not that fond of Rhubarb but am always happy to give it a go. When I locate some Rhubarb I will. :))

    • Oh, lol, now I see what Chip was talking about! Thanks so much for pointing out the typo, I’ve corrected it. Yes, some ginger in the shortbread is always an option. I hope you overcome your dislike of rhubarb to give it a go … forced rhubarb is much gentler than the later stuff. Cheers, Linda

  3. This is totally up my street. The flavour combinations are just spot on and as my rhubarb is just starting to poke through, win win…. Can’t wait to try this x

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