6 Feb 2014

rhubarb crumble


When I can buy rhubarb this wow, why do I bother growing my own? That’s what I ponder every Saturday morning when I head to the local farmers market and stock up on armfuls of these thick, dark ruby giants from the man from The Huon (as in the Huon Valley part of Tas). And then when I get home and look at mine, anaemic and as thin as a pencil. You can see how astonishing the market-bought ones are – just compare them to the bananas nearby; they are just as thick! And it’s not just handsome good looks; the rhubarb has a surprisingly lemony flavour.

So I have been stockpiling: one market morning, I bought three kilos, which was chopped and frozen ready for a winter treat (I have a large stash of rhubarb recipes, cakes or puddings, because rhubarb is one of my favourite things, but they are rather wasted on my meagre crop).

The next week, sadly, I dithered over which recipe to use, and then we had a bit of a heatwave and I didn't feel like turning the oven on, which meant that week’s bunch went a little floppy in the fridge — which is a disgraceful way to treat such prized produce. But it was just as good stewed — and such a beautiful rosy colour, one of rhubarb’s surest appeals — and served on my breakfast oats or with a spoonful of natural yoghurt for an afternoon or post-dinner snack.
 
But let’s do some word association, and if I say ‘rhubarb’, chances are you’ll reply ‘crumble’. What about rhubarb crumble pie? I finally got to try this Martha Stewart recipe, all rolling pastry and rubbing in butter, and it was delicious. Truly made to showcase richly-coloured, zingy rhubarb like this.


But then I thought, as much as I love making pastry and don’t do it enough (it should have been a culinary resolution), we should just stick with tradition – that is, stick with the rhubarb crumble part.

Which doesn’t mean I stayed true to Martha’s recipe. The original had one cup of sugar to six cups of rhubarb — why mask rhubarb’s essential flavour with such an astounding amount of sugar (and risk tooth decay)? Like a puckeringly-good granny smith apple, I don’t mind when rhubarb does that ‘take the enamel off your teeth’ thing. And for some reason, I decided this biscuit-like crumble needed some hazelnut meal in it for extra flavour and a different texture. Don’t ask me how I come to these fiddlings, but I did and they worked.

And finally - look, a mini rhubarby map of Tassie!



Rhubarb crumble
This is wonderful warm, of course; the biscuity topping is light, a bit short, and not so hard. However, I have been eating this fridge-cold while the weather is hot, and the cold fruit is refreshing. Enjoy with a clod of your favourite dairy; mine has been greek yoghurt, which steps up to the rhubarb’s tang nicely.
A note too about baking dishes. The first time I made the pie, I used a small pie dish (about 20cm diameter) so the fruit was heaped; the second time with the crumble I used a larger square pyrex dish and so the fruit layer was thinner. But it doesn't really matter - it's only a crumble - so use your favourite dish.
You can find Martha’s original rhubarb crumble pie recipe here.
  • First, chop about 650 to 700 gms of rhubarb into roughly two cms pieces. Toss into your baking dish - no need to butter the dish, I found - and sprinkle over 1/3 cup sugar (which still looks like a lot but is better than the original!) and 1 1/2 tbspns cornflour. Stir around to coat everything well and set aside while you get on with the next bit.
  • In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup white plain flour, 1/4 cup hazelnut meal, 2 tbspns wholemeal plain flour, 1/3 cup light brown sugar and a good pinch of salt. Now rub in 80 gms of butter that is cold but just soft enough to rub in (of course, you could use your food processor for this, but it was the weekend and I was in no hurry). There is a lot of butter in this and towards the end, I swapped delicate fingertips-only rubbing in and just got in and squidged about to ensure it was well combined.
  • Preheat your oven to 180. Dot the topping over the rhubarb, allowing spaces for the juices to bubble up in between.
  • Pop into the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes or until the rhubarb is gently bubbling away and the topping is lightly browned.

23 comments:

  1. Ooh Yummy! Those are some pretty fine rhubard specimens you have there...especially the little map of Tassie.

    I am quite partial to hazelnut meal and am drooling over the thought of a slice of this served warm with a scoop of ice-cream.

    I am imagining a nice balance between nutty, buttery, sweet and tart.



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    1. oooh yes, SB, the best vanilla ice cream possible would be divine indeed. but i ate this with a really fine strawberry ice cream too - and it worked just as well. and was a lot of girly pinkness on my plate :-)
      i couldn't resist including the map of tassie!

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  2. The deepness of the red of those rhubarb stalks is amazing. Rhubarb (don't you love the word, especially the way it looks when written/typed) grows wild near my parents' home in the UK - and my mam pops it in lots of things she bakes and freezes it too so she can pull it out on demand. The crumble looks wonderful!

