Rhubarb Crumble

It’s peak rhubarb season and this one’s a simple classic, rhubarb crumble. Rhubarb varies a lot, by type and season. Some is thin, sweet, and pink (early Timperley, which I grow, for example). Others thick green and tart. I like the large greener stalks for crumble as the tart contrast with the sweet topping works best.
For the thinner rhubarb cut it into 3cm lengths. For the thicker rhubarb, I cut into 1.5cm chunks.
Getting the sugar in the rhubarb right is one of those wonderful guesses. I think the cooked rhubarb needs to be sweet enough but still have a background tartness. This gives a lovely contrast to the crumble topping.
Using the ground almond really helps the topping in my view. Also, chilling it for a bit helps it to form crunchy, crumbly, clumps. When cooked the clumps have an almost biscuity crumble to them. This topping gives the right balance of soggy under-bottom to crispy top.
I use a dish that is 23cm square, and about 6cm deep. The topping quantity just covers the dish but is thick enough.

Ingredients

  • 600g rhubarb sticks
  • 40-60g demerara sugar, more or less spending on your rhubarb

Topping

  • 150g plain flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 170g chilled butter, in 1cm cubes
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • A pinch of salt (only needed if you’ve used unsalted butter)

Method

  1. Chop the rhubarb and put it in the bottom of your dish
  2. Sprinkle the sugar over and distribute it around the rhubarb
  3. To make the topping add all the topping ingredients to a mixing bowl
  4. Either blend with your fingers, or a food processor, or a KitchenAid until you have integrated the butter
  5. The topping will form clumps, or even consolidate to almost one lump (because of the butter content) and this is a good thing
  6. Chill the topping in the fridge for 30 minutes or about 15 minutes in the freezer
  7. Preheat the oven to 180C fan
  8. Add the chilled topping to the top of the crumble, breaking up any bigger clumps till it just covers the crumble. Clumps of 2-3cm are not a problem. Don’t worry about bits of rhubarb peeking through. Some bubbling up is welcome.
  9. Cook the crumble in the oven until the rhubarb and topping are cooked, this will be 30-40 minutes depending on the depth of the dish. The topping needs to be golden but not too dark.
Once the rhubarb crumble is ready take it out of the oven and let it sit for 15 minutes so it is warm but not too hot. Serve with your preferred accompaniment – custard (hot or cold), creme fraiche, cream.

Rice Pudding – A School Dinner Classic

Rice pudding is one of the great classics of our childhood and school dinners. You might even remember the Ambrosia tinned rice pudding. Loved and loathed in equal measure. If like me, you loved it, or you fancy giving it another try this is the recipe for you. Based on a recipe by the wonderful Simon Hopkinson, his is by far the best I’ve come across, from his book “The Good Cook.”
Simple and easy, the ultimate comfort food. It’s relatively quick to assemble followed by a slow cook. It’s also best served lukewarm or about room temperature. So it’s good for doing in advance for that retro school dinner themed dinner party.
Raisins, a welcome fruity addition or an abomination of the devil? It’s up to you. Load ‘em up or leave ‘em out.
Ingredients
  • 40g butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 100g pudding rice or Spanish paella rice (a short grain rice, not something like basmati.) It sounds too little and looks too little when you cook, but trust the recipe, it’s right.
  • ½ a vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 1 litre full cream milk (I usually have semi-skimmed in the fridge so I reduce this by 100ml and add an extra 100ml or double cream.)
  • 150ml double cream (add more if using semi-skimmed milk)
  • pinch of salt
  • generous freshly grated nutmeg, as much or as little as you like
  • Raisins (as many or as few as you prefer, even none, the pudding is great on its own.) Add them at the same time as the milk.
Method
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 140C fan
  2. Melt the butter on the stove top in either a casserole you will cook the pudding in or a suitable pot
  3. Add the sugar and stir, heating gently, till the butter and sugar are soft and amalgamated
  4. Add the rice and the vanilla pod
  5. Stir the rice into the sugary mix. It will coat the rice and the rice will heat up.
  6. After a minute or two add the milk. The cold milk cools the rice mixture and some lumps may form, but don’t panic. Keep stirring and the lumps will dissolve as the milk warms.
  7. Add the cream and salt, and half the nutmeg, and bring it all to the simmering point
  8. Now it’s oven time. Grate over a good amount of nutmeg on the settled milk, don’t stir it in as this will become part of the lovely caramelised topping.
  9. Put it in the oven for 60-90 minutes.
  10. The pudding is ready when a light skin has formed and it is mostly set with a wobbly middle.
  11. Take it out to cool. Best served either lukewarm or at room temperature.