I really want to write about – and cook – asparagus, because it’s Spring now, and I’m absolutely itching to get to the market on Sunday and see if they have asparagus yet. I won’t buy asparagus until I find it at the farmers’ market – it’s one of those truly seasonal delights, and having asparagus from Queensland or Mexico in the middle of winter feels like cheating. I bet it doesn’t taste as good, either. One day, I’ll have to plant asparagus myself.
Anyway, I don’t have asparagus, but rhubarb also feels springlike, and is definitely at the farmers’ markets, so rhubarb is fair game for a night when the vegetable content of the meal was low and a fruit dessert was called for. This recipe is mostly a Delia recipe, though it did develop some changes, and, well, let’s just say that her instructions are a lot less gory than mine. I think I’ve spent a bit too much time time reading Copernicus the Homicidal Monkey recently. Also, I free-associate in strange ways when I’m up past my bedtime.
This crumble recipe is so easy and quick that I made it after choir tonight and had it prepared and ready to go in the oven by the time the pasta had finished cooking. And it was so delicious – tart and rhubarby underneath and crisp and sweet on top – that we ATE it, nom nom nom, not every last bit, but much more of it than we needed after all that pasta, and I thought, oops, better write this one down before I forget what I did. Which is to say, there are no photos. This is not my standard fruit crumble recipe – it’s much less healthy and oaty and much more of a dessert. But who’s complaining?
Your shopping list1 bunch of rhubarb (about 450g once you’ve removed the leaves and chopped off the dodgy bits at the bottom of the stems) 50 g caster sugar 1-2 tsp vanilla essence, or replace the caster sugar with vanilla sugar 70 g almond meal 80 g self-raising flour 50 g raw sugar, or a combination of raw and brown sugar 50 g butter or margarine (I ran out of proper butter and used the spreadable kind – it worked just fine)
Now what will you do with it?
Wash the rhubarb and cut it into lengths about the size of your little finger or thumb. Do not get confused and cut off your own thumbs or fingers (or anyone else’s, for that matter) (wow, two lines into the recipe and I’ve already got the implied cannibalism going. Well, I never said this blog was vegetarian…)
Moving right along and retaining all our fingers, put the rhubarb into the bottom of a small, ovenproof dish (one that is just large enough to hold the rhubarb, with just a little room leftover for the topping and so you don’t fling the rhubarb all over the kitchen when you mix in the sugar and vanilla), add the caster sugar and vanilla, and mix around. You can leave it like this for half an hour or so and it will only improve. Also, if you don’t like vanilla, you can skip it and add your choice of spices instead. Ginger, cardamom or mixed spice would all be good. Or you could add a punnet of halved strawberries, too. That could only be a good thing, and much better than fingers, even if fingers are sort of the right colour. I really, really have to stop contemplating chopped fingers. I haven’t managed to slice my fingers for days and I just know I’m jinxing myself by writing all of this.
(I can’t help noting in passing that inadvertently-flung rhubarb from an insufficiently large baking dish does leave lurid red stains on counter and wall, and I think we all know where I’m going with that, so I’m going to stop now. Really.)
Backing carefully away from consideration of severed body parts and blood spatter patterns, we shall now consider the crumble topping. Which is easy. Put all the rest of the ingredients into a bowl, and rub them together as if you were making scones until they resemble somewhat sticky breadcrumbs. Sprinkle them on top of the rhubarb.
Bake at 200°C for about half an hour, or until the top is brown and crisp and the rhubarb is soft. You can leave it to sit for fifteen minutes or so before eating – I think it’s a bit nicer when it isn’t burning hot – or you can eat it at once. I recommend ice-cream.
And maybe a ladyfinger biscuit or two.
This recipe serves 3-4 people.
This would work with any soft fruit – so not apples or pears, which will probably still be crunchy at the end of the cooking time, but apricots, plums, peaches or berries would probably be good. In fact, you could do a lovely Peach Melba crumble with peaches and raspberries. And maybe hazelnut meal instead of almond meal. Which leads me to the point that any ground nuts would work here. I wonder if you could do one with apricots and orange flour water beneath and ground pistachios in the topping?
I’ve made crumbles very successfully with Nuttelex and with other margarines, so vegans do not need to shun this recipe, and of course if you leave out the fingers, it’s vegetarian too. My suspicion is that the glycemic index is relatively high, however, and it’s definitely not free of nuts, either. I do think you could make a rather lovely nut-free topping with shredded coconut replacing some of the ground almonds and popped amaranth replacing the rest – it would taste rather tropical, and I’d probably put nectarines underneath. If you want gluten free, I’d just use a packet gluten-free flour here, and maybe increase the almond meal to flour ratio. Really, the flour here is adding bulk and something to bind a bit to the sugar and butter – it isn’t really trying to hold things together or add flavour or anything, so you can pretty much use what you like. You could add a pinch of baking powder, too, but you don’t really have to in this context.
I recommend just experimenting – this recipe is very forgiving, and provided you don’t go out of your way to make something bizarre, you’re pretty much guaranteed a tasty outcome.
But please, mind your fingers.