Tonight I decided to whip up my very own rhubarb crumble. You first may ask 'what the heck is rhubarb?' Interestingly, if you go to the website of the American cable station the Food Network, and do a search for 'rhubarb', you get 61 hits. If you then navigate over to the BBC food website, and do the same, you'll get 113 hits. I never heard about rhubarb until I came to England.
So, what is it? A vegetable indeed. In cold climates as in England (weather is not one of the reasons I live in this otherwise lovely country), most of the plant above ground disappears completely during the winter, and only until April do you begin to see the plant grow again from its root. It's now out in full, with incredibly large leaves that are fan-shaped. We have literally a bush of it in our backyard. Out of nowhere, it's like a phoenix rising out of the ashes. OK, maybe that's a stretch, but you get the point.
The leaves themselves have poisonous substances, however. They include oxalic acid, nephrotoxic acid, and some other unidentified toxin. One needs to consume about 5 kilos of these unpleasanlty sour leaves in order to come to the median lethal dose for oxalic acid. I can't imagine a human being doing this, but nonetheless, be warned.
What is used in foods are the stalks (otherwise known as petioles), which are characteristically deep red in colour. The stalks are ready to be consumed immediately when they are harvested. You can cook the stalks in a variety of ways, but I have seen them more commonly used in dessert recipes. If you stew them, the end-result is a tart sauce, often used as a filling for pies and crumbles (the latter I made an attempt at tonight). Apparently it makes a nice jam but I have never tried it. I will never give up fresh strawberry jam (especially the kind my girl Romy makes back in New England using Connecticut strawberries).
Of historical interest to some, after sugar became affordable to the masses in this country, a stick of rhubarb (coupled with sugar of course) was a popular sweet for children.
I just took it out of the oven, and it looks strange. Agh. And I need clotted cream for this. I don't have any.
My recipe follows:
1 kg rhubarb (cut stalks from my backyard, washed first and then diced in small pieces)
3 tbsp of Grand Marnier
juice of 1 lime
1 cup orange juice
400g of oats
1 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1. Preheat oven 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Combine first rhubarb plus other filling ingredients in a bowl. Mix them well and add this to the bottom of an 8" square cake pan.
3. For the crumble, combine flour, oats, ginger, nutmeg, and sugar in a separate bowl, mixing with a fork. Add melted butter and stir. If the consistency of the crumble is too thick, add a little water. Pour it over the rhubarb filling. You want it to evenly spread over the rhubarb.
4. Place pan in the oven, and bake for 45 minutes. Watch out for the top of the crumble, and make sure it's not overcooked.
5. Once out of the oven, you can serve it hot or cold, with clotted or whipped cream.