Rhubarb jelly, rhubarb root oil, roseroot tincture, water mint, wood ants and bee bread
From Bug Jam. Receiving the last pink rhubarb of the early spring offered a chance to make a simple, beautifully-coloured jelly. Cooking the rhubarb at a low temperature with sugar drew out an extremely clear red juice, which we set with gelatine (gelatine giving the best wobble—what good is jelly if it doesn’t wobble?).
We added aromatic accents to the jelly with bee bread, water mint—an especially pungent wild variety, and wood ants, which added tiny bursts of lemon-like acidity. The rhubarb root oil rounded out the flavour of the rhubarb stem and provided an unctuous texture. A tincture of rose root (Rhodiola rosea) is sprayed over the plate as it is served, so the first interaction the guest has is with a spicy, alluring, rose-like aroma.
Rhubarb Root Oil
Rhubarb (for syrup)
Rhubarb Syrup (for jelly)
Alcohol (min 60abv)
Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea)
Wood Ants (Formica rufa)
Water Mint leaves (Mentha aquatica)
4 chambers’ worth
Chamber Vacuum Packer
Coffee Filter Papers
Sealable dark glass jar
Trim the rhubarb of its leaves and thinly slice. Toss the rhubarb and sugar in a bowl and add to the vacuum bag. Seal the bag. Place in a stirred water bath set to 40℃. The heat will be enough to soften the rhubarb without breaking it down (otherwise the juice would end up cloudy) and the sugars will draw the juice out of the slices, without being heated enough to acquire any caramel flavours.
Remove the bag from the water after 45 minutes and set the rhubarb and syrup over a superbag or a very fine sieve, collecting the syrup as it drips through in a bowl. Weigh the yield of juice (you should have roughly two-thirds of the weight of the total rhubarb—around 400g). The remaining fruit pulp can be made into a second batch of syrup, albeit somewhat diminished in flavour, if cooked gently with a measure of water and sugar and strained. Save this juice for another recipe. Bloom the gelatin in a small tub of cold water for 5 minutes. Add to the rhubarb syrup and stir in a small pan over a very low heat until the gelatin has clearly melted. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a plastic tub. Let cool at room temperature for half an hour, and then transfer to the fridge and chill until the jelly is set (at least six hours, or overnight).
Rhubarb Root Oil
Blend the rhubarb root and oil in a Thermomix heated to 80℃ for five minutes. Add to a plastic tub and let macerate for eight hours, or overnight. The next day strain the mixture through a coffee filter paper, collecting the oil in a tub. Store in a cool, dark place until you need it.
Coarsely grind the roseroot. Add it to a sealable jar with double its weight in alcohol, making sure to completely over the roots. Leave to macerate for at least six weeks in a cool, dark place.
Remove any residual wax from the bee bread and break into 8 rough chunks.
Sort the ants, removing any dirt or twigs.
Wash the water mint and blot dry on paper towels. Store in a tub with a damp paper towel cover in the refrigerator.
Strain a small amount of the roseroot tincture through coffee filter paper and store in an atomiser.
Break up the jelly with a fork (not so much as to loose definition, but enough to loosen its structure)
In the centre of a small, white, round-bottomed bowl, place a tablespoon of the jelly, levelling it slightly with the spoon. Create a few small depressions in the surface of the jelly, into which some of the rhubarb root oil will pool. Pour a drizzle of rhubarb over the jelly, finding the little dips and using enough so that a ring of bright yellow oil gathers around the red jelly. Place eight pieces of bee bread and four leaves of water mint on the jelly, add the ants and finish with a small spritz of tincture from the atomiser.