Monthly Archives: June 2015

Summer Rhubarb Crumble (+ bonus recipes for ice cream, trifle, pavlova and gin)

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.

Poached Rhubarb

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.

Rhubarbra Streisand

Rhubarbra Streisand

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Mozzarella Garlic Bread

A particularly bouncy, airy bread; edges crisped and burnished with garlic butter and topped with strings of melted cheese. What could be more welcoming than a huge pan of fragrant bread, brought out of the oven as guests arrive? and Well, perhaps a tidy house. No matter. People who come round to our house generously describe it as having a “relaxed atmosphere”, and assure me that they feel more at home because I didn’t go to the effort of tidying up. What they don’t realise is that I actually did…

Cheesy Garlic Bread

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Poached-Roasted Quince (bonus: Quince Gin!)

The stalls along Seven Sisters Road sell £1 bowls of fruit and vegetables all year round. During the winter, they sell root vegetables, imported citrus fruits and bananas – but last weekend the first indicators of seasonal change arrived in the form of rosy pomegranates at one stall, enormous fragrant strawberries at another, and, almost glowing in their stainless steel bowl, bulging golden quince. I buy them every year from the local Turkish shops, but normally they are closer to a pound apiece than £1 for five, which is what I bought one Saturday a few weeks ago.

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Raw quince – golden

Poached quince, photographed through glass

Poached quince, photographed through glass

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