As most of you know, we grow rhubarb in our garden. It all started with the one plant - called Ruby - who grew so much we had to split her in half and so she spawned her daughter, RubyTwo. Well, the years have gone past and the pair of them are now busting out of the brick planters they are in and three times a year (or more) threaten world domination unless we harvest them and share them around the neighbours. So, as you can imagine, obtaining rhubarb isn't exactly a challenge. In fact, for this recipe, hubby went out and cut the 500g required and it was in the oven half an hour later. Can't get a lot fresher than that!
With this crumble, I wanted very much to just celebrate the joy that is rhubarb. Not dilute it with apple, or confuse matters by adding blackberries. No, I wanted it to be simply rhubarb. Our rhubarb is so tasty - it's a champagne variety - that I always think it's a shame to mask its deliciousness with other flavours.
However, that didn't stop me from having a rush of blood to the head and adding sherry. *chuckle* Well, I figured that as we've had a rhubarb trifle with sherry in the past - which was delicious, why not? I used a medium sherry - Harvey's Bristol Cream, in fact. It definitely lent the dish a certain something and I'd definitely do that again.
What did it taste like? Oh, it was beautiful. Sweet, sharp, deep rich flavours of rhubarb with the slight headiness of sherry, balanced against the buttery, oaty, slightly toffee flavoured crumble that just melted in the mouth. Heavenly. Especially with vanilla custard, which is just the perfect accompaniment.
I have two Cook's Tips for you, which are as follows :
Lots of crumble recipes tell you to pre-cook the fruit, but I didn't want rhubarb slush, I wanted pieces of rhubarb that still had their shape and a little of the crunch. Cutting the pieces slightly smaller than usual, managed to achieve that very nicely across the 30 minute cooking time. If however, you prefer your rhubarb to be softer then make sure to cook it on for another 10 minutes or so.
I'm sure we've all made fruit crumbles that wind up being all juice. For me, too much juice can almost ruin a crumble as it tends to steam the underside of the crumble top and you end up with a yukky sludgy uncooked layer and the fruit swimming in juice. To offset this, I mixed in some cornflour (or perhaps corn starch where you are) with the raw fruit and sugar, which has the effect of thickening the juice and so preventing both the sludge and the pool. You don't even notice it's there, so it's a sneaky tip to remember for fruit pies, too!
Maybe the very next time you lay your hands on some rhubarb, you can give this crumble a go. Your family will thank you!
SHERRIED RHUBARB CRUMBLE (serves 4-5)
500g rhubarb, washed, dried and cut into 1cm pieces
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
3-4 tbsp of medium sweet sherry.
For the crumble :
130g self raising flour
50g light brown muscovado sugar
30g rolled porridge oats
90g slightly salted, chilled butter.
Pre-heat your oven to 190degC/375degF/Gas 5.
Place the chopped rhubarb into a deep sided casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle over the caster sugar and cornflour and mix together thoroughly until each piece of rhubarb is coated.
Sprinkle the sherry over the rhubarb and set aside while you make the crumble.
Weigh the self raising flour, muscovado sugar and porridge oats into a large bowl and lightly stir together.
Cut the butter into small pieces and rub it into the dry ingredients until everything is buttery and breadcrumb-like.
Spread the crumble across the top of the fruit mix and level the surface without pressing down or compacting the crumble at all.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or 40 minutes if you like your fruit softer.
Serve with vanilla custard, or double cream if you must. *wink*