When I was a little girl I adored rhubarb. (I still do.) My parents had two huge rhubarb patches at the top of their garden, one either side of the home-made greenhouse. We had rhubarb pie or crumble every Sunday from May until August. The rest of the year we had apple pie or crumble made from windfall apples or Bramleys bought from the shop, if they were in season – although every so often my mum would make a steamed pudding, usually ginger or golden syrup – she also made a lovely steamed apple dumpling from a suet pastry case filled with apples in a pudding basin.
In late summer our apple pies and crumbles would be enhanced by blackberries from the local hedgerows and occasionally bilberries picked from the moors above Baslow in Derbyshire. My grandmother had a damson tree and my aunt had some raspberry canes and we would benefit from the annual glut of fruit, but my mother rarely made anything other than a pie or a crumble. Crumble was favourite.
My mother’s rhubarb crumble was a simple affair. The rhubarb would be peeled and chopped into large chunks, straight into the baking dish, and a good few spoonfuls of sugar sprinkled over. The crumble would be made with self-raising flour and margarine, rubbed in by hand. She never baked with butter, thinking it far too extravagant – except maybe for the Christmas cake. Pastry was always made with lard.
I always used to make my crumbles the same way as Mum, but as time has gone by they have evolved into something slightly more fancy. I discovered how well rhubarb goes with strawberries in a friend’s blog and somewhere else I read that including oats or ground almonds in the crumble mix can be nice. And so it goes on, the continuous evolution of baking skills, constantly improving on the already perfect.
RHUBARB AND CUSTARD CRUMBLE PIE
A couple of weeks ago I spotted a recipe for this pudding on the Good Food website and was compelled to have a go. The combination of so many comfort food favourites in one dish just had to be tried – a pastry base, rhubarb and egg custard in the middle and a crumble topping.
The recipe had a lot of good reviews and I took note of the comments that said the quantity of topping in the recipe was not enough and most people doubled it. It worked well and turned out lovely.
I will definitely make it again BUT I think that next time I will make it in a smaller diameter tin, which will make the custard deeper and then the original quantity of topping should be enough. If you fancy having a go you can see the recipe on the Good Food website here.
I really like the method used for part cooking the fruit and used it the next time I made a crumble.
RHUBARB AND STRAWBERRY CRUMBLE
A crumble has to be one of the easiest puddings to throw together but it is always a favourite in our house. And everywhere in fact. If it’s on the menu in a pub or restaurant it always sells well and even the French have adopted it as a dessert – pronounced “croomble” – it’s amazing how often it’s on the fancy menus in France.
Here’s how I made my crumble ~ the ingredients are in ounces as that is how I have always remembered it, having learned the basics from my mum.
8ozs SR flour
4ozs hard butter or margarine, cut into cubes or chunks
4ozs granulated sugar
2ozs porridge oats
3-4 sticks of rhubarb, probably about 1lb in weight.
a handful of strawberries
a sprinkling of flaked almonds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°fan / gas mk 4. Grease a suitable baking dish.
Trim and wipe the rhubarb, cut into 1” pieces and put them into a frying pan with half of the sugar. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar has melted and the fruit begins to soften. Remove from the heat.
Put the flour and butter into a food processor and blitz to breadcrumbs (or rub together by hand). Stir in the oats and the other half of the sugar.
Tip the rhubarb and any liquid into the prepared dish. Remove the stalks from the strawberries, cut any large ones in half and scatter over the rhubarb.
Spread the crumble mixture over the fruit and give the dish a little shake to level the top. Scatter the flaked almonds on top if using and bake for 30-40 minutes until the crumble is golden and the fruit bubbling around the edges.