The perfect poach

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Poaching is a wonderfully delicate, gentle and subtle method of cooking. A poached egg is a luxurious, melting treat – breaking into one and watching its golden, silky yolk flowing across a piece of buttered toast is as close to food perfection as one can get. A scattering of sea salt and a few grinds of the pepper mill are all the garnish this plate needs.

Poaching is a great way to cook fruit too – their flavour is sweetened, their flesh softened, taking even the hardiest of ripen-at-home fruits and turning it into a fragrant and luscious pudding. Vanilla flecked thick Greek yogurt makes an ideal accompaniment.

Rhubarb seems to lend itself best to a very gentle poach. I’m sure London’s top chefs would cook it sous-vide (in a temperature controlled water bath) for hours on a very low heat. For me though, a fairly weak sugar syrup (1 part sugar to 8 parts water) is all that is called for. Finger-length pieces swim around over a very low flame, cooking for maybe eight to ten minutes.

A gentle turn half way through to ensure even cooking, then I spoon them out of the liquor before cranking up the heat and reducing the syrup to a quarter of its volume or so. I remove it from the heat, add a splash of Prosecco and spoon it over the rhubarb before serving it alongside one of my favourite puddings -caramel panna cottas.

A final sprinkle of some crushed Amaretti biscuits is all that is needed to give the final dish some contrasting crunch to go with the perfectly cooked rhubarb.

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