Apple & Rhubarb Crumble – a winter warmer to shake off the seasonal gloom

As much as everyone looks forward to summer and the wonderful fruit and berries that are plentiful at that time of year, winter is not without its own list of delicious produce.

Many of us have lost touch with the seasonal flow of produce and which fruits and vegetables are in season at any given time of the year. With consumers demanding year round supply of their favourites, supermarkets endeavour to please by importing to answer this demand. A reasonable indicator as to whether something is in season is the price. I always have a small giggle when I hear people standing at produce stands complaining about the price of something that may well have been imported from the other side of the world.

The answer, of course, is to shop and eat according to what’s in season. Not only is it kinder on your budget, you get a lot more joy from food, especially fresh produce, when it’s at its very best.

I consider a perfect example to be the humble rhubarb. One of my favourite vegetables – yes, that’s right, it’s a vegetable not a fruit. An easy mistake to make as it’s usually found in desserts. Rhubarb is at its best May to October in New Zealand, which means now. Pick some up the next time you’re at the supermarket. It makes a fabulous comforting winter dessert. I like it when the stalks are a deep crimson red – not only does it taste wonderful, it also looks beautiful.

Below is a recipe for one of my all-time favourite puddings – apple and rhubarb crumble. This outstanding dessert on a cold night when you’re safely inside with curtains drawn and lights glowing makes the winter months easier to bear. It is particularly good following – but not too closely – a hearty roast dinner or slow-cooked casserole, both of which share similar comforting properties.

I always use a mixture of apples with the rhubarb. Much as I love it, rhubarb has an intense tart flavour and the apples help to mellow this (along with the sugar!) and also provide a bit of bulk as rhubarb shrinks immensely once cooked.

The reason for adding the cornflour is that it helps to create a lovely sauce when the fruit starts to release its juices.

As for the crumble, I like a buttery nubbly crumble but you could always start with, say, 120g butter, see if you like the texture and add more butter if needed (or if it’s too buttery add a little more flour). I don’t always add ground almonds to the crumble mix but it adds another element and goes beautifully with the rhubarb.

If you dwell in the Southern Hemisphere as I do this recipe is timely. If you’re currently sweltering in summer heat, tuck this recipe away and dig it out a few months from now.

 

Apple & Rhubarb Crumble

Serves 6

750g rhubarb stalks, washed and trimmed

750g apples (I like to use Granny Smith)

15g butter

50g caster sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

 

Crumble

120g self-rising flour

120g ground almonds

60g caster sugar

60g demerara sugar

150g cold butter cut into smallish cubes

 

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius

First prepare the fruit. Once washed and trimmed cut the rhubarb stalks into pieces of approximately 2cm. Then peel and core the apples and cut them into similar sized pieces.

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Place the fruit into a large pan with the butter on a medium heat. Once the butter has melted and there is a good amount of heat through the fruit add the cornflour and stir this through well until it’s dissolved. The key here is to cook the fruit until it’s just starting to soften and you’ve got the beginnings of a gooey sauce but you don’t want to cook it right through. Otherwise it will turn to mush when it’s cooking in the oven.

When you’re almost there, mix the cinnamon and caster sugar and then stir through the fruit. Give it another couple of minutes for the sugar to dissolve and then take off the heat.

Butter an oven dish (I like to use an oval shaped one that you’ll see in the image below) and spoon the fruit into the dish. Leave it to sit while you get on with the crumble.

Put the flour and almonds into a mixing bowl with the cubes of butter. Now start rubbing the butter into the flour and almonds. You could do this in the food processor but I love to do it by hand. Keep rubbing it through until all the butter has been incorporated into the dry ingredients. As I’ve mentioned above, if you prefer a crumble that’s more of a sand-like mixture then use less butter. If, like me, you prefer a more buttery crumble then use the amount I’ve specified.

Lastly, stir the caster and demerara sugars through – use a fork so that you don’t get clumps forming. Now spread the crumble evenly over the fruit.

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It’s a good idea to place the oven dish on a tray just in case any juices spill over the sides. Place the tray in the preheated oven and bake for 35-45 minutes. Keep an eye on it because ovens do vary and the last thing you want is burnt crumble!

Once out of the oven, let it sit for around 10 minutes before serving because the fruit will be piping hot.

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Now how to serve this superb pudding? My husband will only eat it with custard and it has to be cold. I prefer hot custard but over to you. Children will probably like it with some vanilla ice cream. It’s also divine drizzled with cold runny cream (if you’re in the UK you want double cream here).

If the winter gloom is bringing you down, make this crumble and after the first mouthful you’ll start feeling better.

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