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    1. i always think the UK has the best rhubarb - it certainly appears that way when you see their cooking shows and recipe books. maybe your mam can fly us some over!
      it really is mindblowing how dark these stalks are - as i said, far superior to my stuff.
      and yes, 'rhubarb' is a funny collection of letters and sounds!

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  3. I adore rhubarb too e. Unfortunately I have had several failed attempts at growing it. Each summer it just literally melts before my eyes...I need a more protected position for it I think.

    Hazelnut meal is a great idea and I don't like masking it with too much sugar either, what is the point?

    Those words - rhubarb crumble - make me long for winter and a big pot of thick cream. x

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    1. i agree with you jane - rhubarb crumble is such a wintery thing, but eating it cold has been so refreshing.
      it seems we all have had failures with rhubarb. for such a sturdy plant - those stalks are really very substantial - it is particularly temperamental about the conditions it will grow under. the man who grows this told me the recent humid weather has been good for it - who knew that? and tassie hardly registers humidity, really.

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  4. Love your little rhubarb Tassie lol!!!
    I just love rhubarb too. It's always a part of my favourite crumbles. I think Ive only ever eaten it stewed.
    wish we had access to such amazing fresh produce from a farmers market up here xx

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    1. there's a little bit of home for you, carla :-)
      while stewed rhubarb is a pretty basic way of enjoying it, it's still a really good way! stewed stuff with ice cream or custard as jane above suggests is a wonderfully simple pleasure.

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  5. That rhubarb looks soooooooo very beautiful. I've tried growing it three times in my latest garden, but killed it with kindness (and too much fertiliser) each time! When it went floppy, did you try popping it into a bucket with some cold water? I find things revigorate that way and there is no waste.

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    1. too much fertiliser, lizzy - wow! i know i don't give mine enough. with your experience and jane's (and mine), i'm beginning to realise how fickle rhubarb really is - i'm seriously thinking of abandoning my crop, and just enjoying the market man's gold. he obviously is doing the right thing!
      and ps will try the water thing next time.

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  6. That's monster rhubarb! And such a lovely dark colour. We're just into the Yorkshire forced rhubarb season here - much smaller stems, but they still make good crumbles.

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    1. hello GD - i've heard of english forced rhubarb, it's supposed to be very pretty and very good quality. how lucky you are.
      but yes, monster is the right word for it! as i said though, it is not just mega in size but in flavour too.

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  7. Yum! I love how the chopped stalk does indeed look like a map of Tassie. I have to say though, I do grow a rhubarb that is as big, chunky and red-red-red like that one. I got it from Digger's Seeds in Melbourne and its called Big Boy. I don't know if they can send it to Tassie, but it might be worth looking into. (If, of course, The Huon man won't sell plants, just produce.)

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    1. thanks for diggers tip, bek. you are tempting me to reconisder abandoning this in my garden.
      the market man is very secretive about how he grows such good stuff, and wouldn't divulge his variety - but of course who can blame him? he has a regular and very eager customer here.

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  8. Yum yum. I am about to do rhubarb and apple crumble with rhubarb from my garden. Each year my rhubarb has gained in girth - if yours is young as well as thin, you may just have to wait a couple of years (and feed it. Rhubarb is a hungry, hungry... Fruit? Vegetable? I think it is related to buckwheat, but that doesn't help categorize it..).

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    1. buckwheat!! really? i've read it classified as a vegie. but now it's a grain?!
      enjoy your apple and rhubarb crumble, jo. that is such a classic pairing. yum!

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  9. Yep, I don't mind the fuzzy teeth feel after some good zingy rhubarb either, just love it. Have plans to grow it, but perhaps Id be wasting my efforts??

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    1. hi barbara, if someone else can grow you mega-stalks like this, it's not worth growing yourself ... that's the opinion i'm falling towards!

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    2. and PS, thank you for all your comments on previous posts - i'm working my way thru responding to them.

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  10. You've got me thinking about my tiny crop and the idea of making rhubarb crumble tartelettes... I've got enough for about 6 small ones I think. I'll freeze the leftover crumble. Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. oooh, just the word 'tartelette' sounds appealing, sue! hope they are delicious.

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  11. Oh one of my absolute favourites as well, I love rhubarb and use it the same way you do but mainly stewed and placed on top of muesli with a dollop of greek yoghurt. I've never been to Tasmania before but would love to make it there before the year is out to check out all the beautiful produce available.

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    1. hi catherine, now is the best time for fruit, and heading in to autumn, when the weather is more settled (theroretically).
      rhubarb is a firm breakfast fave for a lot of us, it seems!

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