Sometimes, I’m really slow on the uptake. I give you exhibit A: Rhubarb.
I’d seen rhubarb around every winter for the past decade (yes, I did mention the slowness) - and even tried it once but was so unimpressed (too mushy) that I never touched it again. Until last Sunday.
The change of heart came about because the bunch of rhubarb at my favourite market stall looked so beautiful and red I just couldn’t resist.
As usual, I headed straight for The Cook’s Companion – my go-to book when faced with an ingredient I’m unfamiliar with. Following the instructions given (heavy saucepan, medium heat, tightly covered and minimal water), I ended up with lovely stewed rhubarb in less than 10 minutes.
Rhubarb is usually served with custard, but because of the non-custard majority in residence, I opt for a crumble (crisp) instead. There are too many apples in the fruit bowl, so they go into the crumble too.
Clockwise from top left: Sugared rhubarb ready to cook, Apples and cinnamon (of course), Cooked rhubarb, Not quite cooked rhubarb.
Then I remember a pie crust I’d read about in Leith’s Book of Desserts (Valaria Sisti) that incorporates cheddar cheese in the pastry. Brilliant idea! So I pop some parmesan cheese into my favourite crumble recipe.
I didn’t tell anyone about the cheese until they’d gotten most of the way through dessert. They think I’m joking, then pull the most hilarious “I-can’t-believe-you’d-do-this-to-me” faces. But it’s temporary. They get over it and admit it tastes really, really good.
The cheese really does lend a richness to the crumble topping, and I’ll definitely be doing cheese again especially when using fruit such as pears and apples, and maybe grapes.
adapted from the Cook’s Companion (Stephanie Alexander)
100g plain flour
50g butter (diced)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp caster sugar
1-2 heaped tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (depending how cheesy you like stuff)
Stewed/ Poached fruit (drained) – about 2 cups
(I used a mix of the rhubarb and stewed apples spiced with cinnamon)
Sift flour and baking powder together. On a flat surface, chop the butter into the flour, rubbing in any huge bits of butter. Don’t worry if mixture is not entirely uniform. Work sugar then parmesan cheese through the crumble mixture.
Put fruit into a lightly buttered baking dish or individual ramekins. Spoon crumble topping over the top. Place ramekins / dish on a baking tray (to catch drips) and bake in a moderately high oven until topping is golden and filling is bubbling. Serve warm or at room temperature.