On a recent visit to see D’s granny, we spent a considerable amount of time sat round her dining table stuffing our faces with her delicious homemade rhubarb crumble. She not only makes her own crumble but she also grows her own rhubarb too, in her garden. As my appetite had been suitably whet by her crumble, I decided to ask her if I could pinch some rhubarb in order to try making my own at home.
Rhubarb has quite a tart taste, and although that’s one of it’s benefits, I like to get a nice sweet hit through the back of it also otherwise I end up sitting looking like I’ve managed to suck my own face inside out. For this I have introduced the juice of a fresh orange, some sweet cider brandy and some absolutely scrummy quince liqueur (the quince liqueur was quite a find. I stumbled across it whilst buying the cider brandy in Borough Market. It was so good I decided to get myself a little bottle and add it to the crumble).
As I’m sure you’re aware there are many hundreds, possibly even thousands of different recipes for crumbles online, in recipe books and passed down from generation to generation. I’m using a concoction of several I’ve found over the years with a few helpful tips from D’s granny for good measure.
What you will need:
For the filling
8-10 stalks of rhubarb chopped into (roughly) 2cm pieces
2 large Bramley apples (peeled and diced into similar sized chunks to the rhubarb)
1 orange (juiced)
1 cup of unrefined brown sugar
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Knob of butter
For the crumble topping
200g of plain flour
110g of demerara sugar
110g butter (diced into chunks)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F or Gas Mark 4
2. (Caveat: In all honesty, I didn’t measure my unrefined brown sugar, I just chucked enough into the pan to cover the surface and hoped for the best. I would figure it was around 1 cup, however my pan is also quite large and flat, so I’d suggest you pour in enough to cover the surface area of your pan) Heat up a flat pan on a medium heat hob and, when it’s heated, pour in your unrefined brown sugar. You’re making caramel now so you want to leave it until it’s all melted, turned brown and is taking on the consistency of runny honey. This takes several minutes so be patient.
3. Taking a lot of care (that caramel is outrageously hot!), add your diced apple to the caramel and shake the pan around gently so that the apple gets covered in the sticky, delicious caramel. Then add in your rhubarb and give that a gentle shake around as well and let simmer in the caramel for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time to coat the apple and rhubarb in the caramel.
4. Add in your knob of butter just to add a nice sheen to the fruit.
5. Now add in the chopped ginger, orange juice and cinnamon and simmer gently for a couple of minutes to let the flavours infuse.
6. Now time for the flambee! Pour in a generous glug of the cider brandy (roughly 1 cup) and a tablespoon of the quince liqueur. Carefully tilt your pan to the side (if you have a gas hob) as if you’re going to pour the pan contents on the flame. Taking care not to actually spill the contents, allow the flame from the hob to catch light of the liquid in the pan and then quickly level your pan back out and you should have flames rising from the pan. These will quickly burn out don’t worry. If you’re not too confident with it, do have a damp tea-towel or cloth/fireblanket to hand…just in case… If you don’t have a gas hob you could always use a lighter or long cooks matches etc. Leave to simmer for a couple of minutes longer and then remove from the heat and set aside whilst you make the crumble topping.
7. This is probably the easiest part of the whole recipe (and if you like rolling your sleeves up and getting your hands dirty then the most enjoyable too!). Pour the flour, most of the demerara sugar and the butter into a large bowl. Stick your hands in to the ingredients and get mixing. You want to be blending the butter with the flour and sugar between your hands so that they become fully mixed together, and resemble large breadcrumbs. (I prefer my crumble to be quite lumpy and not too ‘fine’)
8. Grease a fairly deep, ovenproof dish with butter and pour in the filling mix. Sprinkle with the crumble topping so that the filling is entirely covered and then sprinkle over the remaining demerara sugar. Place in the middle of the pre-heated over and cook for 40mins (your crumble wants to be nicely browned on top). After 40mins my crumble wasn’t quite ‘golden’ enough on top so I popped it under a hot grill for about 30secs just to melt and brown the sugar, so don’t worry if you need to do that also.
Serve with icecream, or custard, or double cream (or all 3 together!…)