25 Feb 2013

rhubarb and raspberry cobbler

Dear Gourmet Traveller magazine,

I am writing to express my disappointment and dismay with your recipe for rhubarb and raspberry cobbler. Has anyone else told you it didn’t work?

I had been looking forward to cooking and eating this so much. I have a bit of a thing for rhubarb, and have collected many recipes over the years for rhubarb treats - crumbles, pies, tarts - including yours. The fact I can’t grow decent rhubarb tends to mean these recipes lay untouched in my recipe folder, taunting me each time I flip thru them.

However recently at the local farmers market I found the holy grail of rhubarb: long, fat, deeply garnet stems. I wasn’t able to bake that week so I left them at the stall – and their memory burned bright within me all week until I could return and claim two heavy bunches as mine. Your rhubarb and raspberry cobbler recipe was magnetted to my fridge, anticipation was running feverishly high - yes, all over rhubarb.

It started off so well, and there was much domestic bliss in the kitchen as I cut, assembled and flavoured the fruit. I’ll admit I used much less sugar than you specified, as almost half a kilo set my teeth on edge just reading about it. I also had no Cointreau - which is perhaps a deficit in my cooking-liquor cabinet that I need to rectify - but I do not think these tweaks would have contributed to the failure that lay ahead.

The cobbler dough too was fabulously easy to make; flattening it out using my marble rolling pin was, to paraphrase Nigella, deep, deep pleasure.

So all went well in the pre-oven phase. The kitchen started to fill with a lovely tang of orange and rhubarb as baking progressed, then finally, I could see - as per your instructions - the ‘fruit (was) bubbling and pastry (was) golden and risen (25-30 minutes)’.
(I have to point out the folkloric cloth from Frangipani Fabrics. Isn't it bold?)

I removed them from the oven, in awe of their rustic loveliness - see, I’d taken my time cutting the cobbler’s shapes and making it look pretty. I’m not usually one for pretty in my food, so this shows you how much I invested in this recipe.

I took some photos, then let them cool to have them later with my evening meal.


The rhubarb was raw. Not merely undercooked, but hard, crunchy, ugly. The underside of each and every little petal of cobble I’d arranged - slimy and raw. Obviously, despite original appearances, half an hour’s cooking time was nowhere near sufficient. This was not a good thing to realise late in the evening when I’d been waiting all day - no, waiting weeks. It was too late to put the oven back on, though it did cross my distressed mind. No. I prized off the cobbler and set that aside to deal with later, and scraped the raw rhubarb into a saucepan to simmer it gently. But before I knew it, the chunks of rhubarb disintegrated and became one large mass. Delicious tasting with the orange zest, but essentially what I had here was stewed rhubarb, which I could have made using my own anaemic undersized stalks, not those dark fat beauties bought especially for this recipe.

At which point, I called my mother, had a bit of a teary breakdown (it was late, I was hungry, I was upset), then consigned the lot into a container to have on my breakfast muesli the next day; the semi-raw cobbler went into the freezer for mum’s chooks, who have no idea how the recipe was supposed to turn out like and so will not be so heart-breakingly disappointed by the waste of time, ingredients, desire or faith in your recipe.

Yours sincerely,

E (Dig In)


  1. Oh this is so disappointing, I feel your pain. I love rhubarb too and this would have been a bit devastating. I would have expected more from a Gourmet Traveller recipe?

    On the upside your cobbler love hearts look great and I bet your mums chooks will love it :)

    1. i expected nothing short of success from a GT recipe. thanks jane - though the chooks have been doing rather too well out of me lately!

  2. How disappointing! I checked the link on this post, and was quite puzzled - I am not surprised that the result was semi-raw rhubarb. In my experience of growing and cooking rhubarb, 25 to 30 minutes for rhubarb would be insufficient time. Poaching or baking the rhubarb first, then mixing with the raspberries (that really only need to be warmed through) would be a much better approach.

    Shame on Gourmet Traveller!!!

    1. you're right susannah, cooking the rhubarb somehow first would have been better. but i trusted GT's guidance. however, i haven't given up on rhubarb puddings - i have other recipes to try next :-)

  3. Oh, this is such a heartbreaking story! I am grieving with you over the waste of beautiful ingredients and those weeks of anticipation. Wretched magazine. Stick with those triple tested Women's Weekly numbers...

    BTW, to avoid using ridiculous amounts of sugar with rhubarb, add 1/4 tsp bicarb soda to the fruit, then you'll need only a few Tbs sugar to sweeten, as the bicarb neutralizes the rhubarb acid...

    1. thanks jo. yes, WW all the way!
      and thanks for that tip - i never knew that about the bicarb. i love the traness of rhubarb but sometimes it feels like it's stripped the enamel off your teeth. it's a strange thing, rhubarb, but it has a lot of fans.


Word-verification is on, as the robot-spammers are loving my tuna past bake too much at the moment! I hope you understand - and I hope you'll still leave a comment at Dig In. I love hearing your thoughts, knowing someone is reading, and will always reply. Unless you're a robot-spammer.