Compote of spring fruit, after Eliza Acton

by Bee Wilson

Bee Wilson’s take on a Victorian dessert

Spring fruit is what the Victorians called rhubarb. I think it’s a charming name, and pink forced rhubarb won’t be with us much longer. To my taste, Acton uses too much sugar to rhubarb, but the great bonus of doing it this way is that you get rhubarb syrup, a lucid pink nectar, like a sprightlier alternative to honey for sweetening porridge.


500g forced pink rhubarb cut into short lengths
125g sugar
125ml water 


Make a syrup by boiling the water gently with 125g sugar for 5-10 mins—although for modern tastes, I’d reduce the sugar to 80g or even less.

Put the rhubarb into the syrup and poach at a simmer for 5 mins or until just tender and still holding its shape.

Lift the fruit out into a glass dish. Boil the remaining liquid for a 1-2 mins more. Pour half of it over the fruit and save the rest for sweetening porridge or yoghurt. Eat hot or cold (I prefer cold).