Thursday, 18 February 2010

Rhubarb Crumble

Rhubarb has just made its appearance in the supermarket here in Switzerland. A joy, as the rest of the fruits available are getting quite tired- the apples aren't as good as they were earlier in the season, pears always turn soft so unexpectedly that I rarely buy them, and as I do try to keep us eating seasonably, other than the occasional "oh gods but I'm craving something sweet and different and pineapples are cheap!", there isn't much around.


Peter loves rhubarb. He tells me he used to eat it freshly-picked from his grandmother's garden, just dipped in sugar.

I don't think I'd eat it that way myself, even though I'm a big fan of bitter and sour. The reason, actually, would be the sugar- I just can't bring myself to eat sugar without disguising it in some way!

"Pure, white, and deadly", is what my mother always says about sugar, and however much it makes me roll my eyes every time she says it, I've quite obviously absorbed her opinion. It makes me invariably cut a proportion of the sugar out of most dessert recipes! And, when it comes to rhubarb... to cook it with as little sugar as possible.

Thus, when I'm making a crumble, I don't add any sugar to the rhubarb itself- I put it all in the topping instead.

Chop enough washed rhubarb to fill your chosen dish in two tidy layers.

Rub together enough butter, about half oatflakes to half flour, brown sugar mixed with a generous tablespoon (and maybe a bit more) of quatre-epices (ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger), until when you squeeze the mixture together, it stays in a big lump in your hand, but then when you move your fingers, it falls apart into clumps and lumps.

Drop over the rhubarb, making sure that there are plenty of the afore-mentioned lumps and clumps. You don't want this layer to be too thin, or the rhubarb will bubble up and cover it over, so be generous- about a centimetre is a good minimum. But you don't want it too thick either, so don't go over the centimetre and a half!

Now, this is the bit where I make allowances for the bitterness of the rhubarb- I drizzle honey over the top of the crumble. Not all over it, and not too thick- but it adds a nice layer of flavour.

Pop it in the oven at 180C for an hour. Or a bit less, depending on the colour of the crumble- you want it golden, not brown! The rhubarb will be cooked and bubbling up the sides, and that's fine.

Serve with a spoonful of mascarpone!

Any left-over rhubarb can be cooked in this way- chop as for the crumble, put it in a Pyrex dish with a lid, add a chopped apple (with the peel), a few spoonfuls of honey, and microwave on high. Keep an eye on it, as it produces a lot of liquid, which might escape out from under the lid.

It should be soft after about 5-10 minutes, depending on the microwave. Open it carefully, tipping the water back in. Stir with a fork, breaking it all up. This can then be eaten either on its own, with the rest of the mascarpone (!), or stirred into yoghurt. Don't try it on Greta, though, she'll spit it out. She likes the crumble topping, though.

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