“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rhubarb Crumble

OK chaps, my sister scored a double whammy by correctly answering not only the Musical Puzzler over on The World Of... but the Name This Food! as well. Twice in one week, Sis. You're on a roll. Sis correctly identified the lovely 
Rhubarb Crumble.

It occurs to me that some of you might have questions about this item. Like "what's a crumble?" and "what is rhubarb?", "what's my name?", "where do I live? Who am I?" etc. Well, let me just deal with the first two. The rest, you are on your own.

Rhubarb is a group of plants that belong to the genus Rheum in the family Polygonaceae.
They are herbaceous perennial plants growing from short, thick rhizomes. They have large leaves that are somewhat triangular-shaped with long fleshy petioles. They have small flowers grouped in large compound leafy greenish-white to rose-red inflorescences.
Although the leaves are toxic, various parts of the plants have culinary and medicinal uses. Fresh raw stalks are crisp (similar to celery) with a strong tart taste; most commonly the plant's stalks are cooked and used in pies and other foods for their tart flavour. A number of varieties have been domesticated for human consumption, most of which are recognised as Rheum x hybridum.

Rhubarb is usually considered to be a vegetable; however, in the United States, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. A side effect was a reduction in taxes paid. That's a little odd. 

Rhubarb is now grown in many areas and thanks to greenhouse production is available throughout much of the year. Rhubarb grown in hothouses (heated greenhouses) is called hothouse rhubarb (well, duh!) and is typically made available at consumer markets in early spring, before outdoor cultivated rhubarb is available. Hothouse rhubarb is usually brighter red, more tender and sweeter-tasting than cultivated rhubarb.

In temperate climates, rhubarb is one of the first food plants to be ready for harvest, usually in mid- to late spring (April/May in the northern hemisphere, October/November in the southern hemisphere), and the season for field-grown plants lasts until September. In the northwestern US states of Oregon and Washington, there are typically two harvests: one from late April to May and another from late June into July. Rhubarb is ready to be consumed as soon as it is harvested, and freshly cut stalks will be firm and glossy.

Apparently, there is a Rhubarb Triangle. The Rhubarb Triangle is a 9-square-mile (23 km2) triangle in West Yorkshire, England located between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell famous for producing early forced rhubarb. It includes Kirkhamgate, East Ardsley, Stanley, Lofthouse and Carlton. The Rhubarb Triangle was originally much bigger covering an area between Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield. From the first decade of the 20th century to 1939 the rhubarb industry expanded and at its peak covered an area of about 30-square-mile (78 km2). Forcing rhubarb is a method of producing sweeter growth by keeping the plants in darkness so that the plant's stored carbohydrates are converted into glucose, resulting in that famous bittersweet flavour.

A crumble is a fruit pie which has a crumbed topping made from flour, butter and sugar rather than a pastry crust.

Recipe, you say?


500g rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 3cm pieces
50ml water
100g caster sugar
200g plain flour
100g cold butter, cubed
125g demerara sugar


Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.
Put the rhubarb in a 1.2 litre ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the water and caster sugar.
Sift the flour into a bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Alternatively, pulse in a food processor. Stir in the demerara sugar.
Spread the crumble mixture over the rhubarb - don't pat it down too much. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the rhubarb bubbling through at the edges. Serve hot with custard, cream or ice cream.

OK, what's the next one?

Here's one for my home boys and girls in the States.

Name it!

1 comment:

  1. WOOOO tater-tots! That takes me back to grade school cafeteria lunch (when ketchup was a vegetable, according to Ronald Regan).

    Rhubarb crumble?! I've been staring at that photo for days and couldn't figure it out, all the while making rhubarb compotes at work. Rhubarb has such a strange, variable texture depending on how it's prepared. Never woulda gotten it.


Come on and chew the fat!


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