I consider rhubarb the wronged child in the fruit family. Announcing my crumble making plans to my housemate, he frowned, ‘Rhubarb, really?’ then started fantasising out loud about alternative crumble contenders. ‘Raspberries… blueberries? Apples! Come on,’ he tried, a panicked look on his face as if lives, not crumbles, were at stake. Disgruntled, I was now determined to defend the honour and good name of rhubarb.
I suppose it is the acidity that turns people off rhubarb, but to me that is exactly what gives rhubarb an advantage over sweet (dull) fruits. That tangy bite cuts through meringue and custard and cream like a Japanese sushi knife. If there ever was a fruit destined for puddings, this is the one.
All it takes is a little stewing and stirring. It fascinates me to watch the firm stems disintegrate to a bundle of silky threads, like a culinary magic trick.
Add a crunchy almond topping for texture, and coconut for sweetness, and I’m delighted to admit that aforementioned housemate and I polished off the whole tray in one sitting (other housemates, I’m sorry).
He says he still prefers apple crumble. I don’t believe him.
400 g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1 cm cubes
100-200 g sugar, to taste
a tablespoon water
150 g plain flour
100 g soft butter
50 plain white sugar
50 g dark muscovado sugar
50 g oats
50 g almonds, chopped
extra butter for greasing
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius (180 degrees fan-forced).
2. Stew rhubarb with sugar and water over a gentle heat for about 15 minutes or until the fruit has softened. Pour into a greased dish.
3. Rub flour and cubes of butter with your fingers until the butter is fully incorporated in the flour. You’re aiming for a look similar to grated parmesan cheese. Now add the sugar and almonds, mixing everything together with your hands.
4. Spread on top of the rhubarb and add coconut flakes, then bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown on top.