or, a Rhubarbershop Quartet featuring:
1. Rhubarb Crumble – a deconstructed version of the classic, delicious hot or cold (with optional extra decadence – the Rhubarbra Streisand)
2. Variations: Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream – an even more summery version combining the elements of fruit, custard and crumble and Rhubarb Trifle – the classic version, layered up with jelly and whipped cream
3. Poached rhubarb ideas – pavlova and porridge topping
4. Rhubarb Gin – recipe from a very clever Scottish friend (Irn Brubarb)
Let’s start with the crumble, which sounds like nursery food, doesn’t it? Apple, pear or plum crumbles, generously spiced with preserved ginger, are one of my favourite winter desserts. Decadent banoffee crumble, with a layer of dulce de leche blanketing the caramelised bananas, is another favourite.
But this is a crumble for summer, when rhubarb is in season, and you can even serve it cold – with just-poached rhubarb, custard and a burnished ginger biscuity-like crumble topping sprinkled on top. A bit like a simplified trifle. We made this in the Lake District with blushing stalks of rhubarb from the garden, which turn rosy rather than rusty when cooked – very gently, poached instead of stewed so that they still hold their shape.
For the custard, I cheated and used tinned Ambrosia – a convenient choice, since we’d come back from a long walk, but actually for this purpose it really works rather well. The sunny hue looks just right with the pink rhubarb, by which I mean exactly like rhubarb and custard boiled sweets. And the mouthfeel is actually just right in this case, just like a childhood pudding! Back in London, with supermarket rhubarb and an inclination to cook, I might make a batch of thick patisserie cream as the crumble accompaniment, with all the meditative stirring that entails, or use good bought vanilla ice cream (by which I don’t mean expensive, but I do mean good – Lidl’s gelato-style, which has more vanilla seeds than any other, is my preference) or cool, tangy frozen yoghurt (more of a method than a recipe, but buried in my recipe here), or just a drizzle of very cold cream.
In the past, I’ve made a dinner party version with patisserie cream, rhubarb, white chocolate sauce (100g fancy white chocolate, chopped and stirred into 100ml of double cream brought just to simmering point and then taken off the heat) and crushed meringue instead of crumble – a shameless copy of a restaurant dessert which was completely irresistible. Definitely a treat because it’s pretty full on.