B suggested, a while ago, that we make a crumble involving rhubarb, plums and cardamom. There was no consideration needed on my part, just a day with time enough to do it. The humble crumble is one of my favourite puddings, but let me get one thing straight: when I say ‘humble’, I do not mean ‘bog-standard’. I can’t be doing with overly sweet crumbles, to me, they should be a combination of sweet topping and slightly tart fruit. When I was a kid, the actual crumble part of the dessert was where I focussed my eating energies, but now, older, not necessarily wiser, but definitely more conscious of that old dictum, ‘a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’ – now a crumble for me should be a celebration of the fruit.
And so, the way we make crumbles is with a smattering, a scattering of topping, strewn over a thick layer of luscious fruit. Generally spiced, but not generally spiced with cardamom. However the cardamom here – the most predominant of the flavourings – works wonders, taking the pud to a whole new level. I’m not sure that I can call this crumble humble.
For the fruit:
6 plums, stones removed, some halved, some quartered (don’t worry if they’re hard – the cooking will soften them up beautifully)
300g rhubarb, chopped into about 2cm long pieces
50g Demerara sugar
Juice of one orange
2 small cinnamon sticks
10 large green cardamom pods, bashed a little with a pestle & mortar
For the topping (double up if you want a thicker layer):
60g plain flour
50g chilled butter
20g ground almonds
40g golden caster sugar
15 almonds, roughly sliced
10g sunflower seeds
1 tbsp. oats
For this crumble, you’ll need to cook the fruit in advance along with the whole spices. Leaving the fruit to sit after cooking, for a few hours or longer, will allow the flavours to develop and you’ll end up with a spicier tasting crumble – I let the fruit sit for about six hours.
Preheat the oven to 170ºC.
Arrange the fruit in an oven dish, tucking the whole spices in among the pieces. Sprinkle over the sugar, followed by the orange juice. Cover lightly with foil, then bake in the middle of the oven for about twenty minutes. After this time, check if the fruit is tender, if so, remove, if not, bake for a further 5-10 minutes. You want the fruit to soften, but to still hold its shape.
When done, remove from the oven, and let cool, still covered.
Next, you can make the topping. Sift the flour into a large bowl, then add the sugar and stir through. Next, cut the butter into small cubes and add to the bowl. Rub in, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir through the remaining ingredients.
Remove the whole spices from the fruit, then gently stir the fruit a little to make sure its syrupy juices are evenly spread out. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top of the fruit, then bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and crispy on top.
Delicious served with saffron and rosemary ice cream!